Cities in ECUADOR


Geography and Landscape


Ecuador (officially: República del Ecuador) is a republic in the northwest of South America, 272,045 km2 (including the Galápagos islands) in size and also the westernmost country in South America and the smallest Andean country.

Ecuador Satellite Photo NASAEcuador SatellitePhoto NASAPhoto: Public domain

Because Ecuador and Peru both claim a large piece of jungle, the surface cannot be determined exactly. The country gets its name from its location around the equator or equator. The equator runs just north of the capital Quito which lies at an altitude of 2850 meters and thus after La Paz in Bolivia is the second highest capital in the world.

To the south and east Ecuador is bordered by Peru (1,420 km) and in the northeast by Columbia (590 km). Ecuador also includes the Galapagos islands, a group of thirteen large and many dozens of smaller islands. This archipelago is located about 1000 km off the coast in the Pacific Ocean and at the level of the equator.


Ecuador has roughly three landscapes on the mainland, while the Galápagos islands can be considered as a separate landscape. Apart from the fact that the landscapes differ greatly, so is the climate, the plant and animal world, the inhabitants and the economy.

The Costa is the 20 to 150 km wide, alluvial coastal plain with the basin of the Río Guayas, the largest river in the coastal area, closed to the west by a sandstone plateau (up to 300 m high) with a cliff coast. On the coast are some hills that are up to 800 meters high. Vast forests and plantations gradually change towards Peru into a narrow desert strip that extends far into Chile. The main river in the north is the Río Esmeraldas.

The Sierra is in fact the highland of the Andes mountains formed by two parallel chains of the Andes, the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Oriental. These cordilleras are connected by high thresholds (nudos), with a number of large bowls (hoyas) in between at a height of about 3000 meters. The northern basins drain to the Pacific Ocean and the southern basins to the Amazon.

La Chimborazo (6267 m), highest peak of the Cordillera Occidental, Ecuador La Chimborazo (6267 m), highest peak of the Cordillera Occidental, EcuadorPhoto: Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0 no changes made

Ecuador has a number of high (volcanic) mountains, including the inactive Chimborazo (6267 meters), the highest mountain in Ecuador with a permanent ice cap, and the Cotopaxi (5897 meters), the highest active volcano in the world. Other high peaks are the Cayambe (5790 meters) and the Antisana (5703 meters). Most of these peaks are covered with gigantic glaciers. Earthquakes occur frequently, in the entire Andean region there are dozens per year. These earthquakes are the result of the break in the earth's crust that runs along the west coast of South America. In many places the water from hot springs flows from the mountain slopes.

The Oriente is an eastward sloping tropical jungle area (la selva), with drainage via the Río Putumayo, Río Napo (855 km), Río Curaray and Río Pastaza to the Amazon (the Amazon itself does not flow through Ecuador). This "green lung" is seriously threatened by the almost uninhibited clearing of the jungle. The west and northwest coasts are being discovered by beach lovers as a tropical holiday destination. The highest waterfall in the country is the San Rafael waterfall (145 meters) in the Quijos River.

Galápagos Islands

Satellite photo Galapagos IslandsSatellite photo Galapagos IslandsPhoto:Public domain


Galápagos Islands (literally translated: Turtle Islands;officially: Archipiélago de Colón), is a province of Ecuador and consists of thirteen large and more than forty small islands, five of which are inhabited. The archipelago is located 970 km west of the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Costa Rica is located 1100 km northeast of the archipelago. The total land area is approximately 7800 km2 and the entire archipelago extends over an area of approximately 60,000 km2. The largest island is Isabela (formerly: Albemarle;50% of the total province).

The islands are of volcanic origin and hundreds of volcanoes determine the landscape. The oldest peaks are 4-5 million years old and the area is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world. On the islands of Isabela, Fernandina and Marchena there are still frequent eruptions, the last of the volcano La Cumbre on the island of Fernandina in 1995 and the Cerro Azul on Isabela in October 1998. The islands have never been connected to the mainland and therefore a unique area has emerged from a biological point of view.

The coastal regions of the islands are often desert or steppe-like. Tropical forest is only found on the highest parts of the slopes of the volcanoes. In 1959 the archipelago was declared a national park.

The highest point is the Cerro Azul on the island of Isabela and measures 1,689 meters. Measured from the seabed, the volcano is about 4500 meters high. On the island of San Cristóbal is the capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno where about half of the population lives.

The inhabitants of the Galápagos live from the cultivation of sugar cane, cotton, vegetables and fruits and further from fishing. and livestock and of course from tourism.

The islands are located on the equator, but there are large seasonal differences, mainly due to the influence of the sea currents . From June to December there is often a strong wind and the temperature does not exceed 18 ° C;and 20 ° C. From January to May, temperatures are between 24°and 28°C with regular tropical downpours. There is a lot of rainfall in September and October.

Vegetation Galapagos IslandsVegetation Galapagos IslandsPhoto: MusikAnimal CC 4.0 International no changes made

Plants and animals

Compared to the animal world, the plant world is quite monotonous, but very special. About half of the 350 native species are endemic. The relatively small number of species is due to the drought on the islands and the barren soil.
On the southern slopes of the mountains there is a rainforest with, among other things, numerous woody composites. Some characteristic plants are the eagle fern, the miconia and the scalesia. The scalesia is the Darwinian finch of the plants. They vary from shrubs to meter-high trees, but descend from one species. On the coast, special cactus-like plants such as Euphorbia viminea and Opuntia galapagensis grow and sometimes form gigantic prickly pear forests there. The meter-high candelabra cactus is striking because of its large tube-like leaves. On the coast we also find different types of mangrove: black, white, red and button mangrove.

Another striking plant is the "palo santo", the wood of which spreads a striking scent, which is like incense to the mainland of Ecuador is being exported. The lava cactus grows on pure lava.

It is remarkable that there are no palm trees on the islands, unlike all other islands in the Pacific Ocean. Inland, where it is a bit more humid, the landscape is characterized by extensive savannas. For example, here grows the "lechesos", a 10 meter high type of sunflower. Flowers only have a white or yellow color. The younger islands are practically barren.

The animal world of the Galápagos is scientifically very important: there are antarctic shapes (pinguïns) and tropical elements side by side. There are many endemic species i.e. those that occur only on the GaláPagos Islands;this is especially true of the breeding birds (76 species out of 89) and the reptiles.
The study of this animal world helped to underpin the theory of evolution of Charles Robert Darwin, who visited the islands in 1835 on his legendary journey with the Beagle. He also noted that animal species change under pressure from the environment, and as a result, new species will eventually emerge. Furthermore, the islands are famous for the presence of closely related subspecies on the different islands. It is remarkable that the animals on the islands are naturally tame due to the lack of natural enemies.

Feral pets, mainly goats, pigs, dogs, cats and rats have the original animal (and plant) world for an important part has been reduced and here and there certain forms have already been outcompeted. Reasonably successful efforts are being made to contain this danger to the native animal world.


Albatros Galapagos IslandsAlbatros Galapagos IslandsPhoto: Putneymark CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The cormorant can fly anywhere in the world, except on the GaláPagos Islands. The walking cormorant has too small wings to fly. They can only be found along the coasts of the islands of Fernandina and Isabela.

