AskDefine | Define Ecuador

Dictionary Definition

Ecuador n : a republic in northwestern South America; became independent from Spain in 1822; the landscape is dominated by the Andes [syn: Republic of Ecuador]

User Contributed Dictionary

see ecuador


Proper noun

  1. A country in South America. Official name: Republic of Ecuador.


country in South America


Proper noun

  1. Ecuador


Proper noun


Derived terms


Proper noun


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ecuador "equator"


Proper noun

  1. Ecuador


Proper noun

  1. Ecuador



Extensive Definition

Ecuador (), officially the Republic of Ecuador (, literally, "Republic of the equator") is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, by Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America that does not have a border with Brazil. The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 965 kilometers (600 miles) west of the mainland. Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name, and has an area of 256,371 square kilometers (98,985 mi²). Its capital city is Quito; its largest city is Guayaquil.


Evidence of human cultures in Ecuador exists from c. 3500 B.C. Many civilizations rose throughout Ecuador, such as the Valdivia Culture and Machalilla Culture on the coast, the Quitus (near present day Quito) and the Cañari (near present day Cuenca). Each civilization developed its own distinctive architecture, pottery, and religious interests. After years of fiery resistance by the Cayambes and other tribes, as demonstrated by the battle of Yahuarcocha (Blood Lake) where thousands of resistance fighters were killed and thrown in the lake, what is now Ecuador fell to the Incan expansion and was assimilated loosely into the Incan empire.

The Inca Empire

Through a succession of wars and marriages and among the nations that inhabited the valley, the region became part of the Inca Empire. Atahualpa, one of the sons of the Inca emperor Huayna Capac, could not receive the crown of the Empire since the emperor had another son, Huascar, born in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire. Upon Huayna Capac's death, the empire was divided in two: Atahualpa received the north, with his capital in Quito; Huascar received the south, with its capital in Cusco. In 1530, Atahualpa defeated Huascar and conquered the entire Empire for the crown of Quito.

Colonization by Spain

Barely a year later, in 1531, the Spanish conquistadors, under Francisco Pizarro, arrived to find an Inca empire torn by civil war. Atahualpa wanted to reestablish a unified Incan empire; the Spanish, however, had conquest intentions and established themselves in a fort in Cajamarca, captured Atahualpa during the Battle of Cajamarca, and held him for ransom. The Incas filled one room with gold and two with silver to secure his release. Despite being surrounded and vastly outnumbered, the Spanish executed Atahualpa. To escape the confines of the fort, the Spaniards fired all their cannons and broke through the lines of the bewildered Incans. In subsequent years, the Spanish colonists became the new elite, centering their power in the vice-royalties of Nueva Granada and Lima. The indigenous population was decimated by disease during the first decades of Spanish rule — a time when the natives also were forced into the "encomienda" labor system for Spanish landlords. In 1563, Quito became the seat of a royal audiencia (administrative district) of Spain and part of the Vice-Royalty of Lima, and later the Vice-Royalty of Nueva Granada.
After nearly 300 years of Spanish colonization, Quito still was a small city of only 10,000 inhabitants. It was there, on August 10, 1809 (the national holiday), that the first call for independence from Spain was made in Latin America ("Primer Grito de la Independencia"), under the leadership of the city's criollos like Carlos Montúfar, Eugenio Espejo and Bishop Cuero y Caicedo. Quito's nickname, "Luz de América" ("Light of America"), comes from the idea that this first attempt produced the inspiration for the rest of Spanish America, creating a domino effect that would ultimately lead to the expulsion of Spain from the continent.


