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Republic of Ecuador

República del Ecuador


FLAG: The flag consists of three horizontal stripes, the yellow uppermost stripe being equal to the combined widths of the blue center stripe and the red lower stripe; coat of arms superimposed at center of the flag.

ANTHEM: Salve, O Patria (Hail, O Fatherland).

MONETARY UNIT: The sucre was replaced by the US dollar as the official currency as of March 2000 at a rate of 25,000 sucres for us$1. The dollar ($) of 100 cents is a paper currency with a floating rate. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. Although issuance of higher notes ceased in 1969, a limited number of notes of 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 dollars remain in circulation. sucre1 = us$0.00004 (or us$1 = sucre25,000) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but local and old Spanish units also are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Battle of Pichincha, 24 May; Simón Bolívar's Birthday, 24 July; Quito's Independence Day, 10 August; Guayaquil's Independence Day, 9 October; Columbus Day, 12 October; All Saints' Day, 1 November; All Souls' Day, 2 November; Cuenca's Independence Day, 3 November; Foundation of Quito, 6 December; Christmas Day, 25 December. Movable holidays include Carnival and Holy Week.

TIME: Mainland, 7 am = noon GMT; Galápagos Islands, 6 am = noon GMT.


The fourth-smallest country in South America, Ecuador is located on the west coast of the continent and is crossed by the equator (the country gets its name from the Spanish word for "equator"). It has a length of 714 km (444 mi) ns and a width of 658 km (409 mi) ew. Ecuador borders Colombia on the n, Peru on the e and s, and the Pacific Ocean on the w, with a total boundary length of 4,247 km (2,639 mi), of which 2,237 km (1,398 mi) is coastline. (Ecuador has lost about two-thirds of the territory it once claimed to Colombia and Peru.)

The Galápagos Islands, a province of Ecuador with an area totaling 8,010 sq km (3,093 sq mi), are approximately 1,130 km (700 mi) off the coast on the equator at 89° to 92°w. The total area of the republic and its territory is estimated at 283,560 sq km (109,483 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Ecuador is slightly smaller than the state of Nevada. Ecuador also claims about 200,000 sq km (77,000 sq mi) of land awarded to Peru under the 1942 Protocol of Río de Janeiro. Armed hostilities flared along a still undemarcated stretch of the border in January 1981, but by 20 February, a 14-km (9-mi) demilitarized zone had been arranged along the disputed line. Official maps of Ecuador show the entire region as Ecuadoran territory. Ecuador's capital city, Quito, is located in the north central part of the country.


Ecuador is characterized by three distinct regions: the coast; the highlands, or Sierra; and the eastern interior lowlands, or Oriente. The coast, except for a hilly area west of Guayaquil, is a low alluvial plain from 32 to 185 km (20 to 115 mi) wide, comprising about one-quarter of the national territory. It extends from sea level to the base of the Cordillera Real of the Andes, at an elevation of about 460 m (1,500 ft). The Guayas in the southwest and the Esmeraldas in the northwest form the principal river systems and serve as important arteries of transportation in their respective regions.

The highlands constitute another fourth of the country. This region is formed by two parallel ranges of the Andes, from 110 to 290 km (70 to 180 mi) wide, and the intervening narrow central plateau, nearly 640 km (400 mi) long. This inter-Andean plateau is divided into 10 basins at altitudes from 2,400 to 2,900 m (7,800 to 9,500 ft), some draining east and some west. The Andes are studded with massive snow-capped volcanoes, the highest of which are Chimborazo, 6,267 m (20,561 ft); Cotopaxi, 5,897 m (19,347 ft), the world's third-highest active volcano; Cayambe, 5,790 m (18,996 ft); Antisana, 5,705 m (18,717 ft); Altar, 5,320 m (17,454 ft); Iliniza, 5,266 m (17,277 ft); Sangay, 5,230 m (17,159 ft); and Tungurahua, 5,016 m (16,457 ft).

The Oriente, forming part of the upper Amazon Basin, begins at the base of the Andes at about 1,200 m (4,000 ft). The land at first drops quickly and is segmented by rushing torrents escaping from the cold highlands. At about 260 m (850 ft), the forests become almost level, and the streams suddenly widen into sluggish, meandering rivers as they begin their journey down the Amazon system to the Atlantic.

Ecuador is located on the South American Tectonic Plate, near the Nazca Plate that is off the western coast. As such, it is an area of frequent, though usually moderate, seismic activity. One of the worst earthquakes in history occurred off the coast of Ecuador on 31 January 1906. An 8.8 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that reached as far north as San Francisco and as far west as Japan. Between 500 and 1500 people were killed by the event. More recent quakes have been significantly less destructive. An earthquake of 5.7 magnitude occurred east of Quito on 9 November 2005.


The climate varies with the region. Most of the coast consists of wet, tropical forest, increasingly humid toward the north. The cold Humboldt Current (also called the Peruvian Current), which flows northward along the coast of Peru and then heads out into the Pacific off the coast of central Ecuador, limits the rainfall on a strip of the coast extending from as far north as the Bay of Caráquez and widening to include most of the coastal lowlands south of Guayaquil. In the Guayaquil area there are two seasons: a hot rainy period, lasting from January to May; and a cooler dry season, during the rest of the year, when sea breezes modify the equatorial heat. The tropical forests of the Oriente, east of the Andes, are more humid than the coast; there, temperatures are high, and rain falls all year round.

The climate of the central plateau is governed mainly by the altitude. The capital, Quito, at 2,850 m (9,350 ft), has perpetual spring, with an average temperature of 13°c (55°f) and about 127 cm (50 in) of rainfall annually. The highlands are cut by numerous deep valleys, which bring subtropical climates to within a few miles of the more temperate areas. Cold and wind increase as the slopes surrounding the central plateau ascend to form the páramo, or highland meadow. The higher areas rise to peaks above 5,200 m (17,000 ft) that are perpetually covered with snow.


The arid savanna strip along about half of Ecuador's coast, with occasional low shrubs and isolated ceiba trees, contrasts sharply with the northern coast and the inner portion of the southern coast. In these humid regions, the typical dense growth of the tropical jungle abounds, extending as wet mossy forests up the Andean slopes to over 2,400 m (8,000 ft) in some places. Beyond the moisture barrier formed by the Western Cordillera, the high mountain slopes above 3,000 m (10,000 ft) are covered with wiry páramo grass and, in the northern province of Carchi, with a mulleinlike plant, the fraylejón (espeletia).

The highland valleys, at an altitude between 2,400 and 3,000 m (8,000 and 10,000 ft), support most of the temperate-zone plants; potatoes and corn, for example, have been raised there for thousands of years. There are few native trees in the highlands; eucalyptus was introduced in the 1860s and has been widely planted. The Oriente has little that is unique to tropical flora except for the delicious naranjilla, a small green orange used in making a conserve.

Ecuadoran forests support the usual smaller mammals, reptiles, and birds. In the highlands, the condor and a few other species of birds are found. There is relatively little wild game because of the density of the population and the intensive use of the land. The Amerindians still make some use of the llama in southern Ecuador. Throughout the highlands, Amerindians and some mestizos raise cavies (guinea pigs) in their homes as an important source of meat.

As of 2002, there were at least 302 species of mammals, 640 species of birds, and over 19,300 species of plants throughout the country.


Ecuador's major environmental problems are erosion in the highland areas; deforestation, especially in the Oriente; and water pollution. The Ecuadoran Institute of Water Resources estimated that the amount of arid land increased by 31.5% between 1954 and 1979, when 7.5% of the coastal lowland and Sierra were classified as arid. Between 1981 and 1985, 340,000 hectares (840,000 acres) of land were deforested annually. By the 1990s, Ecuador had lost over 30% of the original mangrove area, which covered over 117,000 hectares. From 19902000, the annual rate of deforestation was about 1.2%. In 2000, about 38% of the total land area was forested. It was estimated that, at current deforestation rates, coastal forests will be completely eliminated within 10 years and the Amazon forests will be gone within 40 years. Traditional farming practices have been blamed for most of these problems, but oil development has also played a role in the clearing of forests. A program for reforestation and maintenance of existing forests was initiated in 1979, but only 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) were reforested annually during the early 1980s. Ecuador's principal environmental agency is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy. Land erosion is accelerated by deforestation.

Flooding and desertification are related problems which have damaged or eliminated valuable soil, particularly in the western coastal region. Water pollution is a problem due to the influx of domestic, industrial, and agricultural contaminants. The nation has 432 cu km of renewable water resources with 82% used for agricultural purposes. Some 92% of all urban dwellers and 77% of the rural population have access to pure drinking water.

In 2003, about 18% of the land area was legally protected. The Galápagos Islands and Sangay National Park are natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 11 Ramsar wetland sites. The expansion of Ecuador's population centers threatens its wildlife. Endangered species on the Ecuadoran mainland include the tundra peregrine falcon, yellow-tailed woolly monkey, five species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, leatherback, and South American river), and three species of crocodile (spectacled caiman, black caiman, and American).

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 34 types of mammals, 69 species of birds, 10 types of reptiles, 163 species of amphibians, 12 species of fish, 48 types of mollusks, and 1,815 species of plants. Endangered species in the Galápagos Islands include the dark-rumped petrel, Galápagos dark-rumped petrel (a subspecies), black petrel, African ass, two species of turtle (green sea and hawksbill), and the Galápagos giant tortoise and 11 of its subspecies. A subspecies of Galápagos giant tortoise is extinct, and another may be. Darwin's Galápagos mouse, the Fernandina Galapagos mouse, Charles Island tortoise, and the Duncan Island tortoise have become extinct.

Ecuador's natural attractions could lead to increased tourism, benefiting the economy. However, environmental problems, including further endangerment of native plants and animals, could be exacerbated without careful management of the areas attractive to tourists.


The population of Ecuador in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 13,032,000, which placed it at number 67 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 7% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 33% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 101 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.1%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The government incorporated family life education into the school curriculum in an attempt to address the high adolescent fertility rate. The projected population for the year 2025 was 17,473,000. The population density was 46 per sq km (119 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 61% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.05%. The capital city, Quito, had a population of 1,451,000 in that year. Guayaquil, the major port, had 2,387,000 metropolitan inhabitants. Other large cities and their estimated populations were Cuenca (285,700), Machala (204,400), and Portoviejo (175,700).


Ecuador has had no large-scale immigration since the colonial period, and emigrants have generally outnumbered newcomers. There was an influx of European refugees in the late 1930s. In 1959, a modest attempt was made to colonize the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas with Italian families. Within Ecuador, the largest migration is from rural areas to the cities, as urban employment opportunities widen. There is also a growing movement from the overpopulated highlands to the virgin lands of the Oriente and the coast.

At the end of 2004, there were around 16,281 persons who concerned the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ecuador. Most of these people were living and working in the capital, Quito. Also in 2004, there were 8,450 refugees under UNHCR's program in Ecuador, mostly from Colombia and Peru; there were also 1,660 asylum seekers, also mainly from Colombia and Peru. The net migration rate estimated for Ecuador in 2005 was -6.07 migrants per 1,000 population. In 2003 worker remittances totaled $1.5 billion. By 2005 about 12% of Ecuador's population had emigrated abroad, remitting almost $2 billion year. About one-third emigrated to Spain and over 600,000 Ecuadorians were in the United States, most in the New York City area and many from Azuay and Canar provinces. The government views the migration rates as satisfactory.


The population of Ecuador is about 65% mestizo (mixed Amerindian and Spanish). About 25% are Amerindian, 7% are Spanish or others, and another 3% are black. There are only a few groups of unassimilated Amerindians on the coast, notably the Colorados and Cayapas. The blacks live mainly in the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas. The Amazon Basin is inhabited by many primitive tribes, including the Jívaros, once famous for their shrunkenhead war trophies, and the Záparos, Aucas, Secoyas, and Cofanes. In the early 1980s, the tribes were organized in the Federación Shuar, which seeks to preserve their cultural identities.


The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, spoken by over 90% of the population. The Spanish of the coastal areas is similar to that of the other lowland areas of Latin America, maintaining something of the Andalusian characteristics, especially the dropping or slurring of the consonants represented by s and d. In the isolated highlands, a more precise Castilian pronunciation is found, but many words and even some of the singsong intonations of Quechua, the Amerindian language, have crept into the Spanish.

A small percentage of the total population speak only Quichua, a dialect of the Quechua language. Some speak Quichua in addition to Spanish. Quechua was imposed on the Amerindians of Ecuador by the conquering Incas in the 15th century, supplanting a number of unrelated languages. Remnants of these forgotten languages are retained in many modern place names. There has been little detailed study of the languages of the tribes of the Oriente.


Introduced by the Spaniards with the conquest in 1540, Roman Catholicism is by far the dominant religion. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church is considered to be one of the three pillars of society, along with the government and the military. According to 2005 estimates, over 95% of the population identified themselves as Roman Catholics. Some individuals combine customs and beliefs of traditional indigenous religions with their practice of Catholicism. Protestants, including Anglicans, Baptists, and Methodists, make up about 2% of the population. Other denominations include Lutherans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, and Rosicrucians. Buddhists, Baha'is, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, and the Unification Church have small communities. Animistic religions survive among the Amerindians of the Oriente. Itzachilatan is one Amerindian church. Some natives are followers of Inti, the Incan sun god. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution and this right is generally respected in practice.


The topography and climate of Ecuador have greatly hindered the development of adequate means of land transportation. In 2003 there were 43,197 km (26,843 mi) of highways, including 7,287 km (4,533 mi) of paved roads. The Pan American Highway (1,076 km/669 mi in Ecuador) extends the length of the highlands from Tulcán on the Colombian border to Loja in the south and on to Peru. In 1970, the five-nation Bolivarian Highway was undertaken, as were eastwest routes linking the Oriente with the Sierra, and Guayaquil with its hinterland. The most important lateral route connecting the highlands and the coast runs from Latacunga, crossing a pass in the Cordillera Real over 3,650 m (12,000 ft) high, to Quevedo in the lowlands. In 2003, there were 529,359 passenger cars and 269,248 commercial vehicles.

Modern port facilities to serve Guayaquil were opened in 1963 on an estuary 10 km (6 mi) from the Guayas River. The Guayas River basin is important for transportation in the coastal provinces. Other international ports are Esmeraldas, Puerto Bolívar, and Manta; La Libertad and Balao can accommodate oil tankers. In 2005, Ecuador's merchant marine consisted of 31 ships of at least 1,000 GRT, with a total gross registered tonnage (GRT) of 241,403. As of 2003, Ecuador had 1,500 km (933 mi) of internal navigable waterways, but most are inaccessible.

Railways, all government owned, are of decreasing importance because of their poor condition and competition from highways. As of 2004, the nation's three railroad networks totaled 965 km (600 mi) of narrow gauge track, of which the most important line ran between Guayaquil and Quito. Floods in 1983 damaged much of the system, and by 1986 service had been restored on only some of the sections. The railway system has been largely inoperative for the last decade, following damage by a major earthquake.

Ecuador's rugged topography has hastened the growth of air travel. There were an estimated 205 airports and airfields in 2004. In 2005 a total of 85 had paved runways, and there was also one heliport. Those airports at Guayaquil (Simon Bolivar) and Quito (Mariscal Sucre) provide international service. In 2003, total scheduled airline traffic amounted to 8 million freight ton-km and around 1.123 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights. The government-run Ecuatoriana de Aviación provides service between Ecuador and the rest of Latin America.


Archaeological explorations indicate that the coastal regions of present-day Ecuador supported corn-cultivating communities as early as 4500 bc. In the first few centuries ad, the population was divided into dozens of small isolated tribes. By ad 1000, the highland groups had formed a loose federation, the Kingdom of Quito, but they were absorbed into the Inca Empire in the late 15th century. Atahualpa, son of the conquering Inca Huayna Capac and a Quito princess, later became emperor, but by then the Spanish forces under Francisco Pizarro were gaining a foothold on the coast.

Pizarro's pilot, Bartolomé Ruiz, the first European to see the Ecuadorian coast, arrived in 1526 on a scouting expedition. The actual conquest reached Ecuador in 1531. Except for a few emeralds, from which their first landing place took its name (the city and province of Esmeraldas), the Spanish found those shores valuable only as a stopping place on their way to the riches of the Incas in Peru. Sebastian de Belacázar, a lieutenant of Pizarro, extended Spanish dominion northward from Peru after the conquest of the Incas. He found the northern capital of the Inca Empire left in ashes by the retreating Amerindians, and on that site in 1534, he founded the city of San Francisco de Quito, later to become the capital of the republic.

The Spanish governed the region as the Audiencia of Quito, part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Quito, in the cool highlands, was soon steeped in culture and rich in ornately decorated churches and monasteries. Guayaquil, the principal seaport, grew slowly because of its unhealthy tropical climate, and would not become a major city until much later. The Spanish colonial period was a time of ruthless exploitation of the Amerindians and bickering and bloodshed among the Spanish in the struggle for power and riches.

Republic of Ecuador

The early stirrings of Ecuadorian independence were spread, in part, through the writings of the 18th-century satirist Francisco Javier Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo. Abortive revolts against Spanish rule came in 1809 and in 1811. The decisive struggle began on 9 October 1820, with the proclamation of an independent Guayaquil. Finally, on 24 May 1822, with the Battle of Pinchincha, the Spanish were defeated. This victory unified the liberation movements of the continent. Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín met in Guayaquil in 1822 to consider the future of newly freed areas. Liberated Ecuador became part of Bolívar's dream, the Republic of Gran Colombia, consisting of modern Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama. In 1830, when this union collapsed, the traditional name Quito was dropped in favor of La República del Ecuador, "The Republic of the Equator."

The Republic's first president was Juan José Flores, one of Bolívar's aides. The 15-year period of Flores's domination was noted for iron-handed conservative rule. In 1832, he occupied the Galápagos Islands in a comic-opera invasion witnessed only by the giant tortoises native to the islands. Then, from 184560, Ecuador went through 11 presidents and juntas. The nation was split between pro-clerical Conservatives and the more secular Liberals, and regional strongmen vied for power.

From 1860 to 1875, Ecuador was ruled by the fervently religious Conservative Gabriel García Moreno, Ecuador's first great statesman. He sought peace and consolidation for his torn country through a rigid, theocratic government. His administration granted special privileges to the Roman Catholic Church, even dedicating the Republic to "The Sacred Heart of Jesus" by act of congress in 1873. Beyond his religious zeal, García Moreno was also known for developing roads and public education, beginning the Guayaquil-Quito railway, and putting Ecuador on a firm financial footing. However, his relentless conservatism caused bitter strife, culminating in the dictator's assassination in 1875. In the ensuing period of confusion, the Conservatives were not able to carry on the program of García, nor could the opposition take command until the emergence of Gen. Eloy Alfaro, who ushered in the Radical Liberal era with the revolution of 1895. He and the succeeding Liberal presidents were able to counteract much of García's program. Church and state were carefully separated, and liberty of thought, worship, and the press was established. The Guayaquil- Quito railway was completed, uniting the coast and the highlands commercially.

The Liberal era continued until 1944, with numerous interludes of violence and crisis. The economy rose and fell with world prices on such commodities as cocoa. Territory was lost to Brazil in 1904, Colombia in 1916, and finally Peru in 1942. The border dispute with Peru, originating in the colonial period, came to a climax when Peru invaded Ecuador's southern and Oriente (Amazon Basin) provinces. The Río de Janeiro Protocol awarded to Peru the greater part of the Amazon Basin territory claimed by Ecuador.