The largest seabird of the Galápagos islands is the Albatross with a wingspan of almost 2.5 meters. From January to March they live at sea almost all the time. The rest of the year they live almost together on the island of Española.
The large pink flamingos live in large groups and can reach 120 cm with a wingspan of more than 1.5 meters. The flamingo, unlike the other animals, is not tame and it is thought that this is because they have not been present on the islands very long. This fish-eater cannot dive underwater and often steals its prey from other birds. The best place to see this bird is Seymour, a rock off the coast of Baltra.

The beautiful blue-footed gannets and the red-footed and masked gannets live in small groups. The masked is the largest species and the red-footed the smallest. What is special is that the females can take an egg between the membranes to another place. Genovesa Island is home to a red-footed colony of an estimated 300,000 birds. The blue-footed breed mainly occurs on the small island of Daphne Major.

The Galápagos pinguïn is the most northerly species of pinguïn. It is one of the smallest species and often does not exceed 50 cm. Nesting grounds can often be found on the islands of Isabela and Fernandina.

The most common birds are the famous Darwin finches. There are thirteen species, all of which are probably descended from one species. The study of these birds led, among other things, to Darwin's theory of evolution. He found that through natural selection, the birds can evolve in a direction that offers the best chance for survival. The four species of mockingbirds probably also descend from one ancestor.

The red flycatcher is found in the highlands. This little bird makes ludicrous movements in the air. Another species is the Galápagos flycatcher.
Other common birds include owls, tropic birds, gulls (endemic are the swallow-tailed gull and lava gull), herons (including great blue heron, lava heron and night heron) and pelicans. Endemic species include the Galápagos hawk (actually a buzzard!) And the Galápagos pigeon.


Iguana Galapagos IslandsIguana Galapagos IslandsPhoto: Jimrules 42 at en wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The iguanas or Iguanas look prehistoric. The marine iguana is the only one in the world that can stay underwater for a long time, some more than an hour. They mainly feed on seaweed and live mainly near Punta Suárez on Española island. On Isabela, Fernandina, Santa Cruz and Santa Féthere are two species of endangered land iguanas that can grow to more than 1.5 meters. They can live to be about 60 years old.

The endemic giant tortoise is also facing extinction due to the centuries-long hunt for the animal. The islands are named after these animals. About 15,000 animals still live there, most of them in reserves. Fourteen subspecies have existed, three of which are already extinct. They can weigh 250 kilos and grow up to 1.5 meters in height. The maximum age is estimated at about 150 years. The Pacific Green Sea Turtle is one of the four species of sea turtles found in the GaláPagos Islands. They are smaller than their fellow countrymen, but can still weigh as much as 150 kilos. Other species that can sometimes be seen: the leatherback turtle and the loggerhead turtle.

Three species of the genus Dromicus occur on the islands. They are choke snakes that can grow to about 1 meter long. Other reptiles include geckos and lava lizards.

The Galápagos fur seal is very similar to the sea lion, but much smaller. The fur seal mainly lives on the island of Santiago. The approximately 50,000 sea lions live spread over almost all islands. They can reach a weight of 250 kilos.
Seven species of whales live around the Galápagos islands, including sperm whales, fin whales and orcas. Dolphins are abundant, especially the common dolphin and the bottle-nose dolphin. In addition to a few species of Galápagos rats, only one bat species occurs.

Crustaceans and fish

Sally Lightfoot crab Galapagos IslandsSally Lightfoot crab Galapagos IslandsPhoto:Bargbagger CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Particularly striking are the red/orange Sally Lightfoot crabs that stand out nicely against the black lava sand. Also octopuses, barnacles, lobsters and sea urchins.

The most striking fish are the rays. The largest is the manta with a wingspan of up to six meters. Other species include the spotted eagle ray and the golden ray, which sometimes swim around in impressive schools. The stingray can injure you if you step on it. Sharks come in many species around the islands. The hammerhead shark is the most striking appearance, reaching up to five meters in length. Other species include the Galápagoshark and the white-tip reef shark.
Furthermore, underwater nature has many tropical fish and large quantities of coral, including the rare black coral. A random list: meter-long tunas, sticklebacks, sea bass, seahorses, parrotfish, hedgehog fish, yellow-tailed surgeonfish and whiteband kingfish.

Puerta Ayora on the island of Santa cruz, Galapagos IslandsPuerta Ayora on the island of Santa cruz, Galapagos IslandsPhoto: A Flores Lopez CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Climate and Weather

Climate map EcuadorClimate map EcuadorPhoto:Ali Zifan CC 4.0 International no changes made

The large differences in landscapes have a major influence on the climate of Ecuador. The temperature of the sea water, sea currents and the distance to the ocean also influence the climate. Yet there is no real summer or winter in Ecuador. Usually the dry period is called summer and the wet period winter. Due to the variation in altitude and natural features, within a small area a number of microclimates can occur with very different temperatures, precipitation amounts and vegetation.

The coast has a humid, warm tropical climate all year round. The average daytime temperature is around 30°C, but from May to December it is much more pleasant on the north coast due to the cold Humboldt Gulf Stream. In the nights it cools down very little. Closer to the border with Peru, the influence of the Humboldt Gulf Stream is becoming increasingly noticeable. The coast of Ecuador also regularly suffers from "El Niño", a periodic warm ocean current in the Pacific. Temperatures then rise very high and heavy rainfall causes floods and landslides. The northern coastal area has a double rainy season with about 2000 mm of rainfall per year. To the south, precipitation is decreasing and near the border with Peru there is even a desert climate with sometimes only 100 mm of precipitation in one year.

In the Andean region there are large differences in climate. From July to September it is sunny and dry and the rainy season lasts from October to May with an average annual rainfall of 1520 mm. There is almost always a short dry period around Christmas! Depending on the height, between 500 and 2000 mm falls per year. Temperatures are also highly dependent on altitude. This allows the mercury to drop below freezing at night. The temperature in the basins between the mountains varies relatively little between 7 and 20°C. The high-altitude capital Quito, less than 25 km from the equator, has a "perpetual spring", although the nights are often very cold. This means that the temperature differences in summer and winter differ less than the differences that occur on one day. Above 4800 meters, there is a high mountain climate.
On the eastern slopes of the Andes and in the Amazon basin, it is humid and warm all year round with temperatures above 25°C. Most rain, 3000-4000 mm per year, falls in the months of April to June, usually in the form of heavy, short tropical showers. The least rain falls in August and from December to March.

Plants and Animals


Due to the different climate zones, there are also big differences in the plant and animal world. For example, Ecuador has about 25,000 species of plants and flowers, while the whole of North America has "only" 17,000 species. And new species are discovered every year. In addition, approximately 1,500 species of birds have been counted, twice as many as in North America, Europe or Australia. It is very likely that the Ecuadorian jungle contains birds that have never been seen by humans.

Rainforest EcuadorRainforest EcuadorPhoto: Hubertl CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The tropical rainforest is divided into two areas, east of the Andes and in the northern coastal area. The rainforest is famous for its species richness and, for example, over 300 different tree species grow on one hectare. The rainforest consists of 90% "terra firma", the subsoil of which always remains practically dry and therefore hardly any low vegetation occurs. The trees, which almost all have a length of 30-40 meters, are often hundreds of years old;the roof of crowns ensures that almost no sunlight penetrates to the bottom. Common tree species are palms and bay trees. There are also terra firma forests with impenetrable low vegetation. These are reclaimed areas of land where trees only grew again at a later stage.