On October 9, 1820, Guayaquil became the first city in Ecuador to gain its independence from Spain. It was not until May 24, 1822 (the Glorious May Revolution) that the rest of Ecuador gained its independence after Field Marshal Antonio José de Sucre defeated the Spaniard Royalist forces at the Batalla de Pichincha (Battle of Pichincha) near Quito. Following the battle, Ecuador joined Simón Bolívar's Republic of Gran Colombia, only to become a republic in 1830.
The 19th century for Ecuador was marked by instability, with a rapid succession of rulers. The first president of Ecuador was the Venezuelan born Juan José Flores, who was ultimately deposed, followed by many authoritarian leaders such as Vicente Rocafuerte, José Joaquín de Olmedo, José María Urbina, Diego Noboa, Pedro José de Arteta, Manuel de Ascásubi and Flores's own son, Antonio Flores Jijón, among others. The conservative Gabriel Garcia Moreno unified the country in the 1860s with the support of the Roman Catholic Church. In the late 19th century, world demand for cocoa tied the economy to commodity exports and led to migrations from the highlands to the agricultural frontier on the coast.

The liberal revolution

A coastal-based liberal revolution in 1895 under Eloy Alfaro reduced the power of the clergy and the conservative land owners of the highlands, and this liberal wing retained power until the military "Julian Revolution" of 1925. The 1930s and 1940s were marked by instability and emergence of populist politicians such as five-time President José María Velasco Ibarra.

War with Peru

Control over territory in the Amazon basin led to a long-lasting dispute between Ecuador and Peru. In 1941, amid fast-growing tensions between the two countries, war broke out. Peru claimed that Ecuador's military presence in Peruvian-claimed territory was an invasion; Ecuador, for its part, claimed that Peru had invaded Ecuador. In July 1941, troops were mobilized in both countries. Peru had an army of 11,681 troops who faced a poorly-supplied and inadequately-armed Ecuadorian force of 2,300, of which only 1,300 were deployed in the southern provinces. Hostilities erupted on July 5, 1941, when Peruvian forces crossed the Zarumilla river at several locations, testing the strength and resolve of the Ecuadorian border troops. Finally, on July 23, 1941, the Peruvians launched a major invasion, crossing the Zarumilla river in force and advancing into the Ecuadorian province of El Oro.
During the course of the war, Peru gained control over some part of the disputed territory and some part of the province of El Oro, and some parts of the province of Loja, demanding that the Ecuadorian government give up its territorial claims. The Peruvian Navy tried to block the port of Guayaquil, almost cutting supplies to the Ecuadorian troops. After a few weeks of war and under pressure by the U.S. and several Latin American nations, all fighting came to a stop. Ecuador and Peru came to an accord formalized in the Rio Protocol, signed on January 29, 1942, in favor of hemispheric unity against the Axis Powers in World War II. As a result of its victory, Peru was awarded the disputed territory.
Due to the fact that a small river in the conflict region was not cataloged in the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, Ecuadorian governments determined the Rio Protocol was not valid. It would take two more undeclared wars before a peace agreement was finally reached in October 1998 to end hostilities. (See Paquisha Incident and Cenepa War.)
Recession and popular unrest led to a return to populist politics and domestic military interventions in the 1960s, while foreign companies developed oil resources in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In 1972, construction of the Andean pipeline was completed. The pipeline brought oil from the east side of the Andes to the coast, making Ecuador South America's second largest oil exporter.

Military governments (1972-1979)

That same year a "revolutionary and nationalist" military junta overthrew the government of Velasco Ibarra. The coup d'etat was led by General Guillermo Rodríguez and executed by navy commander Jorge Queirolo G. The new president exiled José María Velasco to Argentina remaining in power until 1976, when he was removed by another military government. It was a military junta led by Admiral Alfredo Poveda, who was declared chairman of the Supreme Council. The Supreme Council had two other members as well, general Guillermo Durán Arcentales and general Luis Leoro Franco. After the country stabilized, socially and economically, this Supreme Council proceeded to hold democratic elections and stepped down to hand presidential duties over to the newly democratically elected president.