In 1944 José María Velasco Ibarra came to power as a nationalist denouncing the Río agreement. Velasco, who had served as president during 193435, ruled for three years until he was sent into exile. After three ineffective presidents in less than one year, Galo Plaza Lasso (194852) was elected to the presidency. Plaza, later chief of the OAS, ruled for four years. In 1952, Velasco Ibarra returned to office for four years, and was again elected in 1960. In his inaugural address, Velasco formally renounced the Treaty of 1942, and embarked on an economic program of "growth through inflation."

By 1961, with Ecuadorian currency in a slump and consumers heavily taxed, the air force revolted and sent Velasco into exile, thus ending Ecuador's unprecedented streak of elected governments. Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy assumed the presidency on 7 November 1961. Arosemena lasted less than two years, and in July 1963, he was arrested by the military for "drunkenness" (a charge that could have been substantiated throughout his presidency) and sent into exile.

Military governments

A four-man military junta headed by Capt. Ramón Castro Jijón took over and ruled until March 1966. Elections were scheduled and held in October 1966 for a constitutional assembly. Otto Arosemena Gómez, cousin of Arosemena Monroy, became provisional president. In 1968, new elections were held for the presidency, won yet again by Velasco. On 22 June 1970, following a fiscal crisis, Velasco suspended the 1967 constitution and assumed dictatorial power. He dissolved Congress, reorganized the Supreme Court, and proceeded to rule by executive decree.

In June 1971, Velasco promised new presidential and congressional elections, which were scheduled for the following June. However, on 15 February 1972, Velasco was overthrown in a bloodless coup after he refused demands by senior army officers to postpone the elections. On the following day, Gen. Guillermo Rodríguez Lara was installed as head of a new military government. Velasco, deported to Panama, was granted asylum by Venezuela.

Return to elected government

The regime of General Rodríguez lasted for four years, and then he was ousted on 12 January 1976. A three-member Supreme Council assumed power and presidential elections took place in July 1978, but because none of the candidates received the required majority, a runoff election was held in April 1979. The winner was Jaime Roldós Aguilera, a populist running under the banner of the Concentration of Popular Forces. Christian Democrat Osvaldo Hurtado was made vice president. Both were inaugurated on 10 August 1979, the day Ecuador's current constitution went into effect. Roldós was killed in a plane crash on 24 May 1981, whereupon Hurtado became president until 1984.

Hurtado's term was marked by modest gains in the economy, but by 1984, a flagging economy, caused in part by widespread flooding, led to calls for change. The 1984 election was won by León Febres Cordero Rivadeneira, a conservative Social Christian who advocated a free-enterprise economic policy. Febres formed a coalition government and pressed his platform of reducing state intervention in the economy and making it more responsive to market forces. Just as it appeared that Febres's fiscal policies were about to bring widespread benefits to the populace, Ecuador was dealt two staggering blows: the 1986 plunge in world oil prices and a devastating earthquake in March 1987.

In presidential elections held 31 January 1988, Rodrigo Borja Cevallos of the Democratic Left (ID) Party and Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz of the Roldista Party (honoring ex-president Jaime Roldós) won the most votes in a field of 10 candidates. Borja won the runoff election, and took office along with a strong contingent in congress. The government made improvements in Ecuador's human rights record; however, economic troubles, particularly inflation, continued, and the ID lost half its congressional seats in midterm elections in 1990. In 1992, voters elected a conservative government, headed by President Sixto Durán-Ballén of the Republican Unity Party (PUR) and Vice President Alberto Dahik of the Conservative Party (CP). Durán-Ballén imposed severe economic measures to try to improve Ecuador's situation. These measures proved economically successful, but socially unpopular.

On 26 January 1995, the longstanding border dispute with Peru sprang to life once again when Ecuadorian troops attacked a Peruvian post. A full-fledged war began, which lasted until March 1, causing some 80 casualties and leaving 200 wounded. Although the war created further economic difficulties for Ecuador, it also stirred national pride and Durán-Ballén's popularity rose on the tide of fervent patriotism. By the fall of 1995, however, DuránBallén had once again fallen from favor due to charges of political corruption against himself and Vice President Alberto Dahik. Dahik fled the country, and Durán-Ballén served the remainder of his presidential term with little support.

In July 1996, Abdalá Bucaram was elected president. A showy and eccentric populist, Bucaram quickly alienated most of the political establishment. Bucaram had come to describe himself as "El Loco," or the madman, and citizens began to believe that he was indeed crazy. On February 6, Congress declared Bucaram mentally incompetent, charged him with corruption, and ousted him from office. Bucaram was accused of absconding with $100 million to $300 million in public funds during his brief presidency. Vice President Rosalia Arteaga and Fabian Alarcon, leader of Congress, claimed the presidency. Bucaram finally fled to Panama, while Arteaga agreed to briefly become president until Congress could establish right of succession. Alarcon emerged as interim president, and held office until the next presidential election in 1998. Through most of the 1990s, Ecuador suffered double-digit inflation as high as 5060% a year. By 1999, the economy had contracted by 7.5%, and over 62% of Ecuadorians lived in poverty. Many of the country's Pacific Coast communities were battered by El Niño storms during early 1998, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Presidential elections were held in May 1998, with Harvard-educated Jamil Mahuad facing Alvaro Noboa, a banana tycoon and reputedly the richest man in the country. With promises for political stability and economic recovery, Mahuad prevailed at the polls and took office in July 1998. The next month, extensive constitutional reforms approved by a National Constituent Assembly took effect. Reforms gave unprecedented new rights to the country's indigenous peoples, who had become more vocal about their rights during the 1990s.

In 1996, the leaders of 11 indigenous groups joined with women, ecologists, and human rights workers to found the Pachakutik ("change" or "revolution" in Quichua) political movement. Under this new political umbrella, native peoples urged massive social changes, and won several seats in Congress by 2000. By late 1999, native peoples had grown disenchanted with Mahuad. Amerindian leaders accused him of lacking sympathy for native peoples' economic problems. Mahuad also had overseen a $1.2 billion bailout of 18 corrupt banks. The financial scandal only widened after a jailed banker claimed he had given $3.1 million to Mahuad's presidential campaign. In the meantime, Mahuad was unable to bring the economy under control and was making political enemies. In May 1999, Mahuad and Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori formally ended their border dispute. Ecuador gained a small sliver of land and navigation rights on some Peruvian rivers. The peace accord was seen as a defeat within Ecuador, where the military resented its loss of power and resources and was embarrassed by territorial concessions to Peru.

In January 2000, Mahuad announced plans to replace the sucre, the national currency, with the US dollar to stabilize the economy and end chronic inflation. Indigenous groups grew angry at the plan because they believed they would lose their savings. The sucre had been pegged at about 8,000 per dollar only a year earlier, but now stood at 25,000 per dollar. On 21 January, thousands of indigenous peoples marched to protest "dollarization" of the economy and called for Mahuad's ouster. With the aid of the military, they occupied the empty Congress building and Supreme Court. Mahuad fled the government palace. Gen. Carlos Mendoza took power and declared that a three-man junta would lead the country. The junta was composed of Antonio Vargas, leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, Carlos Solorzano, a former Supreme Court justice, and Col. Lucio Gutierrez. The junta only lasted a few hours. Under intense international pressure, the junta was dissolved. Congress named the 62-year-old vice president, Gustavo Noboa Bejarano, as president. Noboa, a respected former academic carried out the dollarization of the economy. By giving up its currency, Ecuador turned its monetary policy to the US Federal Reserve seeking to stabilize its economy.

In the October 2002 presidential elections, newcomer Lucio Gutiérrez ended first with slightly over 20% of the vote in a field of 11 presidential candidates. He went on to win the runoff election with 58.7%, easily defeating Alvaro Noboa, the candidate favored by the outgoing president. Gutiérrez had entered politics after he led a coup attempt in 2000 to oust president Mahuad. Gutiérrez assembled a loose coalition of smaller parties and indigenous groups and campaigned against established parties. Although he used a populist rhetoric to win the election, after his inauguration he has sought to reassure foreign investors and international lending institutions. He has maintained the economic policies of his predecessors and has softened his criticism of the dollarization initiative. After years of economic stagnation, the economy began to show signs of recovery in 2001 and continued during the first years of the Gutiérrez government. Yet, more than 70% of the population lived in poverty in 2002.

Political tensions increased in 2004 and Gutiérrez showed signs of losing control. Despite strong economic growth, unemployment and underemployment remained high and the cost of living, exacerbated by the dollarization scheme, continued to hurt the poor. Because political parties have focused on obstructing the president's legislative initiatives and because Gutiérrez alienated support from former friendly legislators, the Gutiérrez government was widely deemed as ineffective. The failed effort by Gutiérrez to replace Supreme Court justices with friendlier faces was used by opponents to denounce Gutiérrez authoritarian tendencies. A former military coup plotter, Gutiérrez was often authoritarian and disrespectful of political opponents. Opposition against his government, fueled by opposition parties and built on popular discontent with economic policies, combined with Gutierrez's effort to undermine the Supreme Court were sufficient to provoke new protests against the government. Gutiérrez was forced to resign on 20 April 2005. Vice President Luis Alfredo Palacio, who had fallen out with Gutiérrez shortly after taking office, was appointed president. New presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled for 26 November 2006.

The political challenges Ecuador faces are complex. The last three democratically elected presidents were forced to resign due to social protests or were removed from office by the legislature. The legislature became specialized on blocking presidential initiatives and weakening the executive. Yet, fragmented political parties failed to constitute themselves into a positive and constructive force. The political instability that has characterized Ecuador, even in good economic years, rendered the country's democracy as ineffectual.


Since 1860, Ecuador has had 17 different constitutions. The most recent constitution came into force in August 1998. The previous constitution was approved on 10 August 1979, in preparation for a return from military to civilian rule. That document was amended in 1984 and again in 1996, but many Ecuadorians believed their needs were not reflected by that document. In 1998, a 70-member elected National Constituent Assembly rewrote the constitution. Unprecedented rights granted to native populations and blacks were among key reforms. The constitution gave them equal rights, additional rights that guaranteed their lands, protected their culture and customs. Native peoples were allowed to use their own languages and teach their children in their native languages at schools, although Spanish remained the official language of the nation. The constitution also emphasized unity in diversity. Eradicating poverty was a key component written into the new constitution, which also prohibits granting amnesty to human rights violators. The constitution also prohibits the death penalty.

The unicameral Chamber of Representatives (or Congress) consists of 100 members chosen for five-year terms by proportional representation from each of the country's 22 provinces. The chamber meets in full session for two months a year, leaving the rest of its business to four permanent committees. The president and vice president are elected for a four-year term, and are not allowed to seek consecutive terms. As is traditional in Ecuador, the president initiates the budget and appoints the cabinet, as well as provincial governors, many administrative employees, and diplomatic representatives. Under the 1998 constitutional reforms, the chamber may no longer remove cabinet ministers (it forced the finance minister out of office late in 1986, and ousted the president of Ecuador in February 1997), although the parliament has managed to oust two presidents since the constitution came into effect. The president also controls the armed forces and can declare a state of siege. Voting is compulsory for literate people aged 18 to 65, and optional for illiterates.


The constitution guarantees the right of democratic activities of political parties. A party must gain a minimum of 5% of the vote to remain in the electoral registry and retain its legal standing. The 1998 constitution also allows candidates without party affiliation or party backing to run for office. It also makes it the responsibility of the government to promote equal participation of men and women in politics. There are currently some 25 parties with parliamentary representation in Ecuador.

Two major parties played dominant roles prior to the 1960s. The Conservative Party (Partido ConservadorPC), which held sway during the first half of the republic's history, was the political representative for the Roman Catholic Church, and its support came from the large landowners of the highlands. The principal opposition, the Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal RadicalPLR), which rose to power in the revolution of 1895, was supported by businessmen and the newer city elite. It sought scrupulous separation of church and state, especially in public education, and called for the development of industry and the attraction of foreign capital.

Modern parties on the right include the Social Christian Party (PSC), the Republican Unity Party (PUR), and the Ecuadorian Conservative Party (PCE). On the left are the Democratic Left (ID), linked to the Social Democratic Movement; the Popular Democracy Party (DP) of former President Hurtado; the traditional Ecuadorian Radical Liberal Party (PLRE); and the Radical Alfarista Front (FRA).

Ecuador's populist tradition has given rise to many parties, organized along highly personalist lines, such as the Roldista Party (PRE), formerly headed by Abdalá Bucaram, the Popular Revolutionary Action (APRE), and the Concentration of Popular Forces (CFP).

The far left in Ecuador has been beset by factionalism and governmental intrusion. In the 1920s, the original Socialist Party of Ecuador split into the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. Further splits occurred with the advent of the Cuban revolution. Currently, the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD), the Ecuadorian Socialist Party (PSE), and other parties vie for the nonCommunist vote. Communists are divided between the Communist Party of Ecuador (PCE), which is identified as a pro-North Korean faction, and the Communist Party of Ecuador/Marxist-Leninist (PCMLE), which is identified as Maoist.

In the 1996 national elections, an indigenous electoral movement called Pachakutik (Quichua for "change") sponsored candidates for offices on the national, provincial, and local levels. Pachakutik candidates won eight seats in Congress as well as several mayoral positions in cities throughout the country. Their successes, although small on the overall national scale, increased the voice of indigenous peoples in Ecuadorian politics and prodded the traditional political parties to give more attention to long-neglected indigenous concerns. Lucio Gutiérrez allied with Pachakutik for the 2002 election and appointed some of that party's leaders to his cabinet. But the influence of the indigenous movement has been limited by Gutiérrez's personalist leadership and the party's limited political power resulting from its small parliamentary delegation. In fact, Gutiérrez demise began when Pachakutik legislators withdrew their support from the government in 2004.

In the October 2002 elections, 14 different parties won seats in the legislature. The PSC remained as the largest party, but it only captured 24 seats in the 100-member chamber. Lucio Gutiérrez's parties captured less than 10 seats. The persistent problem of weak political parties and personalist leadership by populist politicians has worsened. Since 1996, three presidents could not finish their constitutional terms. Political parties are widely seen as fractional and obstructionist with little intraparty discipline and unpredicted interparty alliances. The next legislative elections were scheduled for October 2006.


The three levels of local governmentprovince, canton, and parishare controlled by the central government in a fundamentally unitary system. Ecuador has 20 continental provinces, plus the insular Galápagos Islands. The provincial governors, who are appointed by the president, are responsible to the interior ministry. Each province is divided into cantons, which in urban areas are administratively subordinate to the municipality with which they coincide. A municipal council is popularly elected and in turn elects its officers. In the larger towns, a mayor is popularly elected. The municipality is unique in that it lies somewhat outside the unitary pattern and is less subject to national control than are the other units of local government. The rural canton, of little importance in the sparsely populated Oriente and northern coast, is significant in the more developed regions of the highlands and the coastal provinces of Guayas and Manabí. The highest official of the canton, the political chief, is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the provincial governor.


Traditionally, the judicial function has been carried out by five levels of tribunals. The parochial judge, the political lieutenant appointed by the president to supervise the affairs of the parish, handles only minor civil cases. Cantonal courts, at least one in each canton, try minor civil and criminal actions. Provincial courts handle all but a few of the criminal cases and the more serious civil and commercial suits. Superior courts handle appeals from the lower courts and have other administrative duties in the district; they may try original cases only if these relate to the affairs of their district. The Supreme Court has 31 justices and 3 alternates chosen by the National Chamber of Representatives for six-year periods.

Although citizens are afforded a wide range of freedoms and individual rights, there remain some shortcomings in the functioning of the judicial system, which is susceptible to political pressure. Police officers are tried only in closed session before police courts so that convictions for abuse or other violations are rare. Despite laws restricting arbitrary arrest and detention, such violations continue to occur in practice. Modernization of the court system began in 1993. In 1998, a new Judicial Council, with the power to administer the court system and discipline judges, began operations. In November of that year, the council's disciplinary committee fired two judges and two court employees for improperly releasing suspected drug traffickers. Because Ecuadorians continued to distrust the judicial system, reports of citizens taking the law into the own hands by lynching or burning criminal suspects continued into the year 2000.

Discontent with the judicial system, President Gutiérrez used repeated accusations of corruption to try to intervene with the Supreme Court. So far, efforts at reforming the judicial system have been primarily motivated by political short-term gains.


In 2005 Ecuador's active armed forces personnel numbered 46,500, which were supported by 118,000 reservists. The Army numbered 50,000 personnel whose equipment included over 30 main battle tanks and 150 light tanks, over 90 reconnaisance vehicles, 130 armored personnel carriers, and more than 156 artillery pieces. The Navy consisted of 5,500 personnel including 1,700 Marines and 250 naval aviation personnel. Major naval units included 2 tactical submarines, 2 frigates, and 6 corvettes. The Air Force had 4,000 members and 22 combat capable aircraft that were made up of fighter ground attack aircraft. Paramilitary forces consisted of a 270-member Coast Guard. In 2005, Ecuador's defense budget totaled $593 million.


Ecuador is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined on 21 October 1945; it belongs to ECLAC and several specialized agencies. Ecuador is also a member of the Inter-American Development Bank, G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), Latin American Energy Organization, the Andean Community of Nations, the OAS, and the Río Group. Ecuador received full membership in OPEC in 1973. The country holds associate status in Mercosur.

The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement and a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty. Ecuador is also a part of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). In environmental cooperation, Ecuador is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law on Climate Change and Desertification.


Ecuador is the world's leading exporter of bananas, and it also exports flowers, cocoa, coffee, tuna, and shrimp, and is developing export markets for other tropical fruits and vegetables. Tourism has become the country's third-largest earner of foreign exchange, after oil and remittances from expatriates. Since the 1970s Ecuador's economy has been dominated by oil, and vexed by indigenous opposition to the impacts of oil exploration and development. Ecuador's average annual GDP growth rate exceeded 9% in the 1970s, due largely to high oil prices. As oil prices fell in the early 1980s, debt began to increase. Furthermore, a major earthquake in 1987 interrupted oil production and exports. The average annual GDP growth rate between 1988 and 1998 was 2.9%. Growth stemmed mainly from increased petroleum production and expansionary fiscal policy.

The administration of President Ballén, elected in July 1992, raised petroleum derivatives taxes and electricity tariffs, while cutting public expenditures and freezing public sector employment. As a result, the 1992 public sector deficit fell from 7% to 2.8% in 1995. The inflation rate, which stood at 60% at the end of 1992, fell to 25% by 1995. Although the Ballén administration's reforms were relatively successful in stabilizing the economy and encouraging foreign investment, key sectors like petroleum, utilities, and aviation still experienced heavy government involvement.