Cloud forest EcuadorCloud forest EcuadorPhoto: GreenockBeejamin CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approximately 10% of the rainforest consists of flood forests or igapóforest. After flooding, these forests are under water for an average of four to seven months, sometimes eleven months. Typical of the trees in the flood forests are the aerial roots that grow from the trunks and the water-repellent coating on the leaves. As a result, the trees survive the time they are under water. The rubber tree, which used to be of great economic importance, now only grows in the flood forests. The giants of the rainforest, the kapok trees with their gigantic supporting roots, grow on the border of the flood forests and the terra firma. The branches of the crown can reach almost twenty meters. When the water has drained, many types of ferns, shrubs, orchids, bromeliads and many other ornamental plants appear on the bottom in a short time.


Ocelot EcuadorOcelot EcuadorPhoto: Geigi in the public domain

Well-known mammals from the rainforests include jaguar, ocelot, puma, armadillo, agouti, sloth, peccary wine, tapir and the rare freshwater dolphin. Furthermore many species of monkeys such as howler monkeys, spider monkeys, wool monkeys, capuchin monkeys and marmosets. Many macaw species, hummingbirds and toucans are common appearances. Notable appearances are the three-toed and two-toed sloth. Rare is the harpy eagle. Waterfowl such as bitterns, ibises, storks and a huge variety of herons are also well known. The amioema is a species of goose that can grow up to 1 meter.

Reptiles are often not visible but are abundant: ao black caiman with a length of 5-6 meters, the spectacled caiman, turtles and lizards . The boa constrictor and the impressive anaconda (up to nine meters long) are dangerous constrictors. The fer-de-lance or lance point snake is highly poisonous. The brightly colored poison dart frogs are known for the poison used by the Indians for their blow darts.

Poison dart frogs EcuadorPoison dart frogs EcuadorPhoto:Geoff Gallice CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Of the countless insects, the most beautiful are the butterflies (about 4500 species): the bright blue morpho has wings with a wingspan of 18 cm. The tarantula kills its prey with poison, but is the only dangerous spider in the Ecuadorian jungle. A special spectacle are the enormous columns of leaf-cutting parasol ants, whose females constantly walk to the nest with a piece of leaf. Meter-high termite mounds house termite states with a king, queen, workers and soldiers. Mosquitoes are very difficult animals for humans, and the malaria mosquito can be very dangerous for humans.

Research has shown that there are approximately 3000 species of beetles and beetles at five different locations in the rainforest. However, these pitches were no larger than 12m2 !! A recent inventory of fish species in Ecuador yielded more than 1000 species. The electric eel can produce 600 volt electric shocks. Schools of piranhas can also be dangerous and the stingray is also poisonous.

Electric Eel EcuadorElectric Eel EcuadorPhoto: Steven G Johnson CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes are between 1000 and 3500 meters. Here there is very high humidity and trees of the mountain forests, including quiñua and quishuar, are covered with mosses, tree ferns, epyphites (non-parasitic host plant), orchids and bromeliads.

The number of species of animals is many less than in the rainforest and are also less impressive. Commonly, otter, armadillo, tree anteater, opossum, skunk and agouti and bats (more than 100 species) occur. The spectacled bear is very rare. Colorful birds are tangaras (about 133 species in Ecuador) and hummingbirds (about 120 species). Amphibians are mainly represented by many frog speciesch feel at home in this humid environment.

Guinea pigs on the market in EcuadorGuinea pigs on the market in EcuadorPhoto:Chris Fraser CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Above 3500 meters lies the paramo area (approx. 10% of the total area of Ecuador) with mostly grasses, shrubs and shrubby trees, the remains of the Andes forest. Special is the "frailejon" or espeletia, a giant gemweiss that can reach a height of up to two meters. Another special plant is the medicinal chuquiragua.

Obviously the greater the height, the fewer animal species occur. The paramos are mainly used by the Indians to pasture the cattle. Several species of small marmotids are hunted by the fox-like paramocoyote. Well-known is of course the Guinea piglet or the "cuy" as it is called in Ecuador. They occur in the wild but are also bred for their meat.

Andean Condor EcuadorAndean Condor EcuadorPhoto: Pedro Szekely CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The largest bird in the world with a wingspan of about three meters is the Andean condor which sometimes flies at an altitude of 6000 meters, higher than any other bird in the world. However, this gigantic bird is seriously threatened with extinction; probably there are only a few hundred pairs left. Other notable birds in this area are the caracara and the Andean lapwing.

Savannas are found in the central and southern coastal area. Originally covered with forest, this area has been deforested by human hands and turned into savannah. Here too, the giant kapok trees and a large number of shrubs and herbs grow. Remarkable is the "ceibo", a tree with a trunk in the shape of a bottle. The savannas do not have a rich animal life either. Snakes and lizard species are common, along with some small mammals. Black vulture and turkey vulture circle the air.

Ceibo EcuadorCeibo EcuadorPhoto: Geoff Gallice CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the desert-like coastal region, vegetation is limited to grasses and many types of cacti.

Mangroves with their typical stilt and breath roots grow in brackish water of tidal areas. Ecuador's mangrove forests are under severe threat from shrimp farming, which means that they are currently largely cleared. The red mangrove is the best known species in Ecuador.

The mangrove forests are home to many species of seabirds such as spoonbills, cormorants, frigate birds, snake-necked birds and brown pelicans. Many fish, molluscs, crustaceans and shellfish also have their habitat here.

Alpacas EcuadorAlpacas EcuadorPhoto: Philippe Lavoie in thepublic domain

Of the cultivated crops, the potato and the yucca are the most important. There are over 200 wild varieties and nine varieties of cultivated potatoes. There are two types of yucca: bitter and sweet. Corn is also a plant that has been important as food for the indigenous population for thousands of years. There are about 50 species in the Andes.

Kinini, the medicine against malaria, was discovered in Ecuador in the 17th century. The medicine is made from the powder of the bark of the quina tree. Due to the high demand for the drug, the quina forests quickly disappeared, which meant the end of the quina culture in Ecuador.

The most famous group of animals of the Andean mountains are the camelids: the guanaco, the vicuña , the alpaca and the llama. The guanaco and the vicuña live in the wild, the llama and the alpaca are domesticated. They are used as pack animals and for meat and wool. The guanaco is almost extinct in Ecuador and the vicuña is threatened with extinction. By protecting both species, the hope is to preserve the species in Ecuador.


Pre-Columbian Era

Pottery Valdivia Culture EcuadorPottery Valdivia Culture EcuadorPhoto: Germanum94 in the public domain

The first inhabitants of Ecuador were collectors, hunters and fishermen. The transition of these nomadic tribes to a formative way of life is thought to have occurred about 5,000 years ago. The pottery found from these cultures along the coast of Ecuador is the oldest ever found in both Americas and belongs to the so-called Valdivia culture. The oldest Valdivia settlement found dates back to around 3500 BC. and is called Loma Alta. Another important archaeological site is Real Alto, a real city with temples from around 1500 BC.