Return to a new democracy

Elections were held in 1979 under a new Constitution. Jaime Roldós Aguilera was elected President, governing until May 24, 1981, when he died in a plane crash. By 1982, the government of Osvaldo Hurtado faced an economic crisis, characterized by high inflation, budget deficits, a falling currency, mounting debt service, and uncompetitive industries, leading to chronic government instability.
The 1984 presidential elections were narrowly won by León Febres Cordero Rivadeneira, of the Social Christian Party (PSC). During the first years of his administration, Febres-Cordero introduced free-market economic policies, took a strong stand against drug trafficking and terrorism, and pursued close relations with the United States. His tenure was marred by bitter wrangling with other branches of Government and his own brief kidnapping by elements of the military. A devastating earthquake in March 1987 interrupted oil exports and worsened the country's economic problems.
Rodrigo Borja Cevallos of the Democratic Left (Izquierda Democrática or ID) party won the presidency in 1988, running in the runoff election against Abdalá Bucaram of the PRE. His government was committed to improving human rights protection and carried out some reforms, notably an opening of Ecuador to foreign trade. The Borja government concluded an accord leading to the disbanding of the small terrorist group, "¡Alfaro Vive, Carajo!" ("Alfaro Lives, Dammit!") named after [[Eloy Alfaro. However, continuing economic problems undermined the popularity of the ID, and opposition parties gained control of Congress in 1990.
Many years of mismanagement, starting with the mishandling of the country's debt during the 1970s military regime, had left the country essentially ungovernable. Since the mid 1990s, the government of Ecuador has been characterized by a weak executive branch that struggles to appease the ruling classes represented in the legislative and judiciary. The three democratically elected presidents during the period 1996-2006 all failed to finish their terms.
The emergence of the indigenous population (approximately 25 percent) as an active constituency has added to the democratic volatility of the country in recent years. The population have been motivated by government failures to deliver on promises of land reform, lower unemployment and provision of social services, and historical exploitation by the land-holding elite.
Their movement, along with the continuing destabilizing efforts by both the Elite and Leftist movements, have led to a deterioration of the executive office. The populace and the other branches of government give the president very little political capital, as illustrated by the most recent ouster of a president. In April 2005, Ecuador's congress ousted President Lucio Gutiérrez.
The vice-president, Alfredo Palacio, took his place and remained in office until the presidential election of 2006, which did not produce a conclusive winner until a runoff election on 26 November elected Rafael Correa over Alvaro Noboa.


The executive branch includes 25 ministries. Provincial governors and councilors (mayors, aldermen, and parish boards) are directly elected. Congress meets throughout the year except for recesses in July and December. There are 69 seven-member congressional committees. Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Congress for indefinite terms.
On September 30, 2007 Ecuador elected a constituent assembly, dominated by President Rafael Correa's PAIS Alliance, charged with rewriting the Constitution of Ecuador.
Ecuador has often placed great emphasis on multilateral approaches to international issues. Ecuador is a member of the United Nations (and most of its specialized agencies) and a member of many regional groups, including the Rio Group, the Latin American Economic System, the Latin American Energy Organization, the Latin American Integration Association, and The Andean Pact.

Provinces and cantons

Ecuador is divided into 24 provinces (provincias), each with its own administrative capital: The provinces are divided into cantons, and further subdivided into parishes (parroquias).

Nations of Ecuador

Ecuador is a plurinational state. In addition to whites, blacks, and mestizos, many Ecuadorians belong to indigenous nations, principally:

Geography and climate

Ecuador is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world according to Conservation International. With 1600 bird species (15 percent of the world's known bird species) in the continental area, and 38 more endemic in the Galápagos. In addition to 25,000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly. The Galápagos Islands are well known as a region of distinct fauna, famous as the place of birth of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite being on the UNESCO list, the Galapagos islands are endangered by a range of negative environmental effects, threatening the existence of this exotic ecosystem.