The late 1990s brought a border dispute with Peru, shortages of electric power, and high interest rates that combined to restrain growth in the GDP. Large parastatals put off the interest of foreign investment. The growth rate was only 1% in 1998, the inflation rate soared to 43%, and government corruption was rampant. In 1999, the economy experienced a currency and banking crisis, a default on public debt, and soaring inflation, which reached 60% for the end of the year. Real GDP declined 6.3%, falling 8.2% on a per capita basis. In January 2000 the US dollar was adopted as legal tender, and in April the US dollar was adopted as Ecuador's legal currency in an effort to control inflation which soared to over 100%, ending the year at about 80%. Real GDP increased 2.8% in 2000 although only 0.9% on a per capita basis. In 2001 real GDP growth increased to 5.2% (3.2% on a per capita basis) and the inflation rate moderated to 22.4%. However, economic growth slowed again in 2002, a reflection mainly of internal inefficiencies in public administration and in the running of the state oil corporation. Real GDP grew an estimated 3% and only 1.1% on a per capita basis. End of period inflation, however, fell to 9%, the lowest level in decades. In March 2003 the IMF agreed to a one-year standby arrangement with Ecuador's new government designed to support measures to bring about macroeconomic stability beginning with a freeze on public sector wages. In December 2003 Ecuador's second pipeline, the $1.3-billion, 500-km (312-mi) Oleoducto de Crudos Pesador (OCP) pipeline opened. The OCP pipeline when it reaches full capacity will about double Ecuador's oil transporting capacity, which is 400,000 barrels per day, the capacity of the country's only other oil pipeline. In June 2003 the old pipeline was ruptured briefly by mud slides caused by heavy rains mixed with ash from the volcanic eruption of El Reventador. The participants in the OCP consortium include EnCana (Canada, 31.4%); Repsol-YPF (Spain, 25.6%); Pecom Energia (Argentina, 4.1%), Occidental Petroleum (United States, 12.2%); and AGIP (Italy, 7.5%), with construction by the Ecuador company Techint. The project implies increased exploration and development of Ecuador's oil reserves in order to fill the new pipeline. A substantial portion of increased oil revenues were then slated to be applied to paying down the country's $15 billion foreign debt.

While GDP growth in 2003 decreased to 2.7%, it jumped again to 6.9% in 2004, only to fall back to an estimated (Economist Intelligence Unit) 3% in 2005. However, since 2001 inflation has been steadily decreasing from a recorded 37.7% in 2001 to 2.4% in 2005.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Ecuador's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $52.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $3,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 7.4% of GDP, industry 31.8%, and services 60.8%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.545 billion or about $119 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.7% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $176 million or about $14 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.7% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Ecuador totaled $18.47 billion or about $1,421 per capita based on a GDP of $27.2 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.3%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 26% of household consumption was spent on food, 15% on fuel, 13% on health care, and 10% on education. It was estimated that in 2001 about 45% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2005, there were an estimated 4.6 million employed wage earners in urban areas. As of 2003, agriculture accounted for 9.1%, followed by 21.7% in industry, and 69.2% in services. The unemployment rate in 2005 officially stood at 11.2%, although the underemployment rate was estimated at 47%.

Although most workers in Ecuador have the right to organize and join a union, legal protections have been insufficient. In addition, members of the armed forces, the police, and most public sector employees are prevented from joining a union, engaging in collective bargaining, or striking. In 2005, only 23% of the nation's labor force was affiliated with a labor union. Of those, 25% were covered by a collective bargaining agreement. The right to strike is protected by law after a mandatory 10-day cooling off period.

The labor code provides for a 40-hour workweek and two consectutive rest days each week. Overtime is limited to 12 hours per week at premium pay rates. The legal minimum working age was set at 15 years for all types of work. Also, minors are limited to working six hours per day and five days per week. Minors are also prevented from working in environments where there are hazardous conditions (mines), among dangerous machinery, and where there are toxic or dangerous substances. In spite of these laws, child labor remains a significant problem as of 2005. The minimum monthly wage plus mandatory bonuses equaled about $166 per month in 2005. However, this wage does not provide a satisfactory standard of living for a family, but most earn more than this proscribed amount. Health and safety standards are generally protected by the Labor Code.


Although Ecuador's main economic activity has long been agriculture, only about 11% of the land is arable or under permanent crops, and another 18% is permanent pasture. Throughout the 1970s, agricultural development was neglected because of the emphasis on oil exploitation, and the sector showed negative rates of growth, declining by 5.4% in 1978, 2.8% in 1979, and 2% in 1980. During 198590, however, agriculture (along with fishing and forestry) showed an average annual increase of 4.8%. Agricultural production had an average annual growth of 1.7% during 19902000. But during 200204, crop production was down 2.8% from 19992001. Agriculture employed 25.9% of the labor force in 2000 and contributed 8% to GDP in 2003.

The land census of 1974, which covered a much larger area than the previous census of 1954, showed that during the intervening period the number of agricultural units had grown by 172,810. This increase was the result of agrarian reform and colonization, initiated in 1964. Ceilings imposed on the maximum size of holdings ranged from 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of arable land plus 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) for pasture in the Sierra region to 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) plus 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of pasture in the coastal region. The 1975 plans of the Ecuadoran Land Reform and Colonization Institute called for the redistribution of 80,000 hectares (198,000 acres) of land in the coastal region.

Traditionally, agricultural products have included bananas, coffee, tea, rice, sugar, beans, corn, potatoes, and tropical fruit. Exported products of more recent prominence include roses and carnations, strawberries, melons, asparagus, heart of palm, and tomatoes. The major crops of the highlands are corn, barley, wheat, kidney beans, potatoes, horsebeans, peas, and soybeans, all for domestic consumption. Agriculture on the coast is largely oriented toward the export market. Increased acreage and improved yields, as well as the government's price-support program, have caused rapid growth in agriculture. Most of the cacao crop is produced on plantations of 60 hectares (150 acres) or larger, but the more important banana and coffee crops are grown mainly on small landholdings by independent farmers. Banana exports rose from less than 5% of total exports after World War II (193945) to 62.2% in 1958; in 1974, they were 10.8%, and in 2004, 13.3%. Ecuador is the world's leading banana exporter, selling almost 4.7 million tons abroad in 2004. Cacao became a valuable export in the mid-1970s, but low prices and declining harvests had a negative impact on revenues until the early 1980s, when they began to rise again. In 1978 and 1979, coffee brought high export earnings ($281.2 million and $263.1 million, respectively), but with lower world prices, coffee export earnings fell to $106 million in 1981, despite an increase in production. Revenues rose steadily during the 1980s, reaching $290 million in 1986, but fell to $75 million in 1992. Coffee revenues in 2004 amounted to $14.6 million.

Principal commodities in 2004 (in tons) were sugar, 5,400,000; bananas, 5,900,000; corn, 651,000; plantains, 652,000; palm oil, 261,000; potatoes, 400,000; cocoa beans, 88,000; and coffee, 83,000. The production of paddy rice reached one million tons in 2004.

The agricultural sector of the economy presents potential for further development and growth. Crops for domestic consumption, particularly rice, barley, maize, African palm, and potatoes, continue to show growth due to increased area planted and improved yields. Other segments likely to experience growth are nontraditional agricultural products such as flowers, fresh fruit, vegetables, and processed foods. The government's agricultural policy focuses on integration into the World Trade Organization, import tariffs, and the lack of credit in the agricultural sector.


The dairy industry is located in the most fertile valleys of the highland plateau from Ibarra to Riobamba, where irrigation is available. The beef cattle industry is an important part of the agricultural economy, as exports to Colombia and Peru have become more profitable; there were 4,951,300 head of cattle in 2005. Nearly all the sheep (2,550,000 in 2005) are in the highlands; most are raised by Amerindians and are pastured at over 2,700 m (9,000 ft). The wool is of poor quality. Hogs and goats, found throughout the country, are frequently diseased and poorly fed; in 2005 there were an estimated 1,949,000 hogs and 250,000 goats. The use of bananas as hog feed has made hog farming more attractive economically. Poultry production has been steadily growing208,870 tons in 2005, up from an annual average of 69,000 tons during 198991. Beef production totaled 206,500 tons in 2005. Milk production in 2005 totaled 2,546,000 tons, and eggs, 75,000 tons.


In the waters around the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador has some of the world's richest fishing grounds, particularly for tuna. In the past, these waters were exploited mainly by foreign companies, but in recent years, Ecuadoran enterprises have participated more fully. Shifts in ocean currents can cause great variance in the annual catch. Ecuador is a leading producer of canned tuna. Shrimp farming occupies some 110,000 hectares (over 270,000 acres). Ecuador produces more shrimp than any other nation in the Americas, and exports more than 35,000 tons annually, mostly to the United States. Rainbow trout aquaculture is being developed in the Andean highlands. The total catch in 2003 was 465,084 tons, down from 1,003,380 tons in 1986. Exports of fish and fish products in 2005 totaled $780.5 million.

Ecuador proclaimed sovereignty over its coastal waters to a limit of 200 km. In 1952, along with Peru and Chile, Ecuador signed the Declaration of Santiago (joined later by Colombia) to enforce these rights.


One of Ecuador's vast untapped resources is its forestland. Forests, half of which are government owned, cover 10,557,000 hectares (26,086,000 acres), or 38.1% of the total mainland area. During 19902000, the annual average rate of deforestation was 1.2%. The tropical forests contain more than 2,240 known species of trees. Some of the denuded highlands have been planted with eucalyptus trees, which prevent soil erosion and provide both fuel and rough lumber. Total roundwood production in 2003 was 6.3 million cu m (221 million cu ft). About 50% of the wood cut was burned as fuel.

Ecuador is the world's largest producer and exporter of balsa. Several varieties of hardwoods, including species of mahogany, are used in cabinetmaking. Other forest products having some importance are the fiber for Panama hats (toquilla palm), vegetable ivory (tagua palm), kapok (ceiba tree), quinine (cinchona bark), and rubber.


Ecuador was heavily dependent on petroleum production, its leading industry and export commodity in 2003. The country had extensive but underdeveloped gold resources and other minerals. In 2001, Ecuador produced cadmium, copper, gold, lead, silver, zinc, cement, bentonite, common clay, kaolin, feldspar, crude gypsum, silica (glass sand), ferruginous sand, stone, sand and gravel (limestone, marble, pozzolan, pumice), salt, and sulfur. The country also contained known mineral resources of bismuth and tin. Production totals for 2003 included: gold, estimated at 3,020 kg, up from 2,750 kg in 2002; silver, 100 kg, up from 96 kg in 2002; kaolin, 9,330 metric tons, up from 8,483 metric tons in 2002; limestone, 6.28 million tons, down from 6.699 million tons in 2002; and marble, 292 metric tons, up from 265 metric tons in 2002. The slow pace of exploration and mining activities reflected low metal prices and recent political and economic uncertainties and disappointments.


In recent years, an increasingly important percentage of Ecuador's national income has come from the petroleum industry. With estimated proven oil reserves of 4.6 billion barrels, as of 1 January 2005, Ecuador has the third-largest oil reserves in South America, and is the continent's fifth-largest oil producer. Initially, this industry was slow in developing, and production actually declined from 2,849,000 barrels of crude oil in 1965 to a low of 1,354,000 barrels in 1971. Starting in the 1970s, however, output increased dramatically, from 28,579,000 barrels in 1972 to 77,052,000 barrels in 1981, and to 109,400,000 barrels in 1991. After Ecuador withdrew from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1992, the country's daily crude oil production rose from 321,000 barrels in 1992 to nearly 400,000 barrels by the end of 1995. Production in 2004 was estimated at 534,800 barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted for 528,200 barrels per day. Net oil exports in 2004 were estimated at 390,800 barrels per day. During the first 11 months of that year, oil exports to the United States totaled 226,000 barrels per day. Ecuador is only second to Venezuela as a source of oil imports for the United States. Petroecuador, the state oil agency, is the largest oil producer in Ecuador, controlling around 37% of the country's output.

The most productive oil fields are located in the northeast corner of Ecuador, with Occidental's Eden Yuturi the nation's largest oil field, which in the first half of 2004, produced more than 75,500 barrels per day. Ecuador has two major oil pipelines: the first, the 310-mile Sistema Oleducto Trans-Ecuatoriano (SOTE); and the 300-mile Oleducto de Crudos Pesados (OCP). The two pipelines can transport 400,000 barrels per day and 450,000 barrels per day, respectively. SOTE is frequently affected by natural disasters. In March 2004 oil shipments via SOTE were halted due to a landslide and in 1987, a large section of the pipeline was taken out by an earthquake, which cut Ecuador's oil output by more than 50% in that year. Ecuador has three oil refineries, with a combined capacity of 176,000 barrels per day, the largest of which, is the 100,000 barrel per day, Esmeraldas facility that is located on the Pacific coast.

Ecuador's proven reserves of natural gas are relatively small, estimated at 345 billion cu ft, as of 1 January 2005. Production and consumption of natural gas in 2002, is each estimated at 3.5 billion cu ft.

Although it is estimated that Ecuador had no consumption of coal in 2002, the country does have 26 million short tons of recoverable coal reserves.

Ecuador gets approximately 63% of its electric power from hydropower sources, with conventional thermal plants providing the remainder. However, the country's heavy reliance upon hydroelectric power has resulted in periodic power shortages during the dry season, which runs from October to March. In 1995, a serious drought affected hydroelectric generating capacity and daily blackouts became common. When drought struck again in 2001, the government declared an energy emergency, urging the public to conserve energy. More than 60% of the country's hydroelectric generating capacity comes from the Paute plant, located in the eastern part of the nation. In 2002, it is estimated that Ecuador had an installed generating capacity, electric power output, and consumption of: 3.3 GW; 11.5 billion kWh; and 10.8 billion kWh, respectively.


Ecuador enjoyed a period of prosperity in the 1970s, due in large part to a boom in oil. A decline in international oil prices, an earthquake in 1987, and political difficulties hampered industrial development during the 1980s. During 198898, manufacturing output increased by an annual average of 2.5% per year. According to official estimates, in 1998 manufacturing contributed an estimated 22% GDP, but achieved only minimal growth during that year, and negative growth in 1999. A default on external debt in 1999 resulted in a 70% depreciation of the currency which negatively impacted the industrial sector. The subsequent dollarization and rise in oil prices in the early 2000s caused a rise in export revenue.

Ecuador had three oil refineries in 2002, with a production capacity of 176,000 barrels per day. The construction of the new Transandean Heavy Oil Pipeline (OCP, in Spanish) due for completion in 2003 slated the petroleum industry for further growth. The most promising sectors, outside of oil, are linked to agriculture and natural resources. In the agricultural sector, expansion has come from processed foods and nontraditional agricultural products, such as flowers and fresh tropical fruits (mango, babaco, and passion fruit) and vegetables (asparagus and heart of palm). Other major manufactured items include canned seafood, automobiles, processed coffee, and cocoa. In the early part of the decade, Ecuador was also increasing its production of automobiles. Other industries include textiles, chemicals, wood products, metal work, paper products, and plastics.


In 1996, Ecuador had 20 agricultural, medical, scientific, and technical learned societies and research institutes, most notably the General Directorate of Hydrocarbons, the Institute of Nuclear Sciences, the Ecuadoran Institute of Natural Sciences, and the National Institute of Agricultural Research, all in Quito; the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands; and the Naval Oceanographic Institute in Guayaquil. Ecuador has 19 colleges and universities offering degrees in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 27% of college and university enrollments.

In 1998 (the latest year for which the following data is available) Ecuador had 84 researchers and 73 technicians per million people engaged in research and development (R&D). In that same year, R&D spending totaled $31.485 million, or 0.08% of GDP, of which 90.6% came from the government, with 8.9% and 0.5% coming from foreign sources and private nonprofit institutions, respectively. In 2002, high technology exports were valued at $34 million, accounting for 7% of all manufactured exports.


The major commercial centers are Quito, Guayaquil, Cuencam, and Santo Domingo de los Colorados. Importers may have headquarters in these locations, with retail branches and warehouses throughout the country. Most buyers prefer to make retail purchases directly from the manufacturers.

Rural domestic trade among the camposinos (indigenous peoples) is limited by frequent deep levels of poverty and underdevelopment. The (mostly urban) middle class is relatively moderate in size, and suffered major declines in purchasing power during the 1980s and 1990s, when economic growth faltered. Unemployment and underemployment have stimulated the growth of informal domestic economic activity.

The nation's economy is primarily based on petroleum and agricultural exports. The industrial segment, including petroleum, food processing, textiles, paper and wood products, plastics, lumber, chemicals, and fishing, primarily supplies the domestic market.

In the mountains, businesses are generally open from 8 am to 6 pm, with a two-hour midday break; lunch hours are longer along the coast during the hottest months (DecemberApril). Banks are usually open from 9 am to 1:30 pm and from 2 to 6 pm during the week. Urban and suburban factories typically operated from 7 am to 4 pm.


Ecuador's trade balance is generally positive, due overwhelmingly to its oil exports. Ecuador's oil reserves and refineries account for slightly over half of the country's commodity exports. Agricultural exports include bananas and plantains, shellfish, coffee and cocoa, and fish. In 2000, the government raised the price of Ecuadorian petrol by 60% in order to forge an economic recovery. Ecuador exports about half of its petroleum to the United States, while the United States supplied 24.3% of Ecuador's imports in 2005. Ecuador's exports in 2005 were destined for the United States (55%), Colombia (6.3%), Germany (5.3%), Russia (4%), and South Korea (4%). Imports came from the United States, Colombia (13%), Brazil (6.9%), Venequela (5.9%), and Japan (5.2%). Principal imports include raw materials, consumption goods, capital goods, fuel, and lubricants.


Ecuador's balance of payments showed repeated deficits on current accounts until the vast increases in petroleum exports during the 1970s; only in 1974 did the net balance finally register a surplus of $26.7 million. International reserves rose steadily from $57.3 million in 1967 to $64.7 million in 1971, increased dramatically (with the rise in oil exports) from $143.4 million in 1972 to $1 billion by December 1980, and then dropped (as the oil market softened) to $304 million at the end of 1982, but were up to $500 million by 1987. In 1992, currency appreciation caused a narrowing in the trade surplus, which pushed down international reserves. In 1994, increased production in the petroleum, banana, construction, and manufacturing sectors generated growth of 4%, up from 3% the

Current Account -455.0
   Balance on goods -71.0
     Imports -6,268.0
     Exports 6,197.0
   Balance on services -692.0
   Balance on income -1,465.0
   Current transfers 1,772.0
Capital Account 25.0
Financial Account 316.0
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Ecuador 1,555.0
   Portfolio investment assets
   Portfolio investment liabilities 8.0
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -904.0
   Other investment liabilities -343.0
Net Errors and Omissions 184.0
Reserves and Related Items -70.0
() data not available or not significant.

year before, helping Ecuador post a merchandise trade surplus of $435 million. The surplus, however, was offset by a deficit on the services account resulting in a current account deficit of $807 million. Increased exports in 1995 were partially offset by increased military imports due to the conflict with Peru. The current account deficit in 1997 also showed an increase of military imports with a deficit of $734 million (according to the US embassy in Ecuador). The 1998 peace agreement with Peru assuaged the balance of payments deficit, but by that time the flight of private capital due to the unstable political situation had precipitated a negative turn in the economy. Capital flight still remained a problem in the early 2000s, due to a difficult investment climate, a fragile banking system, and continued economic and political uncertainty.

External debt was approximately 80% of GDP in 2000 (at approximately $14 billion in debt), an improvement over 1999 when the debt-to-GDP ratio was 100%, due in large measure to the depreciation of the sucre prior to dollarization. Though Ecuador's debt had risen to $18.1 billion by 2005, the debt-to-GDP ratio had dropped to roughly 60%.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003 Ecuador had exports of goods totaling roughly $6.2 billion and imports totaling roughly $6.3 billion, making for a trade deficit of approximately $72 million. The services credit totaled $900 million and debit $1.6 billion.


The Central Bank of Ecuador, founded as a private bank in 1927, was declared an organ of the state in 1948 by the Monetary Board. The Central Bank issues and stabilizes currency, holds and manages foreign-exchange reserves, issues import and export permits, and regulates international transactions. The Monetary Board supervises government monetary, financial, and exchange policies. In 2002, there were 22 private banks operating in Ecuador. The five largest banks included Banco Popular, Filanbanco, Banco del Progreso, Banco del Pichincha, and Banco del Pacifico.