How this Valdivia culture developed in Ecuador is still unclear. A number of scientists saw strong similarities between the pottery of the Jomon culture on the Japanese island of Kyushu. However, real evidence that the Valdivia culture descends from Japan has never been found. Moreover, the pottery operations occur all over the world and are more the result of identical technical tools that people had. Polynesian descent theories are also unclear and have never been proven.

The Amazon region of Ecuador was also home to hunters and gatherers. However, agricultural experts discovered that as far back as 6,000 BC. the casave plant (manioc) was cultivated and cities with many thousands of inhabitants must have existed along the banks of the Amazon and on the slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. Around 3000 BC. there had already been intensive trade contact between residents of the Costa and the Sierra. Evidence has been found in Cerro Narrio, a pre-Columbian trade center.

La Tolita mythological figure in feathered costume, EcuadorLa Tolita mythological figure in feathered costume, EcuadorPhoto: Marsupium in the public domain

Before the Incas arrived, there was already a great cultural boom of different civilizations. The La Tolita culture reached its peak around 300 years BC. including in Northern Ecuador. This culture became famous for the many gold and platinum objects that have been found. Archaeologists believe that La Tolita Island was a pre-Columbian sacred site. Due to the very high melting point of platinum, it is very special that this culture managed to make such beautiful objects from platinum. The Manta culture existed in what is now the province of Manabí. They also made beautiful objects, and the city of Manta was home to more than 20,000 inhabitants. The Manta culture is further characterized by the extensive trade contacts with, among others, Western Mexico and Peru. They are also believed to have been the discoverers of the Galapagos Islands.

The La Tolita and Manta culture had disappeared by the mid-15th century and made way for farming communities , the so-called Sierra cultures. Mighty Sierra cultures were the Cañaris and the Caras. The Caras had strong ties to Amazonian tribes and initially lived in the northern coastal strip of Ecuador, but moved to the southern Sierra region in the 15th century. The spinning and weaving of sheep's wool was their main economic activity, and this people was led by one family, the Shyri family.

In the central part of the Sierra lived the Puruháof the Duchicela family. The Caras and the Puruhás went through a number of marriages together in the 14th century and around the city Quito the kingdom of Quitu was formed. These people fought many wars against the Cañaris and the soldiers recruited from the common population. Around this time, the Incas also entered the scene. Initially they lived in the Peruvian Andes and started to expand their empire from about 1430. Their battle against the Cañaris began around 1460 with the aim of conquering Quitu.

Ingapirca Inca ruins in EcuadorIngapirca Inca ruins in EcuadorPhoto: Delphine Ménard CC 2.0 France no changes made

This battle was won by the Inca king Tupac-Yupanqui. The male population in the Cañaris area was almost completely exterminated because of revenge from the resistance of the Cañaris. Quito was conquered in 1492 and in the north, after 17 years of fighting, the Caras were defeated by Tupac's son, Huayna-Capac. In the footsteps of the Incas, many Quechua-speaking Indians from present-day Peru moved to Quito and the surrounding area and the Cañaris and Caras were deported to Peru. The Incas introduced the llama as a pack animal, new crops, irrigation methods and the road network of the Incas was extended to Quito. The inhabitants of Ecuador had to work for the Incas according to the Mita system: no taxes, but labor or the provision of services. Although the Inca rule was cruel and hostile, several Inca leaders married daughters of local kings' daughters. Intended as strengthening unity in the Inca Empire, just the opposite was achieved. The Incas were often already married to Inca princesses. This caused problems with succession to the throne between the children of both women, trueboth thought they were entitled to. After the death of Huayna-Cupac in 1527, Huascar became heir to the throne, much against Atuahalpa's wishes. A power struggle ensued that would last five years with Atuahalpa as the ultimate victor.

Spanish rule

Francisco Pizarro, EcuadorFrancisco Pizarro, EcuadorPhoto: Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

With the arrival of the Europeans, his rule would only last a few months. In 1526 the first Spaniards, often from the Spanish province of Extramadura, set foot on Inca soil. They were explorers of the Spanish explorer and conquistador Francisco Pizarro. The gold and silver rush soon struck among the Spaniards, and in 1531 Pizarro returned to conquer the area. After fierce battles with Indians and a journey of hardship, they reached the town where Atualhalpa lived, Cajamarca. Atahualpa was taken prisoner and stolen about 25 tons of gold under false pretenses. When they no longer needed him, he was charged with treason and put to death on the stranglehold. Several other conquistadors moved to the Inca area and that caused a lot of unrest there, and finally in 1549 the entire northern Inca- empire conquered by only 2,000 Spanish soldiers who had subdued 500,000 Indians. Only in 1554 was the administrative chaos restored by the fighting conquistadors. In 1563, present-day Ecuador was renamed Real Audiencia de Quito and would become part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until around 1700. A feudal agricultural system was introduced;the land was divided among the conquistadors, soon followed by the first Spanish settlers. The first slaves were also brought in from Africa to work on the cocoa plantations. Although gold and silver were still sought, it soon became clear that there was not nearly as much to be obtained as in Peru or Bolivia. Large-scale mining was therefore not done here.

Major Square Quito in the18th century, EcuadorMajor Square Quito in the18th century, EcuadorPhoto: Publlic domain

In Ecuador, on the other hand, the first exotic wheat and bananas were cultivated. The poor accessibility meant that most of the Ecuadorian Indian peoples were not threatened with extinction. The colonial policy of the Spaniards was based on the so-called "encomienda" and on the church. The encomienda system involved lending pieces of land to Spanish conquistadors, officials and settlers. They were responsible for the exploitation and management of the land, as well as the welfare of the Indians who lived on their land. However, the Indians earned so little that they had to go into debt to keep their heads above water. This system of exploitation was wholeheartedly supported by the church, which itself was also a large landowner. Conversion to the Catholic faith was also often carried out by force and force.

In 1835, the scientist Charles Darwin visited the GaláPagos Islands annexed by Ecuador. His observations contributed much to the development of the theory of evolution.

The Spanish oppression soon led to various independence movements. A.o. tax increases led to a ten-month uprising in 1592 that could only be stopped by the Spaniards with great violence.

Ecuador on the road to independence

Simon Bolivar, EcuadorSimon Bolivar, EcuadorPhoto: Public domain

In the 18th century, the ideas of the Enlightenment penetrated into Ecuador and provided a breeding ground for the first coup d'état to take place in Quito in 1809. In 1808, the Spanish king Ferdinand VII was deposed by Napoleon. Resistance against this in Spain spilled over to the colonies when the new rulers in Europe unleashed a number of repressive laws on the colonies.

1809 took hold. a group of "criollo's" hold power in Quito. This revolt was crushed by the Spaniards with great violence. Two years later, another seizure of power followed, but it was simply suppressed by the Spanish. However, the road to independence became more and more open, even though the now returned king of Spain sent Ferdinand VII, a large force to the colonies to investigate the matter. regain control. The most important figure in the fight against the Spanish loyalists was the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar, the "liberator" (El Libertador). He conquered the present Colombia (then: New Granada) and Venezuela. In May 1822, Quito jurisdiction was liberated after the battle of Pichincha led by Antonio Joséthe Sucre. Bolívar wanted to unite the liberated countries in a republic or a federation called Gran Colombia. Venezuela, Colombia and the jurisdiction of Quito joined the Federation in 1822, but the Federation fell apart as early as 1830. Quito's Lieutenant Governor Juan JoséFlores proclaimed the Republic of Ecuador in September 1830 with the same boundaries as those of the jurisdiction. This happensHowever, he was not careful enough and would later lead to border disputes with Peru. The condition of the poor population hardly changed and political power was challenged by conservative Quito and liberal Guayaquil, or between the Costa and the Sierra. President Flores offered to rule the liberals in turn, with military authority remaining in Quito at all times. In 1843, however, Flores refused to step down for the liberal Rocafuerte. Two years later, the liberals seized power and Flores was deposed, but for the next 15 years, Ecuador had eleven governments and the constitution was rewritten three times. As a result, the economy completely stagnated. There were also various border problems with Colombia and Peru. On the positive side, slavery was officially abolished in 1852.

