Sierra (Ecuador) the mountain region, covering about 27,500 square miles, or about one quarter of the nation. Despite its location along the equator, the elevation of the sierra (often 9,000 feet and above) gives the region a temperate climate, what serranos call eternal springtime. Made up of two parallel branches of the Andes (375 miles north to south), the sierra has ten major basins, each formed by mountain spurs that connect the two main branches of the mountains. These verdant zones produce barley, corn, potatoes, wheat, fruit, and vegetables. Most Ecuadorian cities are set in these valleys, including Ibarra, Quito, Ambato, Riobamba, and Cuenca. Thickly populated by sedentary farming Indians, the sierra was the focus of Spanish colonizing efforts. In 1800 as much as 90 percent of the population of Ecuador lived in the sierra. By 1992 only about half did, as people fled overcrowding and exploitation by whites. Transportation difficulties have made the sierra a relatively isolated and culturally more traditional zone in Ecuador. The sierra corridor is sometimes known as the "Avenue of the Volcanoes," a name given by nineteenth-century naturalist Baron Alexander von Humboldt.
See alsoHumboldt, Alexander von .
Details on Ecuador's geography can be found in Preston James, Latin America (1986). For information on the natives of Ecuador's sierra, see Handbook of South American Indians, vol. 2, The Andean Civilizations, edited by Julian H. Steward (1963).
Gómez E., Nelson. Transformación del espacio nacional: Pasado y presente del Ecuador. Quito: EDICUIAS C., 1999.
Handelsman, Michael H. Culture and Customs of Ecuador. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Hofstede, Robert Gerardus Maria, Johanna M. Lips, and Wibold Jongsma. Geografía, ecología, y forestación de la sierra alta del Ecuador: Revisión de literatura. Quito: Abya Yala, 1998.
Ronn F. Pineo