The government-owned National Development Bank (BNF) was founded in 1928 to provide credit for agricultural and industrial development. Other major government-owned financial institutions are the Bank of the State (BEDE), the National Finance Corporation (CFN), the Ecuadorian Housing Bank (BEV), and the Development Bank of Ecuador (BEDE).

On 1 December 1996, President Abdalá Bucaram anchored the fully convertible sucre to the dollar. In July 1997 the sucre was pegged at a fixed exchange rate of 4 new sucres (4,000 old sucres) per dollar. Bucaram was dismissed from the government for incompetency, and his plan was abandoned by the Alarcon government, which introduced a currency auction system to minimize fluctuations between the sucre and the dollar. The sucre depreciated by almost 200% in 1999. In 2000, President Mahuad decided to dollarize the economy at 25,000 sucres per dollar. He was also ousted in a coup d'etat on an anti-dollarization platform, but the incumbent President Naboa went ahead with the plan anyway. IMF-backed recovery plans for 2001 included massive amounts of foreign assistance. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.9 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $4.9 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 16.44%.

Trading in securities is relatively minor. Ecuador has two stock exchanges, one in Quito and the other in Guayaquil, both established in 1969. Market capitalization of the Guayaquil Stock Exchange was $2.581 billion in 2004, with a trading value of $99 million. As of that same year, a total of 30 companies were listed on the Guayaquil Stock Exchange. Purchase and sale of government and some private securities are functions of the National Financial Corp., which, along with several hundred business people, owns the two stock exchanges. This autonomous agency, founded in 1964, deals in mortgage bonds issued by banks for agricultural and industrial development and in general seeks to mobilize funds for technical assistance to industry.


The principal branches of insurance are fire, marine, and vehicular, with some growth in aviation and aircraft. Other branches, including life, are still undeveloped. Work-related injuries and imports are required to be insured.

Insurance is closely governed by legal provisions determining necessary reserves and security funds and requiring a percentage of investments in government securities. The Superintendency of Banks periodically examines insurance operations and authorizes the formation of new companies. In accordance with the General Insurance Law of 1965, all insurance companies must apply to the Bank Superintendency for authority to operate.

It has been proposed to privatize the management of pension funds in the state security system, the Instituto Equatoriano de Seguridad Social (IESS). This will be made possible by separating the IESS into three sectors: health, pensions, and rural social security. In 2003, the value of all direct premiums written totaled $458 million, of which $412 million were nonlife. Colonial was the country's top nonlife insurer, in 2003 with $56.6 million gross premiums written. Pan American Life was the country's leading life insurer, with $12.8 million of gross life premiums written in that same year.


The central government, 20 provincial and some 100 municipal governments, and a large number of decentralized autonomous agencies constitute the public sector of the Ecuadoran economy. Central government budgets in the late 1970s and early 1980s grew expansively from one year to the next, with oil being the key source of income. Economic reforms instituted in 1992 rose domestic fuel prices and utility rates, eliminated subsidies, and brought the government budget into balance. These changes helped eliminate the budget deficit by 1994. The government was able to maintain budgetary control in 1995 when faced with increased military expenditures because of the boarder conflict with Peru, with a deficit of only 1.4% of GDP. However, the 1996 balance ran a deficit of 3% due to increased public spending. A growing fiscal deficit in the late 1990s due to declining oil prices, El Niño damage, and the inefficiencies of the public sector, caused the removal of several political leaders. The extreme financial crisis during 1999 and 2000 caused the total public debt to rise from 64% of GDP in 1997 to 116% of GDP in 1999.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Ecuador's central government took in revenues of approximately $8.8 billion and had expenditures of $8.1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $669 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 44.9% of GDP. Total external debt was $17.01 billion.


Ecuador's tax structure includes an income tax, a 12% value-added tax (VAT), a stamp tax, a real estate tax, a transfer tax, municipal taxes, and inheritance and gift taxes.

As of 2005, the basic tax on corporate income was 25%. A reduced rate of 15% is available on the amount of profits that are reinvested. A withholding tax of 25% is also imposed upon certain payments made abroad. These include: royalty payments for technical assistance to nondomiciled companies and nonresident persons; payments to nonresident persons for services performed; payments made to nondomiciled firms for professional services performed abroad or occasional services performed in Ecuador. Dividends received as well as certain capital gains are not taxed. Personal income tax is assessed according to a progressive schedule ranging from 525%, up from a range of 015% in 2000. Additional rates and surcharges are applicable to certain classes of income. A stamp tax is levied on almost all commercial and legal documents. Estate, inheritance, and gift taxes vary according to the amount involved and the closeness of family relationship between donor and recipient. Municipal real estate taxes range from 0.32%. A special consumption tax is imposed on cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, motor vehicles, aircraft, helicopters, and ships.


Import duties range from 020%, although there is a 35% duty applied to automobile imports. The average tariff rate is 13% ad valorem, as a result of Ecuador's accession to the World Trade Organization in 1996. Ecuador has a common external tariff (CET) with Colombia and Venezuela, ranging from 5% on raw materials and capital goods, 10% or 15% for intermediate goods, and 20% for consumer goods. A 12% VAT on imports based on CIF plus duty and all other taxes is placed on imports, with exemptions for agricultural inputs, petroleum development equipment, medicines, and books.

Ecuador is a member of the Andean Pact and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). Ecuador also has bilateral free trade agreements with Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Chile. All accord preferential duty treatment. Five free trade zones were established in 1991, including the Zona Franca de Esmeraldas, Zona Franca del Pacifico S.A., Zona Franca Centro Ecuatoriana CA, Zona Franca Manabi, and Parque Industrial de Cuenca CEM.


The government welcomes foreign investment and has substantially decreased regulatory barriers in recent years, though Ecuador's economy retains a considerable statist and protectionist orientation. As a member of the Andean Pact, Ecuador's foreign investment policy is governed largely by the parameters of Andean Pact Decisions 291 and 292 of May 1991, which provide for equal treatment of foreign and domestic investors, and unrestricted remittance of profits overseas. As of 8 January 1993, foreign investment was allowed without previous authorization in virtually all sectors of the economy that were open to domestic private investment, with total repatriation permitted.

In 1997 the government passed a law on promoting foreign investment. Investment in telecommunications and electricity were opened in 2000, when the government announced plans to sell half of the rights in each sector. In 2001 a new mining law went into effect designed to spur increased foreign investment in Ecuador's considerable untapped mineral reserves. The law provides for 30-year, renewable concessions of up to 5,000 hectares (with no limit on the number of concessions per investor), with exploration and production covered by a single license and environmental regulation under a single, central authority. Licensing fees are called "conservation patents" and increase over the life of the concession. Concessions can be both transmitted (passed on to heirs) and transferred (rented, leased, or sold.) Four major mining companies were awarded concessions in 2002.

Foreign oil companies still have to work with PetroEcuador, the state oil company, which is judged to be sorely in need of foreign investment funds, particularly after the government default in 1999 and near-collapse of domestic banking system. In 2003, PetroEcuador's problemsproduction was 35% below the level in 1990were under study by an international financial group headed by the IMF, which will doubtless prescribe more openness to foreign investment in the sector.

The annual average inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ecuador amounted to $740.5 million in 1997 to 2000. In 2001 and 2002, the annual FDI inflow rose over 75% (to $1.33 billion and $1.28 billion, respectively), contrary to the worldwide trend of sharp decreases in inward FDI. Flows increased further in 2003, with the vast majority going to petroleum and mining. Major investors include the United States, Italy, Spain, and Argentina. Ecuador's good relations with the United States, plentiful natural resources, low wages and property costs, and membership in the Andean Community all serve to attract FDI. Detracting from these advantages, however, are the skills shortage, legal insecurity, and a small, infrastructurally underdeveloped business sector.


In 199293, a major macroeconomic adjustment program was introduced, featuring a sizable currency devaluation (35%) and substantial increases in domestic fuel and electricity prices. Free trade agreements with Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia were signed, and new investment regulations were adopted to open up the economy to foreign investment and eliminate previous bureaucratic impediments. In April 1993, Ecuador qualified for Andean Trade Preference Act benefits, and became a member of the WTO in 1996.

High debt service obligations and external payments arrears to commercial banks impaired Ecuador's economic growth during the rest of the 1990s. The economy basically fell apart in 1999, despite aid throughout the decade from multilateral donors. In 2000, Ecuador accepted a $600 million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), IBRD, and the Andean Development Corporation; while it rescheduled loan payments on $600 million with the Paris Club. This was part of a total $2 billion package from multilateral aid agencies to take place over a period of three years. In order to receive the money, the government was required to undertake a privatization program, and increase the price of petrol by 60%. Total external debt in 2001 reached $14 billion, most of which was in default. The country adopted the US dollar as legal tender in 2000.

In March 2003, Ecuador negotiated a 13-month, $205-million standby arrangement with the IMF. In 2002, economic growth was slow, due in part to tax cuts, a drop in oil output, large increases in a public wage bill, and a high-level corruption scandal. The government that took office in 2003 pledged to eliminate arrears, resolve remaining problems with closed banks, and modernize state-owned enterprises. Completion of a new Transandean Oil Pipeline was seen as a sign of potential output growth.

In 2004, Ecuador engaged in talks with Peru, Colombia, and the United States regarding a new free-trade agreement (to replace the 2002 Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication ActATPDEAthat was scheduled to expire in December 2006). As opposed to other nations in the region, the emphasis of economic policy in Ecuador continues to be on primary goods, and less on diversification of trade, making it vulnerable to terms-of-trade shocks. A lack of support for the proposed Hydrocarbons Law (concerning the privatization of the state-owned oil sector) led to its demise in July 2004, in general leading to one more failure to implement privatization fully in Ecuador. In the meantime, the high oil prices have helped Ecuador to accumulate foreign currency reserves from $545 million in 2000 to $849 in 2004.


Ecuador's social security program is administered through the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute. A 2001 law to overhaul the system has not yet been implemented. The government funds the Bono de Desarrollo Humano program, which provides assistance to the elderly and disabled. Old age pensions, disability and survivorship benefits are funded through employee and employer contributions, depending on the type of occupation. Unemployment benefits for public and private employees are provided by individual severance accounts and a social insurance program. There is a minimal family allowance for impoverished mothers with at least one child under 18 years of age.

Despite equal legal status, women have fewer educational and employment opportunities than men. There are fewer women in the professions, and salary discrimination is common. Social, economic, and cultural change is promoted by the Ecuadorian Women's Permanent National Forum. The Law Against Violence Affecting Women and Children criminalized domestic abused including psychological abuse. It also created family courts and gave authorities the power to remove an abusive spouse from the home. However, domestic abuse remained widespread in 2004.

Indigenous peoples in the Amazon area are increasingly demanding that the government take into account their interests before making decisions that affect their land. Human rights organizations reported cases of mistreatment of detainees and incommunicado detention. The judicial system is slow and pretrial detention may be lengthy.


Health facilities are largely concentrated in the towns and are both too expensive and too distant to be used by most of the highland Amerindian population. Hospitals are operated by agencies of the national government, the municipalities, and private organizations or persons. As of 2004, there were an estimated 148 physicians, 157 nurses, and 17 dentists per 100,000 people. Health care expenditure was estimated at 3.6% of GDP.

In 2002, the birthrate was an estimated 25.5 per 1,000 people. As of 2000, 66% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. The infant mortality rate in 2005 was 23.66 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy that year was 76.21 years. In 1997, Ecuador immunized large numbers of children up to one year old as follows: tuberculosis, 99%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 76%; polio, 77%; and measles, 75%. The overall death rate was an estimated 5.4 per 1,000 people.

Malnutrition and infant mortality are the country's two basic health problems. Malaria is still a problem; 12,011 cases were reported in 1996. In 1999, there were 172 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people. In 1996, 40 cases of measles were reported. Cholera still persists; however, less than 1% of the 1,060 cases accounted for died of cholera in 1996. Other health problems are largely being controlled. Yellow fever was eliminated by the efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation. Two antituberculosis organizations have helped reduce the mortality from that disease, which earlier was responsible for one-fifth of the nation's deaths. In 2000, 71% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 59% had adequate sanitation.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.30 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 21,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 1,700 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


In 2001, there were about 3,456,103 housing units in the country. About 72% of all housing units were detached, single-family homes, 9% were apartments, and 4% were ranchos or covachas, dwellings of wood, stone, or brick covered with palm leaves, straw or other vegetation. About 20,085 dwellings were choza, temporary shacks or huts. Owners occupied 67%. About 18% of the population live in inadequate housing structures. Almost all rural homes and many city dwellings on the coast are made with split bamboo siding and a palm thatch or corrugated iron roof.

Over the past decade, the government has received substantial amounts of money from international organizations for projects focusing on low-income housing. A housing development bank, Banco de la Vivienda, was established in 1961.


Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 15. Primary education is six years, followed by three years of basic secondary school. This is followed by a diversified secondary program with students opting for two or three years of study in humanities, science, or technology. A two year vocational program is also offered. The academic year runs from October to July. The primary language of instruction is Spanish.

In 2001, about 73% of children were enrolled in some type of preschool program at age five. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 100% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 50% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 99% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 23:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 12:1. In 2000, private schools accounted for about 22.7% of primary school enrollment and 24.6% of secondary enrollment.

The Central University of Ecuador dates from 1594. There are three Catholic universities, in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. The National Polytechnical School in Quito offers degrees in industrial science and mechanical engineering, while the Polytechnical School of the Littoral in Guayaquil provides training in naval and petroleum engineering and in the natural sciences. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 91%, with 92.3% for men and 89.7% for women.

The Ministry of Education is the principal authority for all educational programs except higher education, which is supervised by a national technical council. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1% of GDP, or 8% of total government expenditures.


The oldest and most important library in Ecuador is the Central University Library in Quito. It was founded in 1586 and has 170,000 volumes. Other important collections are maintained at the Cuenca University Library (more than 63,000 volumes) and at the National Library in Quito (over 70,000 volumes). Libraries are also maintained by the other universities; the municipalities of Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, and Riobamba; the Ecuadoran Culture House; the Central Bank of Ecuador (48,000 volumes); and other organizations, including the Ecuadoran Culture House, which holds the Laura de Crespo room of National Authors. The library of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito contains about 119,854 books and serves as a depository library of the United Nations.

A number of museums in Ecuador preserve and display paintings, sculpture, coins, records, and artifacts of historic and scientific interest. One of Ecuador's best collections of Inca and pre- Inca objects is found in a privately owned museum near Cuenca. Quito has the National Museum and Archives, the Museum of Modern Art, the Archaeological Museum and Art Galleries of the Central Bank of Ecuador, the Jijón and Caamaño Archaeological and Historical Museum, and the museum of the Ecuadoran Culture House, as well as other smaller collections in schools and government agencies. There are municipal museums in many smaller cities, as well as ethnographic and historical museums.


Between the main cities and towns there are radiotelephone links. Quito is connected by telegraph with Colombia and Peru, and there are telephone and cable connections with all parts of the world. In 2003, there were an estimated 122 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 14,500 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 189 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Ecuador had 392 AM and 35 FM radio stations and 7 television stations as of 2001. In addition to the numerous local stations, there was one central government network, Radio Nacional del Ecuador. In 2003, there were an estimated 422 radios and 252 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 13.9 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 31.1 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 46 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 38 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

In Quito, the leading newspapers, with their political tendencies and estimated daily circulations in 2004 as available, were: El Comercio, independent; Hoy, independent; Últimas Noticias, independent, 60,000; and La Hora, independent, 12,000. In Guayaquil, leading papers include El Extra, 380,000 (in 2004); El Universo, independent, 143,000; La Segunda, independent, 60,000; Expreso, independent, 60,000; and El Telegrafo, independent. In Cuenca, the conservative daily El Mercurio had a circulation of 18,000 in 2004.

The government requires all mass periodicals to participate in literacy and adult education campaigns. There is no censorship of newspapers or of radio and television stations, as ensured by Ecuador's constitution.


There are about seven chambers of commerce and industry and at least 10 employers' organizations. Workers' and business organizations include the National Association of Cocoa Exporters, Textile Industry Association of Ecuador, and the National Association of Coffee Exporters. Trade unions are not common.

The outstanding contemporary learned society is the Ecuadoran Academy, founded in 1875, and the second academy in Spanish America. It is a correspondent of the Royal Spanish Academy. The Ecuadoran Culture House prints works of contemporary Ecuadoran writers, encourages the investigation of scientific and social problems, and conducts discussions on cultural matters. The Andean Institute of Popular Arts, based in Ecuador, is a multinational organization that promotes interest and study in the arts through special programs and scholarships.

The Federacion Medica Ecuatoriana (Medical Federation of Ecuador) promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are also a number of associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions. Professional networking and educational associations exist for many other fields as well.

Fraternal organizations and service clubs in Ecuador include the Masons, Rotary clubs, and Lions clubs. The Scout Association of Ecuador and the Girl Guides have active programs. There is a Junior Chamber Program promoting leadership development for youth. Sports associations are active in supporting amateur competitions in a number of pastimes. Many social and charitable organizations are sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Isles, with multinational interest and membership, is based in Quito. Golondrinas Foundation is another environmental conservation organization. The World Conservation Union has a regional office in Quito.

An organization called Ecuador Volunteer supports a number of service organizations throughout the country. The International Red Cross, Caritas, UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Amnesty International are active in the country.


Ecuador's highlands, reached by air, by the spectacular railroad, or highway, are rich in natural beauty. Quito, the second-highest capital in the world, has modern hotels and transportation. Its churches and monasteries, with their delicately carved doors and altars, and an abundance of exquisite paintings and sculptures, make Quito, in the words of a 1979 UNESCO citation, a "cultural patrimony of mankind."

An important part of Ecuador's cultural life is the feria, or market day, which takes place weekly in many towns. The town of Otavalo, about 56 km (35 mi) north of Quito, is well-known for its colorful Saturday fairs. The Galápagos Islands, world-famous for their unusual wildlife, have become a popular site for ecotourism.

Tourism has experienced significant growth in Ecuador due to the natural attractions and architectural and historical sights. Further development of ecotourism must be carefully managed to avoid a negative impact on Ecuador's environment.

Tourists need a valid passport. Visas are only required for stays of over 90 days. Visitors need a yellow fever vaccination certificate if arriving from an infected area. Tourist facilities on the coast include modern resort hotels and fine beaches.

There were 760,766 tourists who arrived in Ecuador in 2003, about 55% from other countries in South America. That same year there were 38,237 hotel rooms with 86,466 beds. Tourism receipts totaled us$408 million.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Quito was us$222. Expenses in Guayaquil were us$172 per day.


Ecuadorans claim Atahualpa (1500?33), the last emperor of the Incas, as the first renowned figure in their country's history; during the civil war between him and his half-brother, Huáscar, his administration of the Inca empire was based in what is now Ecuador. The 16th-century Amerindian general Rumiñahui is remembered for his heroic resistance to Spanish conquest. During the colonial period, Quito produced notable artists and sculptors. Among these were Miguel de Santiago (d.1673) and the Amerindians Manuel Chile (Caspicara) and Pampite. Francisco Javier Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo (174795), the national hero of Ecuador, inspired much of the independence movement through his political writings. Espejo advocated complete emancipation from Spain, autonomous government for each colony, and nationalization of the clergy. Although he did not live to take part in the War of Independence (he died in prison for his political activities), he was an important figure in its philosophical development.