Gabriel García Moreno, EcuadorGabriel García Moreno, EcuadorPhoto: Public domain

In 1860, a conservative revolt led by one of the most important figures in Ecuadorian history, Gabriel García Moreno, wanted to make Ecuador a theocracy . The very Catholic but tyrannical Moreno forbade, among other things, the freedom of expression and of the printing press and non-practicing Catholics and dissenters were deprived of citizenship. However, he managed to restore calm in Ecuador and it also improved economically. In 1875 Moreno was assassinated and in 1895 the power of the conservatives came to an end.

Twentieth century

By 1900, the liberal Eloy Alfaro was in power and his economic policy sought to cooperate with the capitalist states, but he too was murdered, now by Catholic fundamentalists. This was the result of the introduction of the separation between church and state.

Between 1914 and 1925, Ecuador went through an economic slump that was accompanied by a lot of social unrest. A military coup in 1925 was followed by the dictatorship of Isidro Ayora, which carried out fiscal and economic reforms. The return of liberal rule in 1931 led to the introduction of women's suffrage.

José María Velasco Ibarra, EcuadorJosé María Velasco Ibarra, EcuadorPhoto:Unknown CC 3.0 Netherlands no changes made

Military juntas ruled the country in the second half of the 1930s. Difficult international economic conditions, political instability and a new war with Peru formed the background to the growing national crisis. The climate was then ripe for a populist demogologist like JoséMaria Velasco Ibarra who was president of Ecuador for five terms between 1933 and 1972. Velasco's position, maneuvering skilfully between left and right, depended on his strong, direct bond with the population and later, as that bond diminished, on the support of the military. His reign was characterized by the drawing up of promising programs for public works, industrialization and land reform, but also by the failure to implement all the beautiful plans. During his reign, the border conflict with Peru flared up regularly. In 1941, half of Ecuador's territory was occupied by the Peruvians without much resistance. In 1942 the Rio de Janeiro protocol ratifying the border shift was concluded. Ecuador also signed the treaty, but would later challenge it.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the economy grew steadily, and as a result, the political front was a bit quieter. Banana exports in particular grew enormously. In 1964, a land reform was implemented that brought an end to the system of large land ownership (haciendas) and serfdom. Large deposits of oil were discovered in 1967 and are still the cornerstones of the economy today.

Early in 1972, the military overthrew Velasco to prevent the presidential election to be held that year. General Rodriguez Lara, who belonged to the left-nationalist, so-called Peruvian wing of the armed forces, became president. However, he did not pursue a truly progressive social policy, but did pay ample attention to the national economy. In early 1976, Rodriguez Lara was overthrown and replaced by a junta announcing the gradual return to civilian rule.

On January 15, 1978, a new constitution was passed, granting universal suffrage. In 1979, center-left Jaime Roldós Aguilera was elected president. He promised social and economic reforms in favor of the common people, but was unlucky that the oil price on the world market plummeted, so that all the beautiful plans could no longer be realized. The resurgence of conflict over the portion of the Amazon that Ecuador had lost to Peru in 1941 led to a border war between the two countries in 1981.

In 1981, Roldós was killed in a plane crash. Vice President Osvaldo Hurtado took his place and tried to continue the policies of his predecessor. However, he was also unlucky: major floods caused enormous damage to roads, railways and the rice and banana crops. Hurtado fired the commander in chief ofthe armed forces and the Defense Secretary, who opposed his attempts at reconciliation with Peru. The 1984 elections were won by the conservative Léon Febres Cordero. His pursuit of a free-market economy and authoritarian style of government caused much social unrest and political instability.

A coup by Air Force General Frank Vargas followed, but failed and Vargas was captured. In 1987 Febres was kidnapped by Vargas supporters. Febres was only released when he granted Vargas amnesty. In 1988 the elections were won by the Social Democrat Rodrigo Borja Cevallos. He too introduced numerous reforms and especially wanted to curb high inflation. He had to take unpopular measures that led to many strikes.

His successor Sixto Durán Ballén tried to make Ecuador a stable country economically and politically by decentralization, modernization and privatization. Implementation of the economic adjustment program was difficult in the first half of the 1990s, as the government continually clashed with an opposition majority in parliament and unions and Indian organizations also fiercely resisted. The May 1994 parliamentary elections resulted in a severe defeat of the parties of President Durán Ballén.

In 1995, another series of border incidents with Peru followed in which dozens were killed. International observers have been monitoring compliance since the April 1995 armistice. Durán was succeeded in 1996 by the eccentric AbdalaláBucaram (El loco = the madman), who won a lot of votes in the lower social classes thanks to beautiful promises. The food and housing programs he initiated generated a lot of enthusiasm among the population. However, it turned out to be all hot air and soon he started gigantic austerity operations and in a very short time Ecuador ended up in the middle of an economic crisis. On February 6, 1997, he was impeached by parliament for “mental incapacity”.

Temporary head of state became Fabian Alarcon. The May 1998 presidential election was won by the mayor of Quito, Jamil Mahuad Witt, after a necessary second round. In August 1998 a new constitution was adopted. In October 1998, the governments of Peru and Ecuador reached an agreement defining the border between the two countries in the Amazon region. Ecuador also got the right to navigate the Amazon River. The bad economic situation led to a free fall in the value of the sucre in early 1999. The government's measures to combat the crisis met opposition from trade unions, but on March 18, President Mahuad reached an agreement with the opposition on a moderate austerity package.

After months of negotiations, the IMF approved a $ loan at the end of August. 400 million estate on the condition of an increase in taxes and a reform of the financial system. In early October, the government suspended payments (interest and installments) on the $ 13 billion external debt, which led to a credit freeze by foreign financial institutions.

21st century

Since January 22, 2000, Gustavo Noboa Bejarano has been president after a coup against incumbent president Mahuad. Hundreds of Indians, along with a group of soldiers, stormed the parliament buildings in the capital, Quito. The Ecuadorian army asked Mahuad to resign in order to find a democratic solution to the crisis in the country.

In November 2002, the volcano El Reventador (3560 meters) became active again after a 26-year hiatus. The mountain began to emit a great deal of gas, smoke, and ash. The mountain is located about 100 kilometers east of the capital, Quito, and even caused a lot of nuisance there.