Ecuador has substantial petroleum resources and rich agricultural areas. Because the country exports primary products such as oil, bananas, flowers and shrimp, fluctuations in world market prices can have a substantial domestic impact. Industry is largely oriented to servicing the domestic market, and some exports to the Andean Common market. Deteriorating economic performance in 1997-98 culminated in a severe economic and financial crisis in 1999. The crisis was precipitated by a number of external shocks, including the El Niño weather phenomenon in 1997, a sharp drop in global oil prices in 1997-98, and international emerging market instability in 1997-98. These factors highlighted the Government of Ecuador's unsustainable economic policy mix of large fiscal deficits and expansionary money policy and resulted in a 7.3 percent contraction of GDP, annual year-on-year inflation of 52.2 percent, and a 65 percent devaluation of the national currency, the Sucre, in 1999, which helped precipitate a default on external loans later that year.
On January 9 2000, the administration of President Jamil Mahuad announced its intention to adopt the U.S. dollar as the official currency of Ecuador to address the ongoing economic crisis. The formal adoption of the dollar as currency on September 10, 2000, as opposed to merely pegging the Sucre to the dollar as Argentina had done, theoretically meant that the benefits of seigniorage would accrue to the U.S. economy. Subsequent protests related to the economic and financial crises led to the removal of Mahuad from office and the elevation of Vice President Gustavo Noboa to the presidency.
However, the Noboa government confirmed its commitment to dollarize as the centerpiece of its economic recovery strategy. The government also entered into negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), culminating in the negotiation of a 12-month standby arrangement with the Fund. Additional policy initiatives include efforts to reduce the government's fiscal deficit and to implement structural reforms to strengthen the banking system and regain access to private capital markets.
Buoyed by high oil prices, the Ecuadorian economy experienced a modest recovery in 2000, with GDP rising 1.9 percent. However, 70 percent of the population was estimated to live below the poverty line that year, more than double the rate in 1995.
In April 2007, after winning a referendum on constitutional reform, President Correa announced that he no longer intended that the country would make repayments to the IMF nor deal with the World Bank.


Ecuador's population is ethnically diverse. The largest ethnic group (as of 2007) is the Mestizos, who are the mixed descendants of Spanish colonists and indigenous Indians and who constitute 62 percent of the population. Amerindians account for around 25 percent of the current population. Whites, mainly criollos, the unmixed descendants of early Spanish colonists, as well as immigrants from other European countries, account for about ten percent. The small Afro-Ecuadorian minority, including Mulattos and zambos, largely based in Esmeraldas and Imbabura provinces, make up five percent. There are sizable expatriate Ecuadorian communities in Spain, the United Kingdom (Ecuadorian Britons), and Italy, as well across Europe, the United States, Canada, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan. It is estimated that 700,000 people emigrated from Ecuador following the 1999 economic crisis, and that the expatriate Ecuadorian population totals 2.5 million.
The tropical forest region to the east of the mountains (El Oriente) remains sparsely populated and contains only about three percent of the population.
The public education system is free at the point of delivery, and attendance is mandatory from ages five to 14. Provision of public schools falls far below the levels needed, and class sizes are often very large, and families of limited means often find it necessary to pay for education. However, the Ministry of Education reports that only 76 percent of children finish six years of schooling. In rural areas, only 10 percent of the children go on to high school. Ministry statistics give the mean number of years completed as 6.7.
Ecuador has 61 universities, many of which offer graduate degrees, although only 87 percent of the faculty in public universities possess graduate degrees. About 300 higher institutes offer two to three years of post-secondary vocational or technical training.
City Populations 2001


Approximately 69% percent of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholic. In the rural parts of Ecuador, indigenous beliefs and Christianity are sometimes syncretized. There also are Latter Day Saint and Protestant denominations as well as a small Muslim minority numbering in the low hundreds. The Jewish community numbers just below a thousand and is mostly of German and Italian origin. There also are some few Sephardic Jews (Judeo-Spanish Jews).
Most festivals and annual parades are based on religious celebrations, many incorporating a mixture of rites and icons.


Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by its mestizo majority and, like their ancestry, is a mixture of European and Amerindian influences infused with African elements inherited from enslaved ancestors. Ecuador's indigenous communities are integrated into that mainstream culture to varying degrees, but some may also practice their own autochthonous cultures, particularly the more remote indigenous communities of the Amazon basin.
The Panama hat is of Ecuadorian origin, and is known there as "Sombrero de paja toquilla", or a Jipijapa. It is made principally in Montecristi (Pile, Pampas, Cruces) in the Province of Manabi. Its manufacture (particularly that of the Montecristi superfino) is considered a great craft.
Notable people born in Ecuador include painters Tábara, Guayasamín, Kingman, Rendón, Arauz, Constanté, Viteri, Molinari, Maldonado, Gutierrez, Endara Crow, Villacís, Egas, Villafuerte and Faini; animator Mike Judge; poet and statesman José Joaquín de Olmedo y Maruri, scholar Benjamín Urrutia, and tennis player Pancho Segura.