Vicente Rocafuerte (17831847), an early president, made significant contributions to the development of the republic. Another president, Gabriel García Moreno (182175), was the first to achieve national consolidation; he also contributed to the literary development of the nation. Juan Montalvo (182389) bitterly and brilliantly opposed conservatism in his essays and other works. Eloy Alfaro (18411912), another outstanding president, was noted for the honesty of his administration.

Among Ecuador's literary figures were Numa Pompilio Llona (18321907), a poet-philosopher, and Juan de León Mera (183294), a poet and novelist. Outstanding Ecuadorans of the 20th century include the poets Gonzalo Escudero (190371), Jorge Carrera Andrade (190378), César Dávila Andrade (191867), and Benjamín Carrión (18971979); the novelist Jorge Icaza (190678); the painter Oswaldo Guayasamin Calero (b.1919); José María Velasco Ibarra (18931979), who served five times as president of his country; and Galo Plaza Lasso (190687), a former president of Ecuador and of the OAS. Mike Judge (b.1962) is an animator, voice actor, writer, and producer for such US television series as Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill.


Ecuador's only territory, administered as a province since 1973, is the Archipelago of Columbus (Archipiélago de Colón), more commonly known as the Galápagos Islands, after the Spanish name for the large land tortoise found there. The six largest islands of the group (with their earlier names in parentheses) are Isabela (Albemarle), Santa Cruz (Indefatigable), Santiago (San Salvador or James), Fernandina (Narborough), Floreana (Santa María or Charles), and San Cristóbal (Chatham). Lying on the equator, this cluster of 60-odd islands is scattered over nearly 60,000 sq km (23,000 sq mi) of ocean and has a total land area of 8,010 sq km (3,093 sq mi). The center of the group lies at about 90°w, some 1,130 km (700 mi) from the coast of Ecuador and about 1,600 km (1,000 mi) southwest of Panama.

Most of the islands are small and barren. The largest, Isabela, which is 121 km (75 mi) long and makes up half the land area of the group, has the highest volcano (now only slightly active), reaching 1,689 m (5,541 ft). The climate of these tropical islands is modified by the cold Humboldt Current, which keeps the mean annual temperature as low as 21°c (70°f). Desertlike low-lying areas contrast with mist-shrouded heights at 240 m (800 ft) and higher elevations that have considerable rainfall.

Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 during his voyage on the Beagle, and his observations there made an important contribution to the development of his theories of evolution and natural selection. The unique forms of plant and animal life found on the various islands include 15 species of giant tortoise, considered to be the longest-lived creatures on earth, with a life span of about 150 years and a maximum weight of more than 225 kg (500 lb). In the mid-1980s, their number was estimated at 10,000. The Galápagos have 85 species of birds. In 1959, Ecuador declared the Galápagos a national park to prevent the extinction of the wildlife. The islands have since become one of the world's most noted focal points for naturalist studies and observations. About 21,000 visitors come to the islands each year.

Early Amerindian navigators, traveling on balsa rafts, frequently went to the Galápagos for the excellent fishing, but there is no evidence of any permanent settlement. Bishop Tomás de Berlanga of Panama landed at the Galápagos in 1535; he was the first of a series of Spaniards to visit the islands. In 1832, the first president of Ecuador, Juan José Flores, declared the islands a national territory. Several were used from time to time for penal colonies, but the practice was discontinued in 1959. The administrative seat is San Cristóbal. Only four of the islands are inhabited, and the estimated population numbers 6,000.


Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Darwin, Charles. Voyage of the Beagle. Garden City, N.Y.: Natural History Press, 1962 (orig. 1840).

Garretón, Manuel Antonio, and Edward Newman, (eds.). Democracy in Latin America: (Re)constructing Political Society. New York: United Nations University Press, 2001.

Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics: A Recent History of Ecuador. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 2003.

Handelsman, Michael H. Culture and Customs of Ecuador. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Herz, Monica. Ecuador vs. Peru: Peacemaking amid Rivalry. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

Pineo, Ronn F. Social and Economic Reform in Ecuador: Life and Work in Guayaquil. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

Radcliffe, Sarah A. Remaking the Nation: Place, Identity and Politics in Latin America. London: Routledge, 1996.

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Republic of Ecuador

Major Cities:
Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca

Other Cities:
Ambato, Azogues, Babahoyo, Esmeraldas, Guaranda, Latacunga, Loja, Portoviejo, Riobamba, Tulcán


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Ecuador. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Ecuador is not a large country, but it offers a striking variety of climates, customs, and cultures. The high, wide Andean plateau which dominates the country has been both a highway and a resting place for the Incan, Spanish, and mestizo civilizations which have shaped the nation's history. The lowland Amazonian jungle east of the mountains, home of several indigenous groups, is also the location of rough oil boom towns. The Pacific coastal plain to the west of the Andes is a land of tropical plantations, bustling port cities, and warm water beaches. Six hundred miles from the coast lie the Galapagos, a chain of volcanic islands which are home to unique species of wildlife and a small number of islanders.

Quito is a city of sun and sky, set in agricultural highlands and surrounded by high mountains and snow capped volcanoes. With a balance of equatorial sunshine and mountain chill, the climate varies little throughout the year. Some newcomers find it difficult to adjust to the thin air and burning sun at an altitude of 9,300 feet and even the most athletic need to wait a week before undertaking any strenuous activity.

Guayaquil is a complete contrast to the capital. It is a busy, noisy town where the natives are both more aggressive and more openhanded than the reserved inhabitants of the Sierra. Like most port towns, Guayaquil is a center of commerce, a place where the shrewd can make a fortune or can capture and direct enough of the city's rough energy to make a successful political career.



When Spanish expeditions overwhelmed the Inca Empire, the Inca leader Rumiñahui destroyed the city of Quito rather than surrender it to the conquerors. The Spanish built their own settlement, San Francisco de Quito, on the same site, at the southern end of the Pichincha Valley. It was an easily defensible location bordered by deep ravines and dominated by the smooth round hill now called the Panecillo.

Nestled in a high mountain valley surrounded by snow capped volcanoes, Quito will literally take your breath away with its natural beauty and altitude. The Andean setting, Spanish colonial architecture, Indian costumes, palm trees and bougainvillea, and steep hillsides with checkerboard patterns in vivid greens and yellows rising into the clouds a short distance from the sprawling city-all make Quito unique.

The colonial center of Quito has been declared a human heritage ("Patrimonio de la Humanidad") by UNESCO. This heritage is preserved today by zoning laws which forbid the demolition or exterior remodeling of the low, white-washed buildings in the center of the city. The old town, cut into squares by narrow streets with steep flights of steps, contains many colonial ecclesiastic monuments: La Compañia with its carved facade and gold-leafed interior; San Francisco, the first spiritual center in South America, with a museum crowded with sculptures and paintings by Caspicara and Miguel de Santiago; San Augustin, a quiet convent with treasures in its ceilings and altars; the Cathedral, famous for art works of the Quiteño school; Santo Domingo monastery, with another museum of priceless paintings and sculptures, and many others.

The narrow streets of colonial Quito are a pleasure for an unhurried stroll on weekends when the city seems to shut down completely, though street crime compels caution. During the week the heavy traffic makes a walk through the center of town something of a struggle and it is unwise to venture through the colorful Ipiales street market with important documents or valuables. A respite from the bustling throngs of shoppers, vendors, and noisy traffic can be found in the broad plazas with well-kept parks bordered by churches and public buildings.

In the mid-20th century, Quito grew quickly. Industrial areas and crowded popular barrios developed to the south of the city. To the north, Quito spreads up a wide valley bordering the dormant Pichincha Volcano. Originally farmland dotted with villas built in fanciful Spanish, Moorish, or 1930s modern architecture, this area is rapidly becoming Quito's modern center. The Rio Amazonas shopping district runs from the park through a modern business center of high-rise office buildings that offer a variety of restaurants, shops, banks, and sidewalk cafes. Avenida Gonzales Suarez, Bella Vista, Quito Tenis and El Bosque are the areas where most of the diplomatic community lives.


Most homes have reservoir tanks, pumps, and small electric water heaters. Houses and apartments have modern plumbing for the most part. Because of long waits for new phones, rent a house or apartment with a telephone already installed, a cordless phone may be convenient.

Electric current is the same as in the U.S.: 110v, 60 cycles, with 220v available for stoves and dryers. Do not rent a home without 220v triple-phase current available for appliances.

Homes in Quito have no central heating, and evenings can be quite chilly. Some houses are colder than others; those with eastern and western exposure benefit from the strong equatorial sunshine and are warmer than those with north-south exposure.

At times in the past, Ecuador has experienced shortages due to lack of rainfall in the southern part of the country. Extended power rationing has often occurred during the winter months. The rationing has not occurred recently.


Ecuador has a plentiful supply of tropical fruits and vegetables all year, with varieties not seen in North America. Avocados, artichokes, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, pineapples and papaya can be purchased all year, and peaches, apples, pears and other fruit can be found in season. Several markets in Quito have fresh produce, seafood, chicken and meat, cut flowers, and potted plants.

Beef, pork, lamb and veal can be bought in supermarkets and butcher shops. Filet mignon costs about half the U.S. price. Chicken is more expensive, and turkey costs about twice as much as in the U.S. Both American and European cuts of meat are available, though the beef here is usually unaged, and may be tough. Some families use meat tenderizers or marinade. A pressure cooker is very useful for cooking at high altitudes.

Although a wide variety of food items are available in Ecuador, including items imported from the U.S. and Europe, certain American food are difficult to find or very expensive.

Milk is pasteurized, though quality control is irregular, and comes in disposable paper cartons or plastic bags. Heavy cream is available in the supermarkets, and sour cream can be found in some stores. A variety of cheeses are available, though not of the same quality or variation as can be found in the states. Several brands of ice cream are considered safe, and several brands of good yogurt are available. Excellent pastry and a variety of breads can be purchased in Quito and the surrounding small towns.

Quito has two large supermarket chains; Supermaxi and Mi Comisariato, which are well stocked with groceries, dry goods, and fresh products at very reasonable prices. U.S. goods are available, but at somewhat higher prices than in the U.S. Comparable Ecuadorian and Latin American products are less expensive. Many small shops and delicatessens offer excellent quality food stuffs such as ham, sausages, cold cuts, pickles, olives, and pastas. In general, the cook who can use the local foods with imagination will find it economical to do without processed, packaged, imported goods.

Ecuadorian cuisine depends heavily on corn, potatoes, and pork. Wonderful soups are made with the great assortment of vegetables. One local specialty is locro, a potato soup with cheese and avocado; another is llapingachos, a potato and cheese pancake. Delicious "cebiche" (marinated seafood), "humitas" (baked corn cakes), and "empanadas" (pastries filled with meat or cheese) are standard fare.


General: Light to medium weight clothing is used throughout the year in Quito. Due to varying temperatures during the course of the day, you will need sweaters, jackets, or raincoats, and an umbrella. In general, you can use almost anything in your wardrobe except heavy winter clothing. Bring summer clothing for trips to the beach and the jungle, and swimsuits for the heated pools in Quito. Warm up suits are a must for joggers and tennis players in Quito. Bathrobes and warm pajamas will be a comfort. Hats are useful for protection from the sun. A wide assortment of brimmed hats in beautiful colors and styles can be bought in Ecuador for much less than in the U.S. A lightweight coat will be welcomed on some of Quito's chilliest evenings. It is a good idea to bring a winter coat, in case a trip to Washington in January comes up. A down parka also comes in handy when visiting the volcanoes.

Many boutiques offer stylish clothing, dresses, and suits imported from the U.S. and Europe, but prices are high. Locally made sweaters are inexpensive. Leather and suede coats for men and women may be made to order. Fashionable knit-wear may be bought ready-made or made to order at reasonable prices. The quality of dry cleaning is good, and inexpensive.

Boots and shoes of good quality leather can be made to order. In women's shoes, U.S. sizes above 8½ are hard to find in ready-to-wear. In men's shoes, U.S. sizes above 9½ are also hard to find.

Men: Light to medium-weight suits are worn all year. Sport coats, sweaters, slacks, and long-sleeved sports shirts are useful for informal and casual gatherings. A raincoat with a zip-in lining is welcome on chilly evenings. Business and professional men do not wear hats except when watching sports events or other outdoor activities. Equestrians should bring riding helmets. Good tailoring is available at reasonable prices. Tuxedoes are occasionally needed; white dinner jackets are not worn.

Women: Blouses, skirts, sweaters, slacks, and jackets are standard daily wear in Quito. Because mornings and evenings are cool and temperatures at noon quite warm, a cardigan or blazer is usually worn or carried. Light-weight wool is the most practical material. Informal and casual clothes are worn at social gatherings outside the city on the weekends, but simple cocktail dresses are needed for dinner parties during the week in town. Long-sleeved dresses with jackets and dinner suits are good choices for chilly evenings. Shorts, short skirts and tank tops should not be worn in public. Bring a wraparound skirt or warm up suit to throw on after exercise classes or tennis.

Rainwear and a light or medium-weight coat, stole, or cape for evenings are necessary. Hats are not worn, except for protection from the sun. Embroidered capes and stoles, different kinds of sweaters, and ponchos are available locally. Dressmakers are available and fabric can be purchased locally.

Children: Light to medium-weight clothes are the rule. Warm, inexpensive sweaters can be bought locally. Bring raincoats, boots, and shoes. You should bring with you any special sporting good attire or equipment. Warm pajamas or nightgowns, bathrobes, and slippers are recommended. Teenagers of both sexes seem to live in jeans or corduroy slacks and tennis shoes, but those who like discotheques and parties will need more formal clothing. Young men will probably want at least one sports coat and girls a nice dress, skirt or pantsuit.

Supplies and Services

The local pharmacies carry most medicines and drugs, but availability of item, varies from month to month. If you plan to sew or use a dressmaker's services, bring a supply of sewing accessories, especially thread and zippers. A wide range of fabrics is available at varying prices, but imported fabrics are expensive. Good quality woolens and synthetics are manufactured locally.

Bring basic tools, as well as any hobby and do-it-yourself equipment. Batteries of all sizes are available.

Stationery, quality envelopes, greeting cards, wrapping paper, and ribbon are scarce and expensive. Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, waxed paper, toilet paper and disposable diapers are available, but expensive. Plain paper napkins can be bought, but the quality is only fair, Candles are sold in different sizes and colors at U.S. prices, but the dripless variety are not available. Artists should bring all supplies.

Children's toys are very expensive. Bring toys for your children and for gifts. Bring lunch boxes for kindergarten and elementary school-age children.

Parts for common electrical appliances. electronic products, and cars are often available, but expensive. Parts ordered from the U.S. take a long time to arrive. and if sent air-freight they will spend one to two months awaiting customs clearance. Local mechanics are good. The cost of service on cars and appliances i, much lower than in the U.S. Painting is inexpensive.

Quito has many excellent hairdressers and barbershops and prices are lower than in the U.S. Hairdressers, masseuses. and manicurists will come to your home at reasonable cost. Several cosmetologists offer good service at low prices. Many reputable local artisans make and repair jewelry for much less than in the U.S. Good catering services are available in the city, and prices are reasonable. Good tailors and dressmakers are available at a range of prices.

Domestic Help

Domestic maids and gardeners are available for reasonable wages. Residents sometimes prefer live-in maids for babysitting duties and for security reasons, however, live-in maids are becoming harder to find. There are few trained nannies, although some maids handle child-care responsibilities well. Many maids can cook, but it is hard to find cooks who will handle other household duties or who are trained for representational duties. There are many good caterers who are available for parties. Many people in houses share the cost of a security guard with their neighbors.

A combination maid-cook is generally desirable for a single person or couple without children. Large families often hire more than one domestic employee. Domestic employees generally earn about $150 per month. Workers who come in by the day generally earn about $10 per day.

Under Ecuadorian law, domestic employees must be covered by Ecuadorian Social Security. Stringent laws cover employment and termination. These regulations are included in orientation material for new arrivals and should be read and followed carefully.

In addition to an annual salary, the domestic employee receives (per Ecuadorian law) a 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th month salary plus a supplementary compensation, and a cost of living bonus. Live-out maids are also entitled to a transportation allowance. Although the employee and the employer are required to pay a portion of the employees income to the Social Security system, most employers in Ecuador pay the entire amount for their domestic employees. By law, domestic employees are entitled to one day off every two weeks, but in practice they receive one day off each week. Domestics are also entitled to 15 days paid vacation annually. Domestics are not entitled to any holidays. Employers are required by law to provide uniforms for their domestic help.

Religious Activities

Ecuador is primarily a Catholic country, and Quito is the seat of an Archbishop. About 70 Catholic churches in the city serve Spanish-speaking congregations. An English-language service is held in the Dominican Chapel each Sunday morning, and confessions may be heard.

Traditional Jewish services in Spanish and Hebrew are offered each Friday evening and Saturday morning at the Asociacion Israelita.

The community has a number of Protestant activities and services in English. The Advent-St. Nicholas Church (Lutheran and Anglican) offers a worship service and adult discussion group every Sunday morning at Isabel La Catolica 1431. The First Baptist Church has Sunday school classes and worship services. The Inter-denominational English Fellowship Church, sponsored by the World Radio Missionary Fellowship (which runs radio stations HCJB and Voz Andes Hospital), offers Bible school and services on Sunday and a teen group program.

The Seventh-day Adventists offer services on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings and operate the Clinica Americana. Jehovah's Witnesses also have weekly services. The Church of the Latter-day Saints has Sunday services in Spanish.


Quito has many public and private primary and secondary schools. Cotopaxi Academy, Alliance Academy, Colegio Menor and Colegio Americano are private schools usually preferred by Americans in Quito. Cotopaxi Academy and Colegio Americano receive limited grant support from the U.S. Government.

Cotopaxi Academy was founded in 1959 as a private, cooperative, American nonsectarian school offering classes from pre-kindergarten (for children from the age of 3) through grade 12. The school year runs from mid-August to mid-June. Some 750 students attend the school. About one-third are Americans, one-third are Ecuadorians, and one-third other nationalities. Instruction is in English, and both Spanish and English are taught as second languages. The teachers are certified in the U.S., and classes are limited to 20 students. An International Baccalaureate Diploma is offered for qualified students going on to universities around the world. It is located in a recently built campus in the northern part of the city.

Cotopaxi is affiliated with the Universities of Alabama, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania for student teaching internship programs. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the International Baccalaureate Office in Geneva.

In addition to the traditional academic subjects, classes are offered in art, band, physical education, computers, and French. Standard U.S. texts, teaching materials, and tests are used. Extracurricular activities include yearbook, newspaper, drama club, National Honor Society, Student Council, and several sports. Two guidance counselors are on the staff.

An integrated program for gifted students operates from prekinder-garten to grade 12. Programs for physically handicapped children and those with learning disabilities are limited, but available from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 after the candidates undergo prerequisite screening. The staff includes a remedial reading teacher. For children in higher grades who have special problems, consult the school prior to arrival.

Alliance Academy, founded in 1929 for the children of missionaries is a privately supported college preparatory school. The school provides educational facilities to the children of Protestant missionaries from Quito, as well as those from other parts of Latin America. It has kindergarten through grade 12. The school year runs from early August to late May. Of some 500 students, 60% are children of missionaries from many different missions, and 40% are children of diplomatic and international business families.

Eighty percent are U.S and Canadian citizens. Children from other international families are accepted on a space-available basis. The Christian Philosophy of Education is the focus of the school. Daily Bible classes and weekly chapels are a required part of the curriculum. Students of all faiths are accepted.