Lucio Gutiérrez Borbua, EcuadorLucio Gutiérrez Borbua, EcuadorPhoto:Antônio Milena/ABr CC 3.0 Brazil no changes made

The November 2002 elections were won by former Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez Borbua of the 'Partido Sociedad Patriótica' (PSP). Gutiérrez was part of the coup against President Mahuad. Initially, the president mainly received support from left-wing and indigenous groups. Since he took office, however, this support turned into criticism of his orthodox economic policy in line with his predecessors. Gutiérrez was not appreciated when he replaced 27 of the 31 high justices in December 2004. Then a national crisis ensued when Supreme Court President Guillermo Castro Dager passed the conviction of ex-President Bucaram (his childhood friend and political ally) moved in. Bucaram returned from exile in Africa and declared "I am older and wiser, but crazier than ever!". To pacify the enraged protesters, Gutiérrez announced the resignation of the Supreme Court while alsodeclared a state of emergency. Four people lost their lives in disturbances between the protesters and the counter-protesters called in by the government. Congress forced the president to step down for his irresponsible behavior and dictatorial traits. The army declared that it would not act against its own people and no longer support the president. Gutiérrez fled his palace by helicopter to apply for asylum at the Brazilian embassy. Bucaram also fled the country again for asylum in Panama.

Former Vice President Alfredo Palacio has ruled the country since April 19, 2005 and is the seventh president in nine years. The 66-year-old cardiologist Palacio, who has previously been critical of Gutiérrez, is not affiliated with a political party. The discontent expressed in the popular protests was not only directed against Gutiérrez, it was an expression of discontent and distrust of the entire political class. Palacio therefore faces the challenge of restoring democracy and gaining the people's confidence in it. Palacio made several attempts at political reform, all of which were rejected by Congress. In a transparent process with technical assistance and monitoring from the UN, OAS and Spain, a new Supreme Court was set up.

Rafael Correa, EcuadorRafael Correa, EcuadorPhoto: Roosewelt Pinheiro/Abr CC 3.0 Brazil no changes made

In November 2006, left-wing economist Rafael Correa won the elections. On January 15, 2007, he was naugurated as the eighth president in ten years.

In March 2008, a crisis arises with Colombia due to a border crossing through Colombia In June diplomatic relations are again maintained at a low level . In April 2009, Correa won the presidential election with a 51% majority in the first round. In April 2010, the government threatens to take over foreign oil concessions if those companies stop allowing state intervention.

In late September and early October 2010, Ecuador was ravaged by violent riots. Police officers rebelled against reforms and austerity measures that entailed a decline in their incomes and privileges. The government declared a state of emergency after the building housing President Correa was surrounded by angry agents. At least two people were killed in the protests. In May 2011, voters vote in favor of a reform program of President Correa, opponents think the president is taking too much power. In February 2013 Correa wins the elections again. He threatens to resign in October if parliament allows abortion. In October 2014, the constitutional court allowed parliament to prepare constitutional changes to extend the deadlines for the presidency. In December 2015, there will be demonstrations after the parliament actually takes this decision. President Correa pledges that he will not stand for re-election in 2017. He was succeeded by Lenin Morena, who won the May 2017 tournaments. In 2018, per referendum, a president may serve a maximum of two terms. In 2019 there are massive protests from indigenous people against the increase in fuel prices. Guillermo Lasso, a liberal supporter of the free market, ended 14 years of centre-left rule when he won the 2021 presidential election, narrowly beating his socialist opponent Andes Arauz.


Local children EcuadorLocal children EcuadorPhoto:Mill 1 CC 4.0 International no changes made

In 2017 there were 16,290,913 people in Ecuador. The population density is approximately 63 inhabitants per km2, making it the highest in South America. Only 2% of the population lives in the Oriente (about 50% of the surface of Ecuador);the other residents are more or less equally divided between the Costa (around 1900 only 7%) and the Sierra. About 64% of the population lives in urban areas. Guayaquil and Quito have more than one million inhabitants and other major cities are Cuenca, Machala, Portoviejo, Ambato, Manta, Santo Domingo, Esmeraldas and Loja

In 2017, the population increased by 1.28%. The mortality of children under one year was 16 per thousand live births in 2017.
27% of the population is under 15 years, twice as many as in Europe and North America; 65.5% of the population is between 15 and 64 years old;7.5% of the population is 65+.

The birth and death rates per 1000 inhabitants are 17.9 and 5.1, respectively. The life expectancy of men is about 734 years and that of women about 80.1 years. (2017)

Although it is hardly possible to give an exact distribution of the composition of the population due to the many hybrid forms, it is assumed in 2017 that 72% are mestizos, 14% Indians, 6% white people, 7% Mulattoes and 2% African-Americans.

Campesinos collaborate on common projects in EcuadorCampesinos collaborate on common projects in EcuadorPhoto: Tobias Demi CC 4.0 International no changes made

Ecuadorian society has mainly been shaped by the country's history and erratic geography. This has created great differences in appearance and temperament between the inhabitants of the Oriente, the Sierra and the Costa. The inhabitants of the Sierra, the serranos, live in a varied, fertile landscape that mostly belongs to wealthy landowners. The farmers (campesinos) have a very hard life, both those of the Sierra and those of the Costa (costeños).
The Sierra is mainly home to Indians, Criollos (descendants of Spaniards born in Ecuador), and mestizos (Indian-European blood). In addition to these groups, black people, mulattoes and sambos (Indian and black blood) also live on the Costa. The northwestern coastal province of Esmeraldas, the Chota Valley and the mountainous province of Imbabura are home to many African Americans, recognizable by their dark skin and frizzy hair. A large group of Chinese live in Guayaquil and another group, the Turks or Arabs (especially Lebanese) have a prominent position in the economic and political field. Thus was Abdalá Bucaram, son of Syrian/Lebanese parents, President of Ecuador from 1996 to early 1997. Ecuador has ten different indigenous Indian population groups, often with their own language and culture. Most speak a dialect derived from Quechua. The largest ethnic groups living in the tropical rainforest are the Quichuas, the Shuar, the Achuar, the Huaorani, the Siona-Secoya and the Cofán.

Quicha woman Ecuador Quicha woman EcuadorPhoto: Public domain

The Quichuas are the largest indigenous group and are closely related to the Quichuas of the highlands of the Ecuadorian Andes. They are divided into Quijos and Canelos (jungle people). They traditionally have a well-developed agricultural system.

The Cofán and the Siona-Secoya live in the northern part of the Oriente. The latter group is made up of two separate groups that decided to merge when their numbers declined sharply during the 20th century. They use the slash and burn technique when it comes to agriculture. Small patches of rainforest are cut down and then set on fire to get rid of the bushes and undergrowth. Crops are then sown and after a few years they move on and the cycle starts again. They are therefore semi-nomadic.

The Shuar and the closely related Achuar live in the southern part of the Oriente. They basically only live off one crop, the sweet manioc and the last years of keeping livestock. This has transformed them from semi-nomadic to semi-permanent peoples.

Well-known highland tribes are Otavaleños, the Salasacas, the Cañaris and the Saraguros. The Otavaleños can often be seen as musicians in the European big cities in the summer and also sell handmade crafts there. They are also true traveling salesmen in Ecuador. The Saraguros once lived near Lake Titicaca in Peru, but were forced by the Incas to move to the current area around the city of Saraguro. They can be recognized immediately by their traditional clothing. They are now mainly ranchers and of all Indian groups the most successful.

The position of the original inhabitants, the Indians, is still very bad. They are being oppressed and there are hardly any Indians represented in parliament, for example. Whites and mestizos regard the Indians as second-class citizens and racism is therefore deeply rooted. The whites are still the most powerful bpopulation group despite their relatively small number. They hold the most economically and politically important posts.