The most popular sport in Ecuador, as in most South American countries, is soccer (fútbol/football). Its best known professional teams include Barcelona S.C. and C.S. Emelec, from Guayaquil, Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito, Deportivo Quito and El Nacional (the Ecuadorian Armed Forces team) from Quito, Olmedo from Riobamba, and Deportivo Cuenca, from Cuenca.
The matches of the Ecuador national football team are the most watched sports events in the country. In June 2007, FIFA adopted a resolution prohibiting international soccer games at or higher than 2,500 meters above sea level. Rafael Correa, and his presidential counterparts in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, issued a joint letter of protest against this ruling. Ecuador qualified for the final rounds of both the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups. Ecuador finished ahead of Poland and Costa Rica to come in second to Germany in Group A in the 2006 World Cup. Futsal, often referred to as índor, is particularly popular for mass participation.
There is considerable interest in tennis in the middle and upper classes in Ecuadorian society, and several Ecuadorian professional players have attained considerable international fame, including Francisco Segura and Andrés Gómez. Basketball also has a high profile, while Ecuador's specialties include Ecuavolley, a three-person variation of volleyball. Bullfighting is practiced at a professional level in Quito, during the annual festivities that commemorate the Spanish founding of the city. Bullfighting is found in smaller towns, notably El Chaco (east of Quito).
Rugby union is also found to some extent in Ecuador, and Quito has its own club
Ecuador obtained its first Olympic gold medal in Atlanta's 1996 Olympic Games, through Jefferson Pérez, on the 20 km race-walk. There is flourishing activity in nontraditional sports such as mountain biking, motorbiking, surfing, and paintball. Since 2005, Ecuador has held the Guayaquil Marathon, which is an international foot race.
Some costal resorts, particularly Montañita and Ayampe, have been developed as surfing centres. Ecuador also hosted the 2007 Youth World Championship for Rock Climbing, held in Ibarra, becoming the first country outside of Europe or Asia to host the event..


The food in Ecuador is diverse, varying with altitude and associated agricultural conditions. Pork, chicken, beef, and “cuy” (guinea pig) are popular in the mountain regions and are served with a variety of grains (especially rice and corn) or potatoes. A popular street food in mountain regions of Ecuador consists of potatoes served with roasted pig (hornado). Fanesca, a fish soup including several types of bean, is often eaten during Lent and Easter. During the week before the commemoration of the deceased or "día de los muertos", the fruit beverage "Colada Morada" is typical, accompanied by "Guaguas de Pan", which is stuffed bread shaped like children.
The food is somewhat different in the southern mountain area, featuring typical Loja food such as "repe", a soup prepared with green bananas; "cecina", roasted pork; and "miel con quesillo" or "cuajada" as dessert.
A wide variety of fresh fruit is available, particularly at lower altitudes, including granadilla, passionfruit, naranjilla, several types of bananas, uvilla, taxo, and tree tomato.
Seafood is very popular at the coast, where prawns, shrimp and lobster are key parts of the diet. Plantain- and peanut-based dishes are the basis of most coastal meals, which are usually served in two courses. The first course is caldo soup, which may be aguado (a thin soup, usually with meat) or caldo de leche, a cream vegetable soup. The second course might include rice, a little meat or fish with a menestra (stew), and salad or vegetables. Patacones are popular side dishes with coastal meals.
Some of the typical dishes in the coastal region are: ceviche, pan de almidón, corviche, guatita, encebollado and empanadas; in the mountain region: hornado, fritada, humitas, tamales, llapingachos, lomo saltado, and churrasco.
In the rainforest, a dietary staple is the yuca, elsewhere called cassava. The starchy root is peeled and boiled, fried, or used in a variety of other dishes. Many fruits are available in this region, including bananas, tree grapes, and peach palms.
Aguardiente, a sugar cane-based spirit, is probably the most popular national alcohol. Drinkable yogurt, available in many fruit flavors, is extremely popular and is often consumed with pan de yuca, which is a light bread filled with cheese and eaten warm.