Classes are taught in English, and Spanish classes are required for all students. The basic subjects resemble those in most U.S. schools. Electives include woodworking, art, typing, home economics, photography, shorthand, and yearbook publication. Advanced placement courses pre offered in math, English, and Spanish. Computer math and programming are also offered. The school is well supplied with learning materials, including three fully equipped science laboratories, elementary and secondary school libraries, and an audiovisual center. The library holds about 35,000 volumes, 800 films, 2,000 filmstrips, and videotaping facilities. Spanish and English are taught as second languages. Programs are available for the gifted as well as for the mentally handicapped. The school conducts a full and varied sports and extracurricular program, including chorus, band, and orchestra.

Alliance Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and belongs to the Southern Association of Independent Schools, the Association of Christian Schools International, and the Association of American Schools of South America.

Colegio Americano was founded in 1940 as a private coeducational school for students of all nationalities from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. A Junior College provides secretarial and business management training. The school year is divided into trimesters extending from early October to mid-July, the traditional Ecuadorian school year. The current school population is 2,800. Most students are Ecuadorian. The 22-acre campus is 10 miles north of Quito.

The curriculum is divided into two sections: an international section offers courses similar to those at U.S. college preparatory, public schools; a national section offers subjects required of Ecuadorian schools. Instruction is in both English and Spanish. Courses in art and music are also taught. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education. A Comprehensive Learning Disabilities program from prekindergarten through grade 12 is offered, as well as guidance counseling and college counseling. Both English and Spanish are offered as second languages. Eighty-three percent of the graduating seniors go on to study in universities in the U.S. and Europe.

There is at least one English-speaking preschool. Some accept children from age 18 months.

Special Educational Opportunities

Universidad San Francisco, Catholic University and the National Polytechnic School offer academic instruction at the university level in Quito. San Francisco and Catholic Universities have faculties of Law, Economics, Engineering, and Philosophy. The Polytechnic School offers courses in electrical and chemical engineering and nuclear science. All classes are taught in Spanish. The admissions process is lengthy and difficult.

Catholic University offers a special 6 week intensive courses in Spanish for about $350. The course consists of 3 hours of class 5 days a week. Many Americans take this course. You can also find many schools in the city offering Spanish lessons at very reasonable rates. Tutors will also come to your house if requested.

Various well-known local artists accept students of all ages for private classes, and several resident Americans also give art lessons.

The National Conservatory of Music accepts students for voice training and instruction in musical instruments, especially piano and violin. Students attending the schools normally used by the American community may receive instruction in a variety of instruments. Students must have their own musical instruments, although the schools do rent smaller instruments.

The University of Alabama College of Education offers graduate studies in education in Quito. Visiting professors offer courses in secondary education, elementary and early childhood education, and administration and planning. Four-week courses are offered in the fall and spring and during the summer to fulfill credit requirements toward a Master's Degree or Ph.D.

Several museums in Quito have impressive collections of paintings, archeological objects, and historical manuscripts. The National Museum of History has a noteworthy manuscript collection. The Casa de la Cultura often sponsors exhibits and performances of local artists. The National Museum of Colonial Art has an outstanding collection of sculpture and paintings.

The premier museum in Quito is in the Central Bank located at the Casa de la Cultura. Divided into separate archeological and colonial exhibits, the museum shows carefully selected pieces in a well-designed arrangement. Tours are conducted in several languages, and the museum shows an English-language film describing the country's history and archeology. Another interesting ethnographic museum is located a few miles north of Quito at the Mitad del Mundc monument on the Equator. Nearby are the partially excavated ruins of an Inca fortress with guides on weekends.


Soccer is Ecuador's most popular sport, and games are played in Quito year round at the Olympic Stadium. Bullfights are also popular. In December a series of bull-fights are held to celebrate Quito Days and some of the world's leading bullfighters perform then.

Those interested in outdoor and indoor sports will not lack for opportunity in Ecuador. Local parks are well-kept and widely used on weekends, but you should be aware of the rising rate of pickpockets or robberies in the parks. Don't go with large amounts of money or important documents. There are tennis, racquetball, basketball and squash courts as well as bowling alleys. American instructors give classes in gymnastics, yoga, and aerobic exercises. Judo and karate are taught at the YMCA. Volleyball is very popular. Bicycling is possible in the parks, but dangerous on the road. Flying lessons are available. There is a small hang-gliding group. Several private clubs in and outside of the city have dining facilities, tennis courts, golf courses, and stables. You can often join these clubs at costs ranging from $30 to $300 a month, plus initiation fees.

Opportunities for horseback riding abound. Buying and maintaining a horse is much less expensive than in the U.S. Lessons are available at different clubs, and riding competitions are held monthly. Polo players will find a small but enthusiastic group of colleagues in Quito.

Quito and its surrounding areas have several places for swimming. Swimming memberships are available at the Hotels Colon, Oro Verde and Quito. The Los Chillos Valley, south of Quito, has several pools and beautiful country clubs. Lago San Pablo, an hour's drive north of Quito, near Otavalo offers opportunities for windsurfing, water skiing and boating.

Health facilities are available in Quito, but range quite a bit in price and services offered. Several offer aerobics classes, weight machines and swimming pools. Memberships are available at the Hotel Hilton Colon, Oro Verde, Hotel Quito and the Elan gym (this list is not all inclusive). Prices range from $450 to $1,200 per year for a single membership.

Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy excellent freshwater and deep-sea fishing in Ecuador. Off the coast, deep-sea tackle is needed for the abundant marlin, tuna, dorado, and other species. Areas close to Quito have good stream and lake fishing for bass and trout. The best trout waters are located high in the mountains, in cold and rainy areas where parkas and waterproof pants are essential. A license to fish anywhere in Ecuador is required.

Good dove hunting can be found near Quito, partridge may be hunted in areas several hours away by car, and duck hunting is good on the coast. The Hunting and Fishing Club has a new clubhouse and excellent shooting range at Lago San Pablo. An overnight trip by car and horseback takes the hunter into good deer hunting country. Guns must be registered.

Mountain climbing, hiking, and camping are popular. Most of the mountains are not technically difficult, but the altitude-ranging from 14,000 to 20,000 feet-can cause problems. There are several climbing clubs. Mules and guides can be hired in villages near Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Cayambe, and Tungurahua. Crude "refugios" on these mountains offer shelter and cooking facilities. No one skis in Ecuador. The snow-covered peaks are steep and laced with crevasses. The Hash House Harriers has an active branch in Quito. This group sponsors runs twice a month and regularly organizes outings.

Ecuador is a paradise for the amateur photographer. Black-and-white, Kodachrome, and Ektachrome color film can be processed locally. Making pictures from slides is expensive. Film can be purchased locally but film speeds slower than 100 or higher than 400 are generally not available or difficult to find. It may be a good idea to bring extra film with you.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Almost every corner of the country offers opportunities for interesting exploration. Anyone planning to take advantage of all possibilities will want to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Most sightseeing can be done on long weekends.

Less than an hour drive to the north of Quito is the equatorial monument at "Mitad del Mundo," marking the division between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Two hours from Quito is Otavalo, home of indigenous people known throughout the continent for their weaving. Their colorful Saturday morning market is a must for tourists, although you can now find a much smaller version of the market on any day of the week. The towns of Cotacachi and San Antonio de Ibarra, near Otavalo, are known for leatherwork and woodcarving respectively.

About three hours by car south of Quito on the Pan American Highway is Ambato, Ecuador's fourth largest city, which has an annual Festival of Fruits and Flowers held during Carnival. The region is known for its rug factories. Southeast of Ambato is the secluded and peaceful town of Baños, perched on the eastern edge of the Andean plateau at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano. Like many other resort towns in the mountains, Baños is known for its thermal springs. Metropolitan Touring offers an interesting trip by train from Quito to the colonial city of Riobamba, continuing through this area by bus, with stops at the local Indigenous markets.

In the southern part of the country, continuing on from Riobamba is Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest and perhaps most picturesque city, known for its artisan work and hand-woven rugs and woolens. There are many factories that do the finish work on the Panama hats which are made in small towns close to the coast. The ruins of an ancient Inca fortress are nearby. The province of Loja, in the southernmost part of Ecuador, is famous for the town of Vilcabamba, whose residents are known for their longevity.

Trips can be made by road or air into the Oriente and the jungle. The low-lying tropics are a pleasant contrast to Quito's cool climate. Metropolitan Touring operates a river boat trip down the Rio Napo, with excursions into the jungle, and dugout canoe rides. Visitors can reach the frontier oil towns by bus over rough roads if they prefer not to fly.

West of Quito, 3 hours by car down the Andean slope, is Santo Domingo de Los Colorados, home of Indigenous people who traditionally color their hair and skin with natural pigments. The area offers a wide variety of tropical fruits and other products. Farther down the road, 6-8 hours by car from Quito, is Guayaquil, the nation's largest city. Up and down the coast are beaches, some deserted, some dirty, some beautiful, and some highly urbanized, that offer a pleasant reprieve from Quito's altitude. The Galapagos Islands, 600 miles off the coast, are famous for their wildlife. In recent years Ecuador has taken great care to preserve the flora and fauna of the islands, strictly licensing and controlling the tourist industry that flourishes there. A proper tour of the islands takes at least a week. Ships operating in the tourist trade range from converted fishing sloops with room for no more than six passengers to luxurious cruise vessels offering all the comforts of a large hotel.


Quito has some comfortable cinemas that show films in English with Spanish subtitles. Most of the movies considered "children's" movies are dubbed in Spanish with no English subtitles. Well over half the films are American, and major releases usually arrive in Quito within a few months of their premiere in the U.S. The Casa de la Cultura also programs foreign film series in conjunction with various embassies.

The National Symphony Orchestra offers an annual series of concerts, often with guest artists and conductors. Live theater is active in Quito, with several amateur and semiprofessional groups presenting works in Spanish. An English-language amateur group, the Pichincha Players, presents one or two plays or musicals a year.

Many talented groups of Ecuadorian musicians offer concerts and perform in the late-night folk music houses. The music of the Andes is especially known for its use of pipes, guitars, percussion instruments, and the "charango," a mandolin-like instrument fashioned from the body of an armadillo. For those who prefer a different kind of popular music, there are several good discotheques in town.

Quito has a growing number of nightclubs, most of which are small. Elaborate floor shows and large orchestras are rare, although Ecuador is on the circuit for touring Latin American musical spectaculars. Casinos in the major hotels have slot machines, roulette, blackjack, and dice tables.

The city has an unusually large variety of good restaurants featuring Ecuadorian and international cuisines. Prices are reasonable except for imported items. A number of U.S.-style fast-food restaurants offer hamburgers, pizza, Mexican food and fried chicken for those suffering from culture shock.

Quito, Latacunga, Guayaquil, and Cuenca have annual "festival day" celebrations with fireworks and dancing in the streets. Many of the surrounding towns have their own smaller versions of these festivities.

Social Activities

No formal organizations exist exclusively for Americans. There are many opportunities for U.S. citizens to meet and work with Ecuadorians and other foreign nationals. Quito has 36 resident and 37 nonresident embassies, plus several international organizations. Membership in private clubs facilitates contact with influential Quito residents. The Damas Norteamericanas y Britanicas runs a small library, and supplies funds for many local charities through profits made at their Thrift Shop and annual Christmas bazaar. The Women's Christian Fellowship Group holds monthly meetings, weekly Bible study groups, and occasionally sponsors trips and seminars.

The Ecuadorian-American Chamber of Commerce has a large and growing membership, including many prominent Ecuadorian and U.S. resident business representatives. Each month the organization sponsors a luncheon with a well-known speaker.

The Rotary and Lions Clubs are active. The Ecuadorian Canine Association sponsors dog shows, registers purebreds, and is involved in other activities. Quito has both the Boy Scouts of America and the Cub Scouts pack. Both groups are active within the community. Also, there is a very active group of Girl Scouts.


This sea level city, formally named Santiago de Guayaquil, was founded in 1538. Tropical, bustling and noisy, Guayaquil is located on the Guayas River and boasts a large deep-water seaport on the saltwater estuary 8 miles south of the center of town. The city is located 50 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean. A few small hills rise abruptly in the northern residential section; the rest of the city is flat. With a population approaching 2,500,000, the city is growing rapidly, with extensive slums expanding on stilts over tidal estuaries. The city also has modern residential areas of attractive walled homes and gardens and many multistory apartment and condominium buildings. Temperatures are generally pleasant during the dry season from June to December, and no worse than Washington, DC in midsummer during the remainder of the year. Mosquitoes are common during the rainy season from January to May.

The business center is becoming increasingly modern, though unpainted cane buildings still exist side by side with modern high-rise structures on some streets. Many of the streets are in deplorable condition during most of the year despite patchwork repairs.

Guayaquil's vital commercial activity and frequently turbulent political life can help make for an interesting tour, though street crime and burglaries have become serious problems. The American community of several thousand new and long-time residents is well integrated with a much larger number of dual nationals, third-country citizens, and Ecuadorians who were educated or worked in the U.S.


City water piped to houses is chlorinated and pure when it leaves the plant but is considered contaminated because of the old pipes and their proximity to sewer lines. Some areas of the city have frequent low pressure or water shortages because of distribution problems.

Standard two-wire, 110v, 60-cycle current is available for lights and appliances, including refrigerators and freezers. Water heaters, electric stoves, and some air-conditioners require U.S. standard three-wire, 220v-240v, 60-cycle current, which is also available. Voltage regulators or surge protectors are highly recommended to protect specialized electronic equipment such as stereos, home minicomputers and microwave ovens against voltage fluctuations.


Many tropical fruits and vegetables are available year round, and others in season. Some temperate zone fruits and vegetables are brought to Guayaquil from the cool mountain valleys. Prices are reasonable, but may rise during the rainy season.

Seafood, including fresh tuna, shrimp, crab, and oysters, is in good supply most of the time and is less expensive than in the U.S., but quality varies. Beef, chicken and pork are almost always available at prices similar to those in the U.S. Butter and cheese are of satisfactory quality. All imported foods are expensive. Soft drinks and beer are inexpensive, once the bottles are purchased. As a rule of thumb, bring in quantity anything nonperishable that you use often, such as Baker's chocolate, peanut butter, spices, cereal, or special cleaning aids.

Guayaquil has many good restaurants, fast food eateries and ice cream shops with prices similar to those in the U.S. Sanitation is almost never up to U.S. standards, therefore, salads, raw seafood and ice can cause stomach and intestinal problems.


Men: Bring a dinner jacket (generally a dark jacket is used) only if you already have one. Men's clothing can be made here from local or imported material and tailors range from very reasonable to expensive. Lightweight suits, sport coats and slacks are worn in Guayaquil. A few dark conservative suits and some sporty outfits will fill most needs.

Women: You will need all your summer clothing here. Officers dealing constantly with the public, such as the principal officer and visa officers, wear dresses, suits, blouses and skirts. For cocktail parties, dinners, and dances, the latest fashions are worn. Short-sleeved cocktail dresses for evening are comfortable most of the year.

Hats are not worn, except for brimmed sun hats. Sun-dresses and sandals are standard. Bring washable cottons, synthetics, and cotton blends. Tailors here make all types of clothing. Bring fabric and notions from the U.S. Cotton is more comfortable than synthetic material in this hot climate. Bring an ample supply of underwear and socks for everyone in the family.

Stoles, light sweaters, and scarves are used at night during the cooler season. Bring one or two autumn or winter outfits and party clothes for visits to Quito, Cuenca, and other mountain areas. Jackets and woolens are needed at that altitude, and warm slacks are useful. A great variety of stoles and ponchos are sold here at low prices.

Children: Bring a good supply of cotton clothing, shoes and sneakers. Blue jeans, warm jackets, rainwear and sweaters will also be needed.

The American School (Colegio Americano) and the Inter-American Academy both require school uniforms. At the Colegio Americano girls dress with skirts and boys wear blue jeans. Boys and girls are required to wear the same kind of shirt and physical education uniform. Black dress shoes are required except for the days students have gym class, when they bring white sneakers. The uniform for the Inter-American Academy may be purchased in the U.S. Girls wear dark blue jeans, slacks, or skirts with plain white shirts, and a blue jacket or sweater in cool weather. Shoes may be either leather or blue sneakers; sandals are not permitted. Boys wear blue jeans, white shirts. blue sneakers. and a blue jacket or sweater. The PE uniform for both boys and girls is plain blue shorts, white T-shirts, and blue or white sneakers. Reasonably priced blue jeans are available locally.

Supplies and Services

Most U.S. and European toiletries, cosmetics, cigarettes, and medicines are available, sometimes at less cost than in the U.S. Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, waxed paper and other paper products are more expensive than in the U.S., and are of inferior quality. Bring entertainment equipment. Video clubs abound in Guayaquil, with tape rentals from $1.00 to $2.00. An ice chest and beach supplies, particularly suntan lotion, are recommended.

The city has adequate shoe repair and dry-cleaning, radio, phonograph, and TV repair shops. Mechanics can repair most makes of automobiles, but service is from fair to unreliable, and generally slow. Automobile parts are readily available, but expensive.

A number of good tailors are available to make or alter clothing. Local hairdressers are good and reasonably priced. Single persons usually find they need at least a part-time maid, and many families have more than one domestic employee. Domestic employees' wages will run from $80 a month for a general maid to $120 a month for a cook, plus food and uniforms.

Religious Activities

The prevalent faith is Roman Catholic. One Catholic church offers an English Mass. Several Protestant denominations are represented in Guayaquil, but only the Guayaquil English Fellowship, and Inter-denominational group, offers services in English. Several branches of the Mormon Church are here, with services in Spanish.


Educational facilities through grade 8 are generally adequate. Colegio Americano, with kindergarten through grade 12, has a student enrollment of 1,656. It has a bilingual program, and operates from a spacious campus a few kilometers north of the urban areas. The school year is May through January. Spanish and English programs through grade six exist at present. The Colegio Americano is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education.

Inter-American Academy was formed in 1978 when the former International Section split off from the Colegio Americano. It has kindergarten through grade 12, and is the only English-speaking school in Guayaquil at the high school level. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools, and offers an International Baccalaureate diploma. The Academy's diploma and credits are not recognized by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education because it does not follow the Ministry's curriculum or calendar. The 1999 school year for the Academy starts in September. The 1998 student population is about 300. The school has limited athletic and laboratory facilities.

In addition to these schools, several Roman Catholic private schools have good reputations, but classes are taught entirely in Spanish. An excellent local German school is available for U.S students who speak German.

Several nursery schools are available. Several Spanish-language universities exist, but the largest (University of Guayaquil) is frequently disrupted by political demonstrations, including occasional gun battles between rival groups of students.


Swimming, tennis, basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball, jogging, bowling, and golf are enjoyed in the Guayaquil area. Lessons are available. The Tennis Club and the Country Club have swimming pools, but membership is expensive. The pool at the Oro Verde Hotel offers club membership at $150 a year for families and $120 for singles. A municipal Olympic-size public pool with adjacent running track is located nearby. The clubs, Nacional and Garibaldi, are moderately priced alternatives with tennis and swimming facilities. A few families have small private pools. Hunting in Ecuador, particularly bird hunting, can be excellent. In the coastal region around Guayaquil, dove and duck hunting can be spectacular, since there are more than six species of dove and three major species of non-migrating ducks. The rice-growing regions are home to the large Muscovy duck and wintering grounds for blue teal. White-tailed deer and collared peccary are game animals hunted locally. Other game includes the jaguar, but hunting is difficult in the thick swamps and rugged hills. Ecuador has no specified hunting season or bag limit. Hunters should bring all their equipment, including ammunition.