Spanish dialects in EcuadorSpanish dialects in EcuadorPhoto:Merchancano CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, also called Castellano instead of Español; the Indians in the Sierra predominantly speak Chibcha and especially Quechua, which was originally the spoken language of the Incas.
Quechua has several dialects that differ considerably from each other and this language is also spoken in Peru and Bolivia. In the Oriente many other Indian languages and dialects are spoken, sometimes a dialect of Quechua but usually they have no relationship with Quechua.

Spanish Quechua

1 uno u'luc
2 dos iscai
3 tres quinsa
5 cinco phisca
10 diez chunca
tomorrow mañana tutamanta
son hijo churi
black negro yana
nose nariz senca

English: how old are you? Spanish: cuantos años tienes?
Quechua: masca huatayoctaccanqui?

The Galápagos islands have two or sometimes three names. From the past they have been given a Spanish and/or English name. In 1892 the Ecuadorian government gave the islands an official name.

 Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito, EcuadorPhoto:Maros Mraz CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

More than 90% of the total population professes the Roman Catholic faith. In addition to the religious one, the Catholic Church still fulfills an albeit modest role in political life. The Roman Catholic Church consists of eighteen dioceses and three archdioceses, Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito. Ecuador has many pilgrimage places to which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims go every year. The Ecuadorian constitution has guaranteed freedom of religion since 1904 and as a result, especially in rural areas, there are more and more other faith communities such as Mormons, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, the Pentecostal Church and Jehovah's Witnesses. In addition to evangelization, these groups also try to invest money in small development projects and infrastructure, in order to bind the population.

Ancient Native American customs and rituals are still common in all denominations, especially among their Native American members. Part of the Indian population adheres to nature religions.


State structure

Ecuadorian Parliament Building in QuitoEcuadorian Parliament Building in QuitoPhoto:Asamblea Nacional del Ecuador CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Ecuador is a republic with a democratically elected parliament and is headed by a president. The country has been governed democratically since 1979.
According to the constitution that came into force in August 1998, the nineteenth since the first constitution of 1830, legislative power rests with the parliament of one chamber (Cámara Nacional de Representantes) consists of 121 representatives of the people who are elected by direct elections for four years. 79 members are elected by universal suffrage and 42 members are elected by provincial elections, two per province.

Executive power is in the hands of the president, who is directly elected by the population for four years. In the presidential election, the president must obtain more than 50% of the vote. If he does not achieve this, there will be a second round between the two largest competitors. Because there are about 15 different political parties, a second round is usually necessary. He will not be eligible for re-election the next term of office, but after that he will. The president also heads the armed forces and appoints his own cabinet.

There is universal suffrage for citizens of eighteen years and older, and until 1979 this right was reserved for those who could read and write and who had a identification. That was only 10à15% of the population.

Ecuador is administratively divided into 21 provinces, which are subdivided into 183 cantons (cantones) which are then divided into 746 municipalities. The provinces are administered by a governor appointed by the president.

Ecuador is a member of the following international organizations, among others: the United Nations and some of its sub-organizations, the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), the Andean Pact and the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the 1978 Amazon Cooperation Treaty, which establishes economic and ecological relations with the Amazon Basin neighboring neighboring countries are regulated. For the current political situation, see chapter history.


School in San Juan, EcuadorSchool in San Juan, EcuadorPhoto: Bernard Gagnon CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Education is officially compulsory for everyone for nine years. Children often go to school for up to six years, especially in rural areas. Very few children attend secondary school there. It is often the case that the scattered population does not even have transport to get to the schools and, moreover, the costs are often too high for the poor farmers. are large classes that bring the level of education down again. Only half of the children who enter secondary education obtain a diploma;the rest drop out prematurely. The diploma obtained in secondary education is a must to be able to follow higher education. There are about twenty universities and technical colleges.

About 14% of the adult population is illiterate, but in rural areas and among the Amerindian population the percentage is considerably higher. Furthermore, the native language of most Indians is still not taught, so many Native American children are in fact deprived of education.

Due to salary problems, the teachers regularly go on strike. The private schools are doing much better than the government schools. About 20% of the pupils are in private education. In the highlands the school year runs from September to June and on the coast from May to January.



World Trade Center in Guayaquil, EcuadorWorld Trade Center in Guayaquil, EcuadorPhoto: Alfredo Morena in the public domain

Ecuador was one of the least developed countries of South America until the early 1970s. However, the country turned out to have large oil reserves (discovered by Texaco in 1967) and the economy was actually half powered by petroleum. However, stocks in Ecuador are not that great and it is thought that it has only been a major source of income for 20 years. Bananas and shrimp are also important export products, but just like oil they are highly dependent on world market prices and are therefore vulnerable. Tourism has also become increasingly important to the Ecuadorian economy over the past three decades.

Thanks to the growth in oil production and the rise in the price of oil, GDP grew by an average 9.5% per year between 1970 and 1980. Since 1972, oil exports have radically changed the economic structure. The share of the different sectors in the gross domestic product (GDP) was as follows in 2017: agriculture (bananas, coffee, cocoa and sugar) 7.7%, industry 35.2% (of which mining (including oil) 11%, trade and services 56.9%.

Economic growth in the years 2010 to 2013 was around 5%. in 2017 the growth was 2.7%. 55.5% of the labor force is employed in trade and services, 26.1% in agriculture and 18.4% in industry and mining. Unemployment is officially 4.6%;however, hidden unemployment is much higher.

To this day, most of the returns from the economy remain with a small group of the population and the rest of the population earns little by comparison. About 21.5% of the population lives below the poverty line. (2017)

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Bananas are an important export product of EcuadorBananas are an important export product of EcuadorPhoto: Scot Nelson in the public domain

Approximately 12% of the total land area is used for agriculture, 11% is pasture land and 60% is covered with forest. About 60% of the agricultural land is in the Costa and almost 40% in the Sierra;the agricultural potential in the Oriente is estimated at 35% of the total agricultural area. Major products of the Costa are bananas, cocoa, and coffee. The Costa also produces palm kernels, rice, cotton, sugar cane and tropical fruits. In 1993, Ecuador was still the most important banana exporter in the world and revenues were around 1 billion dollars. The working conditions of the banana eros are poor, partly due to pesticides that are used without protective clothing. Yet very many Ecuadorians depend directly or indirectly for their income on the banana sector.

Coffee and cocoa were once important exports, but now only make up a few percent of the total export income. The falling prices on the world market are mainly to blame for this.

In the Sierra, potatoes, corn, wheat and barley are grown, and cattle farming is important. Livestock farming has experienced explosive growth since the 1980s, partly due to the import of strong varieties.

The national production of wheat, barley and milk is too small to meet the domestic demand. Cut flowers have been grown in the northern Andes from the late 1980s. Many women in particular work in this sector. A special export product is tagua or vegetable ivory. The tagua nut consists of solid white pulp that must harden after harvesting and is then practically indistinguishable from real ivory. Due to the ban on elephant ivory, interest in the tagua is increasing.
Despite the land reforms, the agricultural land is still largely in the hands of large landowners: about 10% of the owners own three-quarters of the land. More than 70% of the farms are smaller than 5 ha. A familiar sight are the slopes of the Andes, resembling a multicolored patchwork quilt. The agrarian reforms have also failed to end the traditional form of share leasing (huasipungo), in which the "lease" is paid by doing labor for the landowner.