The best known art tendencies from Ecuador belonged to the Escuela Quiteña, which developed from the XVI to XVIII centuries.
There are many contemporary Ecuadorian writers, including the novelist Jorge Enrique Adoum; the poet Jorge Carrera Andrade; the essayist Benjamín Carrión; the poet Fanny Carrión de Fierro; the novelist Enrique Gil Gilbert; the novelist Jorge Icaza (author of the novel Huasipungo, translated to many languages); the short story author Pablo Palacio; the novelist Alicia Yanez Cossio; the novelist Jorge Queirolo B.; the prominent author and essayist, Juan Montalvo, and U.S.-based, half Ecuadorian poet Emanuel Xavier.
Ecuador has produced many world renowned master painters including: Oswaldo Guayasamín, Camilo Egas and Eduardo Kingman from the Indiginist Movement; and Manuel Rendon, Enrique Tábara, Aníbal Villacís and Estuardo Maldonado from the Informalist Movement. further Ecuadorian painters


The Ecuador Film Company was founded in Guayaquil, in 1924. During early twenties to early thirties, Ecuador enjoyed its Cinema Golden Age Era. Unfortunately, the production of motion pictures declined with the coming of sound.
  • The Waorani tribe of Ecuador is portrayed in the 2006 theatrical release of The End of the Spear, the story of five missionaries speared to death, as told through the eyes of Christian movie makers.
  • The 2006 film Qué Tan Lejos, written and directed by Tania Hermida, takes place in the rural sierras and Pacific coast of southern Ecuador. A workers' strike delays a bus from Quito to Cuenca and the story unfolds as two young women decide to complete the journey on their own, hitchhiking the rest of the way. Along the way they meet interesting characters who help them reevaluate the purpose of their journey. The movie contains beautiful scenic shots and Ecuadorian humor that sometimes gets lost in translation.
  • Beyond the Gates of Splendor (2002), directed by Jim Hanon, is a documentary about five missionaries killed by the Huaorani Indians in the 1950s. He recycles the story in the 2006 Hollywood production The End of the Spear. Most of this film was shot in Panama.
  • Ratas, Ratones, Rateros (1999), written and directed by Sebastián Cordero, relates the story of an 18-year-old quiteño whose cousin, a thief from Ecuador's coastal city Guayaquil, embroils all those around him in his affairs. The film has been accused by several critics of painting an extremely distorted contrast between the coast (Guayaquil) and the highlands (Quito), which stems from the ever-present feelings of regionalism.
  • Entre Marx y una Mujer Desnuda (Between Marx and a Nude Woman, 1995), by Ecuadorian Camilo Luzuriaga, provides a window into the life of young Ecuadorian leftists living in a country plagued by the remnants of feudal systems and coup d'etats. It is based on a novel by Jorge Enrique Adoum.
  • The 1991 film Sensaciones was shot in Ecuador and directed by Ecuadorian siblings Juan Esteban Cordero and Viviana Cordero. Viviana Cordero was subsequently involved in the production of Ratas, Ratones, y Rateros (see above) and later produced Un Titán en el Ring (2002).
In addition to film, there are numerous books and novels based on Ecuador, including the science fiction novel by Rod Glenn, The King of America, and the science fiction novel Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut.


Ecuador has a network of national highways maintained by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Comunicaciones (Ministry of Public Works and Communication) government agency The Pan-American Highway connects the northern and southern portions of the country as well as connecting Ecuador with Colombia to the north and Peru to the south. The quality of roads, even on truck routes, is highly variable. There is an extensive network of intercity buses that use these mountain roads and highways.
The most modern Ecuadorian Highway communicates Guayaquil with Salinas, in about two hours. Guayaquil´s airport Joaquin de Olmedo is the number one of Latin America. The Interandean Railroad communicates Quito and Cotopaxi in about two hours.

See also

Main list: List of basic Ecuador topics


External links

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