The Mountain Climbing Association in Quito draws members from Guayaquil. See also Sports-Quito.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Two beaches, Playas and Salinas, offer a cooler climate and swimming, fishing, and boating. Playas is 50 miles southwest of Guayaquil. A small, marginally adequate hotel is situated on a wide, sandy beach with a sheltered picnic ground. Furnished houses are sometimes available for rent on or near the beach. Beaches are generally uncrowded from May to December. The sun and the ocean currents should be treated with respect. The strong sunshine can cause severe sunburn even after short exposure. Ocean currents are very strong in the area and bathers must exercise caution.

Salinas, a resort town 85 miles west of Guayaquil, can be reached by asphalt road in 2 hours. There are more hotels, restaurants, and clubs than in Playas. Sailing and boating facilities are good. There are good beaches along the coast to the north, and a modern hotel nearby on the south coast. Salinas offers some of the best sport fishing (marlin and sailfish) in the world. Charters are expensive, but many fishing enthusiasts find it reasonable to go in groups. Good snorkeling is found among the coral formations in bays north of Salinas.

Over a long weekend, an excursion to the mountains becomes practical and offers a pleasant change in both climate and culture. The nearest city in the Sierra is Cuenca, about a 4 or 5 hour drive from Guayaquil. The road is subject to occasional landslides (especially during the rainy season) and fog banks, but the trip offers spectacular views. The train trip to Quito was a widely known tourist attraction, but service was suspended in early 1983 due to floods, and it is uncertain if service will ever be resumed.


Guayaquil has many movie theaters, some air-conditioned, that show fairly recent movies in English, with Spanish subtitles. Films considered to be for children however will be dubbed in Spanish without English subtitles. Concerts and plays are occasionally given by traveling American, Asian, or European groups. A Bi-National Center (Centeo Ecuatoriano-Norte Americano), has an air-conditioned auditorium for public gatherings and cultural presentations, and a lending library with more than 4,000 volumes. Its small membership fee offers access to special programs, including movies, speakers, courses, and other activities. The Guayaquil Players, an English-language amateur theater group, stages productions two or three times a year.

Small but good collections of archeological antiquities are located in the Casa de la Cultura, the Municipal Museum, and the Museum of the Banco del Pacifico. Several small art galleries have weekly exhibits of artists from Ecuador and other Latin American countries.

Guayaquil's Independence Day, October 9th, is the most important local holiday. Indigenous festivals and markets can be seen all year by driving into the Andes. Horse races with pari-mutuel betting are held on Sundays throughout the year. Polo games and soccer games are held in season. Several hotels operate casinos. Bullfights are held twice a year.

Social Activities

About 2,500 U.S. citizens live in Guayaquil, providing a good opportunity for socializing with other Americans. The International Society has monthly dinners and several dances during the year. Numerous opportunities exist to meet and work with Ecuadorians and foreign nationals. The American-British Club is now the ABC International Women's Club. Many Ecuadorians have attended schools in the U.S. and welcome association with Americans. Guayaquileños are especially open and hospitable.


Cuenca, capital of Azuay Province in south-central Ecuador, is in one of the richest agricultural basins of the Ecuadorean Andes. A city with a population of 195,000 (1995 est.), it is approximately 68 miles southeast of Guayaquil and, because of its good rail and road connections, is the commercial center of southern Ecuador. One of its leading industries is the manufacture of Panama hats, made from the leaf of the toquilla palm which is brought to Cuenca from the coast. Other industries include tanning, sawmilling, flour milling, and paper milling. The city is also known for its artisan work and handwoven rugs and woolens.

Cuenca was founded by the Spanish in 1557 on the site of a native town called Tumibamba. It has been a Roman Catholic bishopric for more than 200 years. The churches and many other old buildings reflect the early Spanish influence in the area, and open-air flower and vegetable markets add to the charm of the older parts of the city. During its "festival days," there are beautiful fireworks displays, and dancing in the streets far into the night.

Cuenca has two universities, one public and one administered by the Catholic Church. The former, founded in 1867, has a student body of 20,000. About 3,000 students attend the latter.

Several good restaurants attract visitors, and a wide variety of entertainment is available. The city has two fine museums, the Provincial Archaeological and the Spanish Abstract Art Museum. The Ecuadoreans in Cuenca, as in other cities, are friendly and hospitable. Many speak English, but a knowledge of Spanish presents more opportunities to meet and socialize with the local population.


AMBATO , capital of Tungurahua Province in central Ecuador, has a population of close to 111,500. It is about 50 miles south of the capital, on the Río Ambato, near Mt. Chimborazo. Due to its location, Ambato is susceptible to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Much of the city was destroyed during an earthquake in 1949. The city's historic landmarks include the mausoleum of Juan Montalvo, the noted 19th-century essayist, and a Renaissance cathedral. Along with sugarcane plantations, Ambato is known for its fresh fruits. Industries include tanning, leatherworks, food processing, and textile milling. Ambato is located on the Pan-American Highway and on the Guayaquil-Quito Railway. Miraflores, a suburb of Ambato, is a lush resort for the upper classes of Guayaquil.

The capital of Cañar Province, AZOGUES is located in south-central Ecuador, in a high Andean valley. Situated on the Pan-American Highway less than 20 miles north of Cuenca, Azogues has an estimated population of 13,840. The economy is based on agricultural products such as grains and fruit. Industries in the city include leather tanning and flour milling. The city's name comes from the Spanish word "azogue" which means "mercury." Mercury is a local resource, along with silver and copper.

BABAHOYO , capital of Los Ríos Province, is located in west-central Ecuador, less than 25 miles north of Guayaquil. On the southern shore of Río Babahoyo, the city is a trade center for the surrounding agricultural region. Sugarcane, rice, and fruits are grown. There is a government-owned distillery making alcohol, ether, and perfume. A technical university was opened here in 1971. The city has an estimated population of 43,000.

As the capital and major seaport of Esmeraldas Province, the city of ESMERALDAS is the chief trading center for the region. Located about 85 miles northwest of the nation's capital, Esmeraldas lies on the Pacific coast. The city is not strong industrially, but an oil refinery was completed in 1977 and new oil port facilities were opened in 1979. Its main exports are timber and bananas. Tourism has increased because of the addition of seaside resort accommodations, a pleasant climate, and a good highway to Quito. A technical university was opened here in 1970. The population in Esmeraldas is estimated at 131,000.

GUARANDA , capital of Bolívar Province, has an estimated population of 14,100. It is situated on a head-stream of the Río Chimbo in the Cordillera de Guaranda of the Andes. Less than 50 miles north of Guayaquil and about 75 miles south of Quito, Guaranda is an agricultural center trading corn, chincona, wheat, and timber. The city was an important transshipment point before the opening of Guayaquil-Quito Railway in 1908. Guaranda is linked by highway with the cities of Quito and Riobamba.

LATACUNGA , with a population close to 34,000, is the capital of Cotopaxi Province in north-central Ecuador. Located in an Andean basin on the upper Río Patate, the city is situated at an elevation of 9,055 feet. A pre-colonial city, Latacunga was favored by Incan royalty because of its hot springs. The city has been damaged by volcanic eruptions and subsequent earthquakes and, as a result, had to be rebuilt in 1797. Industrial activities include pottery, furniture manufacturing, and flour milling.

Located in south-central Ecuador, LOJA , capital of Loja Province, is situated on a small plain at the foot of the Cordillera de Zamora of the Andes. The city was founded in 1553 and has since been totally rebuilt as a result of an earthquake. Trade here is typical of the region (sugarcane, cereals, coffee, and cinchona). Industries include tanning and textile weaving, and the manufacture of light consumer goods. Loja has many beautiful marble buildings. Loja is on the Pan-American Highway and is an air link to principal Ecuadorean cities. The seat of a Roman Catholic diocese, the National University of Loja, and a technical university are all located in the city.

Founded in 1535 by Spanish colonists, PORTOVIEJO is situated in the Pacific lowlands of western Ecuador. The city is about 100 miles west of Quito, on the eastern bank of the Río Portoviejo. Formerly located on the coast, Portoviejo was moved inland because of Indian attacks. With an estimated population of 122,000, the city is an agricultural and lumbering center; products include cotton, coffee, cacao, and sugarcane. Light industries here include the manufacture of Panama baskets, hammocks, and hats. Portoviejo has been the seat of a bishopric since 1871; a technical university was opened in 1952. There are air and road routes connecting the city with Quito.

At an altitude of about 9,000 feet, RIOBAMBA , capital of Chimborazo Province, is situated in the central highlands of Ecuador. It is about 75 miles east of Guayaquil and the is the headquarters of the Guayaquil-Quito Railway. The city dates from pre-Inca and Inca times; it was settled by the Spanish in 1534, 12 miles south of its present location. Because of a landslide in 1797, Riobamba was moved to its present site near the Riobamba River. In 1830, the first Ecuadorian constitutional congress met at Riobamba and proclaimed the republic. Industries include carpets, textiles, cement, and cotton. Riobamba is known for its native artifacts. The city has a weekly fair that attracts Indians from the surrounding countryside. Many fine products can be purchased here. The population is about 81,000.

TULCÁN , with a population of nearly 34,000, is the capital of Carchi Province, in the northern tip of central Ecuador bordering Colombia. The city was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1923 and has since been rebuilt. Quito is about 75 miles to the southwest. Nearby sites include the natural bridge of Rumichaca over the Río Carchi and, in Colombia, only a few miles northeast, the shrine of Nuestra Señora de Las Lajas. Situated in a rich agricultural region, Tulcán processes sugarcane, coffee, cereals, and is known for its dairy products. The Pan-American Highway runs through the city.


Geography and Climate

Ecuador straddles the Equator, its namesake, on the west coast of South America, almost 3,000 miles due south of Washington, DC. It is roughly the size of Colorado. Two north-south ranges of the Andes Mountains divide the country into three distinct sections: the Costa, a belt of tropical lowlands 10-100 miles wide along the Pacific coast, where Guayaquil, the major city, is located; the Sierra, where Quito is located, is a highland plateau 3,000-10,000 feet high; and the Oriente, which are the jungle lowlands east of the Andes that make up about half of the country's area. In addition, the Galapagos Islands (Archipelago de Colon) lie 640 miles off the coast. The nine main islands are inhabited by some 15,000 people and an amazing variety of wildlife that has fascinated scientists ever since Charles Darwin visited there in 1836.

Ecuador claims an additional 100,000 square miles of territory in the Oriente, an area which includes navigable tributaries of the Amazon River. This territory was lost to Peru under the 1942 Rio Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries, a fact which the Ecuadorian people and Government have never fully accepted. The national motto proclaims, "Ecuador was, is, and will be an Amazonian nation." Revising the treaty is one of the government's foremost foreign policy objectives. Efforts to settle the dispute have been unsuccessful because of strong nationalistic feelings in both countries. In 1995 an undeclared war took effect between Peru and Ecuador along the disputed southern border. Since 1995 the guarantors (U.S., Brazil, Chile and Argentina) have been very active in assisting Ecuador and Peru to resolve their differences.

Most of Ecuador is covered by equatorial forests. The rest consists of cultivated agricultural areas, some arid scrubland near the coast, and barren mountain ranges with 22 peaks over 14,000 feet high. These peaks include Chimborazo (20,561 ft.) and Cotopaxi, which is the second highest active volcano in the world (19,347 ft.). The spectacular array of snow capped volcanoes stretching north and south of Quito has been called the "Avenue of Volcanoes", and on a clear day the view from an airplane is breathtaking. On the Pacific slope the principal rivers are the Esmeraldas and the Guayas. Eastern Ecuador is part of the Amazon watershed. Its principal rivers are the Napo and Pastaza Rivers. None of the Amazon tributaries in Ecuador are navigable by oceangoing vessels.

Because of variations in altitude, Ecuador has a variety of climates. The lowland-are generally hot and humid Temperatures on the coast are moderated by the Humboldt Current to a range of 65° to 90°E Temperatures in the Sierra are generally cool, ranging from 35° to 75°E Due to the altitude and thin air, temperature in direct sunlight can reach 85°F at midday. In the evenings it can range from pleasantly cool to very chilly. The tallest mountains are always syncopated, but it never snows in the inhabited altitudes, although it hails occasionally. During the Sierra dry season, from June through September, gusty winds are common.

In Quito the temperature pattern rarely changes from day to day or month to month. Mornings are cool and crisp, and midday is agreeably warm unless skies are overcast. Fog and mist may occur in the mornings or evenings as low-lying clouds spill over the sides of the valley. Since Quito is such a short distance from the Equator, sunrise and sunset vary only slightly from 6 am and 6 pm. Average annual rainfall in Quito is 50 inches, with 43 inches falling from October through May, and 7 inches from June through September. Relative humidity averages 75%. Occasional tremors are registered in the area, these may or may not be perceptible to residents. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are infrequent but do remain a possibility.


Ecuador's population is 11,937,000; it is estimated that the population is 40% mestizo, 40% Indian, 10% white, 5% black, and 5% Asian and others. About half of the population lives on the Coast, where the principal group is mestizo. The average annual population growth rate is currently 2.3%. The term "mestizo" has a cultural significance in the Sierra; it is not simply a mixture of blood. An Indian who leaves his or her community, abandoning traditional dress, tribal ties, and native language, loses his or her Indian identity and is called a "mestizo."

Spanish is the official language, but Quichua, the language of the Incas, is still spoken by Indians constituting about one-third of the inhabitants. In the Oriente, several indigenous languages and dialects survive; some having no identifiable link with any recognized language families.

Internal migrations are occurring from the highlands to the coastal area, and from the countryside to the cities. Today the population is divided about equally between the mountainous central highland region and the coastal lowlands. The urban segment of the population is about 55%.

Most of the population is Roman Catholic, though Protestant missionaries have been active in the country since the turn of the century. Religious freedom is observed.

Primary education is compulsory, and an estimated 85% of the population is literate. Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries have worked with indigenous peoples of the Oriente in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. Public university education is free, and there is an open admissions policy. Public and private university enrollment is large, although many students do not complete their degrees.


Perhaps 50 independent pre Columbian cultures flourished along the coast, in the Sierra, and in the Rio Napo Region before the Incas Conquered what is now Ecuador. Ceramics found in Valdivia date from 3200 B.C., are among the oldest found in South America. Archeologists have discovered rich gold works, ceramics, weavings, and mummies in several important sites. Around the year 1200, two important nations emerged: the Caras on the coast, and the Quitus in the Andes. These merged to form the Shyris nation, which was conquered by the Incas in the 15th century.

The Inca sovereign Huayna Capac consolidated his rule over the area in the early 1500s, just a few years before the first Spaniards landed on the shores of Ecuador. After seizing the treasures at Atacames on his first expedition along the coast from his base in Panama, Francisco Pizarro returned in 1532 to conquer the Inca kingdom, by then weakened by civil war. The last Inca king, Atahualpa, was held prisoner for ransom and then killed by Pizarro.

A long period of warfare against the native population followed and the Spanish conquest destroyed all but a few of the Inca fortresses and temples. Quito was not subdued until Sebastian de Benalcazar took possession of the area, establishing San Francisco de Quito on December 6, 1534, on the site of the ancient Quitu capital. Guayaquil was founded a year later. Gonzalo Pizarro was named governor of the colony in 1540 and organized an expedition in Quito which resulted in the discovery of the Amazon River by Francisco de Orellana. In 1563 Quito was made a Royal Audiencia, first as part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, and then the Viceroyalty of New Granada, after 1718. Exploration, colonization and religious conversion of the Indians continued for almost three centuries, until independence in 1822. The first schools were established by the religious orders of the Catholic Church. So many monasteries and sumptuous churches were built in Quito that it became known as "The Cloister of America." The combination of Spanish art and Indian handicraft led to a unique production of sculpture and painting in what is known as the Quiteño School of Colonial Art, with many extraordinary native artists, such as Caspicara, Goribar, and Miguel de Santiago.

Land which had been taken from the aborigines was granted to the religious communities and to the Spaniards who had served their king. During the 17th and 18th centuries African slave labor was brought from the Caribbean to work the new plantations and agriculture flourished. The colonial economy rested on three institutions: the encomienda (a system of serfdom), the mita (forced Indian labor in mines and public works), and the obraje (forced labor in textile factories). While the land belonged to the Spanish crown legally, the encomienda was the cession of land and people to the privileged. The Indians were supposed to receive the care of the patron and be instructed in the Catholic faith, in exchange for personal services. The native population suffered greatly under this system.

A number of European scientists visited Ecuador in the 18th century: Charles de La Condamine of France headed a geodetic mission to confirm measurements of the equator, and Alexander Von Humboldt made significant discoveries in natural science. Intellectual societies flourished in the capital and became centers of liberal political thought.

Eugenio Espejo preached independence and influenced many wealthy merchants and nobles who resented Spanish oppression, taxation, and trade restrictions. In 1809 a group of citizens overthrew the Royal Audiencia, but Spanish rule was restored within 3 months. In 1820 Guayaquil again declared independence, and soon after Simon Bolivar sent Antonio Jose de Sucre into Ecuador to lead a decisive campaign against the Spaniards. Sucre won a great victory in a fierce battle on the slopes of Mount Pichincha overlooking Quito in 1822, liberating Ecuador and uniting it with the Federation of Greater Colombia.

The Republic of Ecuador began its separate existence in 1830, and Juan Jose Flores was elected the first President. The constitution established a presidential system of government, with a division of powers among the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches. The new government was beset from the beginning by personal and sectional rivalries between the Coast and the Sierra. For many years political power alternated between the Liberal and Conservative Parties.

In the 19th century, political conditions were unstable, and during the first 95 years of its independence, Ecuador had a succession of 40 presidents, dictators, and juntas. In 1851 slavery was abolished, 60,000 Negroes were freed, and tribute payments by the Indians were abolished. In 1860, 15 years of authoritarian rule by President Gabriel Garcia Moreno began. After his assassination in 1875 on the steps of the Presidential Palace, a period of liberal constitutional development followed. The greatest figure of this era was Eloy Alfaro, who completed the Guayaquil-Quito Railway and created the Public Health Service. Under his leadership new constitutions removed religious qualifications for citizenship, reestablished freedom of worship, confiscated Church estates, and secularized government education.

In the early 20th century, there was political unrest and economic distress following World War I. From 1925 until 1948, the country went through an even more troubled period, with 22 Chiefs of State. Twelve years of relative stability followed. Galo Plaza Lasso (former Secretary-General of the Organization of American States) was elected President in free elections in 1948 and was succeeded by Dr. Jose M. Velasco Ibarra who completed his presidential term, and in turn was succeeded by Dr. Camilo Ponce E., who also completed his presidential term. The next elected President was again Dr. Jose M. Velasco Ibarra, who did not complete his presidential term because he was overthrown by a military junta. Dr. Jose M. Velasco Ibarra was elected President on 5 occasions. After almost 2 decades under military governments, a constitutional government was elected, led by Dr. Jaime Roldos A., who died in an airplane accident in 1982 and was succeeded by his Vice-President Dr. Osvaldo Hurtado L. In 1984 there was an orderly transition from one democratically elected government to another when President Leon Febres Cordero took office. He, in turn, relinquished power to democratically elected Dr. Rodrigo Borja C. 1988-1992. Sixto Durán-Ballén was President for the period from 1992 to 1996. Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz was elected President in 1996 for a period of 4 years, however, his presidency was revoked in February 1997. Fabian Alarcón (February 1997-August 1998) is the current interim president elected by Congress and further reconfirmed by popular consultation in May 1997. New elections will be held in 1998.