The country's large wood reserves, especially in the jungles in the Oriente are exploited only on a modest scale. However, due to colonization, 90,000 hectares of Amazon forest are deforested every year, approximately 1% of the total jungle area. This colonization is partly spontaneous and partly government policy. Migration to the Oriente was stimulated because it was thought that the agricultural land there would be inexhaustible. However, this turned out not to be true;the thin fertile bottom layer was soon exhausted and could then only serve as pasture.

Ecuador has an important and fast-growing sea fishery (sardines and tuna). Shellfish farming is currently an important contributor to exports. Most of the shrimp are farmed in the Gulf of Gayaguil and in Esmeraldas province. Ecuador is now the fourth largest shrimp producer in the world. For the fishing grounds, especially around the Galapagos islands and off the coast, Ecuador has established a 200-mile zone.

Mining and energy supply

Oil industry EcuadorOil industry EcuadorPhoto: KelvinLemos CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Since colonial times, the mining of gold and silver (near Portovelo in El Oro province) has been important, and copper and sulfur are mined on a limited scale. Furthermore, zinc, antimony and uranium have been found, which, however, cannot yet be exploited. Under the new mining law of 1974, all mines are state-owned and operation and sale must be in conjunction with the state.
In the 1970's, oil extraction became of major economic importance. The discovery in 1967 of very rich oil fields in the Oriente (province of Napo) made Ecuador the second largest oil exporter of South America after Venzuela. A more than 450 km long oil pipeline from the extraction areas to Esmeraldas has been in use since 1972. Due to limited refining capacity, most of the oil is exported unrefined.

Since 1972, the North American companies have worked closely with the state oil company CEPE, founded in 1971, and Petroleus del Ecuador since 1989. Oil extraction does have very negative consequences for the environment. Large areas of jungle have been cut down and large amounts of heavy metals have ended up in the soil and groundwater. Many oil pipelines are also leaking, which has already released many hundreds of thousands of liters of oil into the environment.

Large reserves of natural gas have been discovered in the Gulf of Guayaquil. The installed capacity for electricity generation (48% of which by hydropower) is still insufficient. New hydroelectric power stations have been put into operation at Pisayambo, Paute and Agoyán.


Textiles EcadorTextiles EcadorPhoto:David Adam Kess CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Industrial production grew by an average of 10.5% per annum in the years between 1972 and 1982, but stagnated in the 1980s due to declining investment. New factories for the chemical, wood and paper and metalworking industries sprang up like mushrooms.

Between 1982 and 1992 industrial production increased by only 0.2% per year. Since 1992 there has been growth again. Much of the industrial expansion, aimed at import substitution, has been brought about by foreign investment (mainly the United States), foreign credit and strong expansion of government credits. Foreign companies were given the same rights as national companies.

Three-quarters of the industry is concentrated in Guayaquil and Quito. The main products are textiles, vegetable oils and fats, cocoa products, sugar, tobacco, beer, cement, paper, metal goods and rubber. The purpose of a major industrial plan is to boost exports and reduce dependence on imports. Raw material processing, chemical and plastics industries are strongly stimulated.

Most employees in the industry work in small family businesses with fewer than 500 jobs. There are not many companies with more than 500 employees in Ecuador.

Trade and traffic

Export EcuadorExport EcuadorPhoto: Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, et. al. CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Petroleum, shrimp, bananas, coffee, cocoa and cut flowers are the main exports. The main export partners are the United States, Columbia, Italy, Chile and Peru. In 2017, exports amounted to USD 19.1 billion.

Imports are mainly machines, semi-finished products and foodstuffs. The main import partners are the United States, Colombia, Venezuela, Japan and Mexico. In 2017, imports amounted to $ 19 billion. Increased international creditworthiness has led to rapid growth in external debt.

The main barrier to domestic and foreign road transport is the jungle in the Oriente and the Andean ranges in the Sierra. The main road connections are the Ecuadorian section of Carretera Panamericana (1392 km) between Tulcán on the border with Colombia and Macaráon the border with Peru. There are four railway lines with a total length of more than 1,500 km, of which only 971 km are still in use, which are therefore of little economic importance.

Inland navigation plays an important role as a traffic connection, both in the near future. inaccessible jungle in the Oriente as well as in the Costa. Maritime shipping is of great importance to Ecuador's foreign trade; 95% of exports leave the country through ports. The main port is that of Guayaquil; other important ports are Puerto Bolívar and Esmeraldas/El Balao (oil) and Manta (fishing). The merchant fleet consists of approximately 160 sea-going vessels, including 22 tankers. International airports include Mariscal Sucre Airport at Quito and Simón Bolívar Airport at Guayaquil; furthermore there are more than a hundred smaller airports and landing strips that are especially important for the transport of people and goods in the Oriente. Compañ& iacute;a Ecuatoriana de Aviación (CEA) is the national airline.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Pristine rainforest in EcuadorPristine rainforest in EcuadorPhoto:Hubertl CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tourism is an important economic activity. The landscapes of the Andes, the Native American population, the beaches, the rainforest and the Galápagos Islands are major tourist attractions. The average growth in the number of tourists is currently around 10% per year. In 1995 it was decided to set the number of visitors per year at a maximum of 75,000. The islands are currently visited by 50,000 to 60,000 tourists a year, three quarters of which are from abroad and one quarter from Ecuador itself.

Quito, EcuadorQuito, EcuadorPhoto: Michael Shade in the public domain

Quito is the capital of Ecuador. It was the first city to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. People can feel the heartbeat of Eucador when they visit Quito. The old important city has many historical artifacts. has a large collection on the art, history and culture of Ecuador. High over old Quito stands the colossal 45m-high Virgin of Quito on Panecillo Hill. The virgin is depicted with a snake at her feet. She is both the patron saint and the emblem of the city. Enjoy the view of the city from the promenade or climb to the top of the viewing platform. In the perfectly preserved colonial center of Quito, market stalls with hand-woven Panama hats line steep, narrow streets. Admire the beautiful details of these hats, the perfect souvenir from your vacation in Quito. The best Panama hats can be found at Homero Ortega & Hijos in the New City or opt for fair-trade wooden bowls and woven mats at the Sinchi Sacha Foundation in the Old City. The La Mariscal district is the best place for old crafts. You will find Lama wool carpets and jewelery and ethnic art. Read more on the Quito page of Landenweb.

Galapagos Islands, EcuadorGalapagos Islands, EcuadorPhoto:Bhasker Thodla CC3.0 Unported no changes made

Many travel agencies organize trips to the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are world famous for its wildlife (penguins, many beautiful birds, reptiles, turtles, sea lions, dolphins etc.). Darwin was already fascinated by the animals of the Galapagos Islands and did research here. A trip to the Galapagos is not cheap, count on about 1000 dollars for a four day trip.

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Luft, A. / Reishandboek Ecuador en de Galápagoseilanden

Rachowiecki, R. / Ecuador & the Galápagos islands
Lonely Planet

Renterghem, O. van / Ecuador : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen/Novib

Vries, W. de / Ecuador, Galápagos

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2021
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