Public Institutions

Dr. Fabian Alarcón, Ecuador's sixth President since the return of democracy in 1979, was elected by Congress in 1997, after nation-wide popular protests forced President Abdala Bucaram to step down. Bucaram, who served 6 months in office, was widely viewed as Ecuador's most corrupt President in recent history. He fled to Panama to avoid prosecution. Alarcón was elected to serve as interim president until new elections are held in 1998.

President Alarcón was a compromise candidate from a small center-left party, the Radical Alfarista Front (FRA), who drew support from the larger center-left and center-right parties in Congress for his Presidency. He was elected by Congress to correct the corruption of the Bucaram government and to lay the ground work for a Constituent Assembly to overhaul the state. His party has grown from 3 to 12 deputies in Congress since he took office and he has managed to build a coalition with the larger parties from the right and the left supporting his reform agenda.

The Ecuadorian constitution provides for a separation of powers between executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. With 14 formally registered political parties and a free press, Ecuador has a lively and open political environment. In the 1998 national elections, a new President, Vice President, and Provincial and Municipal Officials will be elected to serve 4-year terms. In addition, of the 82 members of the unicameral legislature, 12 will be elected at-large for 4-year terms ("National Deputies") and the remaining 70 will be elected by province for 2-year terms ("Provincial Deputies"). Following a 1997 constitutional reform, the 31 members of the Supreme Court are selected by the Congress from lists submitted by various social and professional organizations.

Ecuador's human rights record is generally good, although problems, principally involving abuse of authority and an ineffective judiciary, continue to exist.

Arts, Science, and Education

Quito's artistic tradition continued through the Republican era and flourishes today. Masters such as Oswaldo Guayasamin, Eduardo Kingman, and Oswaldo Viteri are joined by a younger generation that is gaining international fame. Marcelo Aguirre, one of these young painters, won the world's largest prize, the $250,000 Marco prize from Mexico, in 1995. Galleries such as La Galeria and Art Forum in Quito and Expresiones in Guayaquil spotlight the best in contemporary art.

The National Dance Company performs modern ballet and groups such as Humanizarte focus on indigenous dance forms. The National Symphony performs weekly concerts throughout Quito and elsewhere in the country. There are also a number of classical concerts offered by the Philharmonic Society and several chamber music groups. Private clubs and restaurants showcase traditional Andean music, Latin pop, and even jazz.

Traditional arts and crafts are very much alive. Indian wool weavings and rugs woven in Inca designs have been successfully commercialized and are sold in the world famous market city of Otavalo, which is located about 2 hours outside of Quito. The city of Cotacachi, near Otavalo, is known for its leather goods, and San Antonio de Ibarra, just a few miles north, is a center for wood carving. The city of Cuenca has a wide variety of art forms, including sophisticated ceramics and the famous "Panama Hats." Tigua, a small town near Latacunga, is famous for native paintings produced on stretched cowhides and furniture. A number of Indian communities combine colorful art forms with religious celebrations.

The government and a number of private organizations are working to preserve Ecuador's historic, archeological, and architectural heritage. Colonial Quito has been declared a "world cultural heritage site" city by UNESCO. Dozens of sites in Quito's historic center have been or are being restored. The Quito electric trolley system was built in an attempt to reduce the pollution and vibration that was harming many of the architectural treasures.

The Central Bank has long been a major player in the cultural world. The Central Bank's museums throughout the country showcase the artistic and archeological treasures of Ecuador. Perhaps the premier museum in Quito is the Central Bank museum at the Casa de la Cultura. The museum combines a large collection of pre-Columbian ceramics and gold with a historical review of Ecuadorian sculpture, painting, and furniture. The Guayasamin Foundation in the north part of the city pays homage to the work of Ecuador's best known painter. A major Quito city museum is due to be inaugurated, in the converted 16th century San Juan de Dios Hospital, sometime in 1998.

The Ecuadorian universities have lost much of their prestige over the past 25 years. Some 32 universities are recognized as "official" by the government. The two largest universities, the Central University in Quito and the University of Guayaquil, have launched reform projects, but it will take time for them to recoup the reputation for excellence they enjoyed 40 years ago. Most research takes place at the two technological universities, the ESPOL in Guayaquil and the National Polytechnic School in Quito. The Catholic University of Ecuador in Quito attracts some 200 U.S. students per year to study Spanish, while San Francisco University, founded just 7 years ago, has developed the nation's most impressive university campus in nearby Cumbaya while offering a 4-year liberal arts education similar to U.S. schools.

Ecuador's scientific community is small, however there is much work being done in biodiversity and other environmental areas. Researchers from around the world have come to Ecuador due to one of the richest environments on the globe. The Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos National Park is the center for studies of the islands. It receives funds from the Ecuadorian Government as well as international organizations for its activities. New research stations opened by Catholic University and San Francisco University in the Amazon basin are providing Ecuadorian and foreign scientists with the infrastructure to carry out projects there.

An increase in scientific activity is underway in Ecuador. The National Atomic Energy Commission is doing more extensive research with radio-isotopes, particularly in medicine and agriculture. Several experimental agricultural stations are active. The Central University and the National Polytechnic School have research labs. Other research is being conducted in cancer, pharmaceuticals, astronomy, and linguistics fields.

Commerce and Industry

Ecuador is largely an agricultural country and enjoys abundant, relatively unexploited, natural resources. Both the coastal and highland regions are rich agricultural areas. The Sierra (high-land) Region largely produces traditional consumption crops, but has excellent potential fox export crops including flowers and vegetables. The coastal lowland produces mainly export crops, principally bananas, shrimp, coffee, and cocoa, as well as rice and sugarcane.

The main agricultural commodities accounted for approximately 43% of exports in 1995. Ecuador currently produces about 390,000 barrels per day of crude oil, about two-thirds of which are exported, accounting for 35% of total exports. Most of the oil is produced by state-owned Petroecuador, though foreign investors are conducting some exploration and development activities. Ecuador also appears to have extensive, underdeveloped mining potential, especially for gold. Ecuador's industrial sector produces largely for a domestic market which until recently has been heavily protected. Trade policy has been substantially liberalized in recent years, with current tariffs ranging from 5-20% and few nontariff barriers in place. Manufactured goods accounted for 20% of exports in 1995.

Economic growth in Ecuador has been uneven, influenced by international economic developments and natural disasters which have affected its petroleum and agricultural exports. Following a booming economy in the 1970s, which was driven by high petroleum prices, the 1980s was a decade of stagnation, as the debt crisis, inadequate domestic adjustment, and a volatile international oil market combined to thwart economic growth. Although economic growth has picked up in this decade, employment growth has been limited, and there is widespread agreement on the need for major structural reforms to revive economic growth. The economy grew by a rate of 2% in 1996, with inflation running at 31%. Open unemployment is around 7% and the informal sector employs over 40% of the urban workforce.

The Durán-Ballén government of 1992-1996 took a number of important steps to revitalize and restructure the economy. A major macroeconomics adjustment program was introduced, as were several important structural reform measures, including a budget reform law, liberalized investment regulations, a new capital markets law, hydrocarbons reform, customs and tax reforms, new agrarian law, and a telecommunications privatization law. The government also reached an agreement with commercial banks on debt restructuring.

Economic reform stalled under the subsequent 6-month government of Abdalá Bucaram (August 1996-February 1997) which was characterized by increased corruption and decreased investment. The current interim government of Fabian Alarcón (February 1997-August 1998) is faced with a number of challenges including implementing the Durán-Ballén era reforms, privatizing the state-owned telephone company, cutting the inflation rate to international levels and increasing social investment.



City streets and principal intercity highways are reasonably well maintained. Many types of vehicles are used in Ecuador, from the smallest four-cylinder cars to the largest and most powerful luxury sedans. Automatic transmissions present no problems, except for replacement parts. Low-slung cars have problems when exploring remote areas. Heavy-duty shocks and suspensions are recommended. High road clearance and maneuverability are essential for this type of travel, and a good range of gears, heavy-duty tires, springs, shock absorbers, and a roll bar are recommended. An oversized radiator is a desirable safety feature. Four-wheel-drive vehicles, while expensive to rent, may be rented locally for recreational use or while waiting for your vehicle to arrive. Bring a new car or one in good condition. People who will not be traveling to remote areas will find a sedan or minivan to be an adequate means of transportation.

Unleaded gasoline is now readily available in Ecuador in two versions. The better quality is the "Super" gasoline which costs the equivalent of $1.35 per gallon. The lesser expensive "Eco" which costs the equivalent of $1.20, a low-octane regular leaded gasoline is also available for $1.10.

Most city streets are paved, although they are not always in good condition. Smaller towns usually have cobblestone or dirt streets. Travel by automobile can be slow, hard, and dangerous given the high number of unskilled drivers; some roads outside the cities are in poor condition and are very winding with steep drop-offs. The main roads are the north-south Pan American Highway that runs through Quito, the Quito-Guayaquil Road via Santo Domingo, and the Quito-Esmeraldas Road.


Regular intercity bus service is available. Principal cities have numerous city buses. These are inexpensive, costing about $.05, but they are crowded and often in need of repair. The city of Quito is now served by an electric trolley system running from the southern to the northern areas of the city and vice versa, the cost is about $.25. Taxis are plentiful and the fares are reasonable. You can hail a taxi on the street or telephone to request one. If the taxi does not have a meter, negotiate the fare before beginning the trip. Taxis are difficult to find on the street, after 10:00 p.m. or when it is raining in Quito, but you can always request a taxi by phone.


American Airlines, SAETA and Ecuatoriana Airlines offer regular service to Quito and Guayaquil from Miami, with at least one flight daily. Continental provides daily service from Houston via Panama. There are several flights weekly to New York and also direct flights via Mexico or Miami to Los Angeles. Make your reservations well in advance of your trip, since all of these flights are crowded. Most are fully booked weeks in advance.

Mariscal Sucre is Quito's international airport. Ecuador has two international airlines (Ecuatoriana and Saeta) and three domestic airlines (SAETA, SAN, and TAME). Guayaquil is 30-45 minutes by air from Quito, depending on the aircraft. Scheduled flights are also available to Esmeraldas, Cuenca, Lago Agrio, Coca, Loja, Manta, Machala, Tulcan, Portoviejo, Macas, and the Galapagos. The one-way fare from Quito to any continental Ecuadorian city is between $40 and $80.

Currently a round-trip flight from the capital to the Galapagos Islands costs about $390 for persons who are not permanent residents of Ecuador.


Telephone and Telegraph

The per minute rate for calls to the U.S. is currently approximately $1.10. You may want to research companies and rates for current programs and services before arrival in Ecuador. Companies such as AT&T, Sprint, and MCI all offer service in Ecuador. There is no time period with reduced rates. Most phones are touch tone and direct dial to the U.S. is readily available. Calls placed from the U.S. to Ecuador are considerably less expensive than those placed from Ecuador. Cellular phones have also become very popular within the country and sometimes are more reliable than the regular phone system. Phones purchased in the United States may not be able to be programmed for use within Ecuador, or it may cost up to U.S. $100.00 to program them. The price of cellular telephones and service is slightly higher than in the U.S.; you will need to check with the local companies for pricing and service information.


International airmail is expensive and not very dependable. Packages arriving by international parcel post and unaccompanied air-freight will be inspected and charged a duty.

Radio and TV

Quito has a wide range of AM radio stations presenting primarily Latin American and American popular music. Good FM radio stations operate here with most broadcasting in stereo. The FM service of HCJB, a missionary-run broadcasting organization, features light classical music and offers nightly news broadcasts in English. Short-wave reception is usually good. Both Voice of America and BBC can be received clearly. HAM radio operators should bring their own equipment, since the Ecuadorian Government issues licenses to those with a valid American license.

Quito and Guayaquil are served by a cable TV service that provides 50 channels, about one-fourth in English from the U.S. These vary as stations are added and dropped, but generally the three networks (ABC, NBC, CBS), Discovery, Fox, Warner Brothers, CNN, ESPN and a few rerun stations are available.

The cost for full service is about $35 monthly. Local stations broadcast in Spanish and include shows from all over Latin America, dubbed versions of many U.S. series and a variety of motion pictures.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Quito has two independent morning newspapers, El Comercio and Hoy, and two afternoon papers, Ultimas Noticias and La Hora. Newspapers from Guayaquil, such as El Universo and El Telegrafo, are also sold in Quito. Newspapers are sold on the streets and in neighborhood stores and can be delivered to the home.

The Latin American edition of the Miami Herald is printed daily in Quito, using a direct satellite link and is currently available by subscription for around $400 per year.

The Latin American editions of Time and Newsweek magazines are available weekly at about $2.25 per copy and $75.00 per year by subscription. Other popular magazines from the U.S., France, Spain, and Germany are also available. The BiNational Centers in Guayaquil and Cuenca subscribe to numerous English-language periodicals and have libraries with fiction and non-fiction English-language books. The Damas Norteamericanas y Britanicas' Club operates a small rental library. AERA has a circulating library of bestsellers in fiction and non-fiction which is renewed regularly from the U.S., the cost of membership is $15 per year. Major hotels carry some paperback books. Several bookstores have limited stocks of books in English, but they are expensive.

Recordings of U.S. and European popular music are increasingly available. Those produced under license in Ecuador are relatively inexpensive (about $5), but imported recordings are costly. Selections of classical music are limited; recordings of Ecuadorian and Latin American popular and folk music are abundant, inexpensive, and of relatively good quality.

There are several video clubs, including the U.S. chain "Blockbusters," offering a wide variety of VHS tapes comparable to what would be found in the U.S. New movies take a significantly longer time to become available here than in the U.S.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

There are several good hospitals for medical care and hospitalization. Many Ecuadorian physicians and dentists are trained in the U.S. or Europe and hospitals meet American standards. Though the local physicians and facilities are good, there are occasions that individuals are evacuated to Miami, Florida for medical treatment.

Quito has good dentists and orthodontists. Hygiene and quality of work is similar to the United States. Maj or dental problems such as root canal and crowns can be adequately accommodated here. Eye examinations and glasses are readily available in Quito. Contact lenses can also be fitted, though at a higher cost than in the U.S. German and American contact solutions are available on the local market, but are also at a higher cost. It would be best to bring your own supplies if you prefer a specific brand. Contact lenses can be difficult to use due to the altitude and dryness of the climate. Bring a pair of prescription glasses as a backup. Most people find that the altitude and ultra-violet sun rays make sunglasses necessary. The sunlight is bright and sunglasses reduce the eye glare. Good dark sunglasses are difficult to find in Quito, bring a couple of pairs.

The local market does carry most of the medications available in the United States, but the availability at local pharmacies vary from month to month.

Local medical facilities are less adequate than Quito. Well trained physicians are available for consultation. The Clinica Kennedy is a small private hospital. Dental facilities are limited.

Due to the high humidity and temperature in Guayaquil, bring insect repellent and insecticides. Due to the risk of contracting malaria, insect repellent should be used when outside in the evenings. Insects are a problem in the homes, and U.S. brand insecticides (or bug sprays) are more effective in controlling their numbers. Antiseptic and antibiotic ointments are useful in prevention of bacterial skin infections.

Community Health

Quito and Guayaquil have central sewage systems, and garbage is collected regularly in most neighborhoods. However, sanitation facilities and public health controls are well below U.S. standards. Since the water system is subject to leaks and corrosion in the pipes, tap water is not safe.

Tap water should be boiled for 20 minutes.

The altitude can be a problem in Quito. During the first couple of days, most people experience some minor discomforts associated with the altitude. These symptoms include shortness of breath, upset stomach, headaches, difficulty sleeping (including sleeping more than normal), dizziness, and loss of energy. After a period of adjustment, most individuals have no difficulty with the altitude. Colds and respiratory infections do require a longer convalescent period than at sea level.

Because of the thinness of the air and closer proximity to the sun, the equatorial sun is very intense. Skin irritation and sunburn can occur with short exposure to the sun. Use tanning products and sunscreens when outdoors. Bring a supply of sunblock with an SPF level of at least 8 but preferably higher. A wide assortment of brimmed hats can be bought locally, including the "Panama" hats (which are actually made in Ecuador).

Preventive Measures

Numerous diseases are endemic to Ecuador including cholera and rabies. Among the most common problems within the American community are intestinal parasites, hepatitis, viral infections and colds. Malaria is a problem below 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) in all areas of Ecuador, with the exception of the Galapagos Islands. Antimalarial medication should be taken by all persons living in or traveling to malaria areas including Guayaquil. Chloroquine-resistant malaria has been reported in parts of Ecuador, but neither Quito or Guayaquil are in these areas.

Vaccinations are a strong line of defense against diseases and illnesses while living in Ecuador. Yellow Fever injections are strongly recommended for Ecuador. Oral typhoid vaccine is another highly recommended vaccination for Ecuador. Hepatitis A vaccine is strongly recommended. Routine childhood immunization should be maintained including Hepatitis A and B, DPT, polio, MMR, and HIB. Tuberculosis is endemic in the country. It is advisable that immunization cards (the yellow shot cards) be reviewed in the United States before departing.

Soak fruits and vegetables in chlorine (Clorox) water for 20 minutes before being eaten raw. Wash fruits and vegetables with soap and water to remove dirt and pesticides before cooking.

Local milk is not considered to be pasteurized adequately for consumption without further boiling. Long-life milk and powdered milk can be purchased locally or in the commissary. Cheese and ice cream are processed adequately for consumption. All meat, including beef and pork, should be well done to prevent intestinal parasites. Do not eat mayonnaise based food because of risks of food poisoning. Food bought at the local supermarkets is safe and usually of good quality.

Have pre-employment medical examinations for domestic household staff members, especially if they will be cooking or caring for children. Establish strict standards for food handling and storage with your household staff.


American Airlines has daily direct flights to Quito and Guayaquil from Miami. Some flights are non-stop and others may stop en route in Panama or Bogota. Continental Airlines has daily flights from Houston and New Jersey. SAETA and Ecuatoriana also arrive daily from Miami. Bookings on all airlines should be made well in advance of travel.

Immigration officials keep the international arrival card on file and return a carbon copy with the traveler's passport. Since you will have to surrender this copy upon leaving Ecuador, staple it to the last page of your passport. If you lose it, you may face a delay of 24 hours or more in obtaining a duplicate.

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Ecuador. Tourists must also provide evidence of return or onward travel. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less. Those planning a longer visit must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Ecuador must obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the main immigration office in the capital city of Quito to obtain permission to depart. An exit tax must be paid at the airport when departing Ecuador. For further information regarding entry, exit, and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Ecuadorian Embassy at 2535 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 234-7166; Internet-; or the Ecuadorian consulate in Chicago (312) 329-0266, Houston (713) 622-1787, Jersey City (201) 985-1700, Los Angeles (323) 658-6020, Miami (305) 539-8214, New Orleans (504) 523-3229, New York (212) 808-0170, or San Francisco (415) 957-5921.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Ecuador are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of either the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil and obtain updated information on travel and security in Ecuador. The Consular Section in Quito is open for citizen services, including registration, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, excluding U.S. and Ecuadorian holidays. The Consular Section in Guayaquil is open for those services from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Tuesday through Friday, excluding U.S. and Ecuadorian holidays. The U.S. Embassy in Quito is located at the corner of Avenida 12 de Octubre and Avenida Patria (across from the Casa de la Cultura); telephone (011-593-2) 256-2890, extension 4510, during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 256-1749 for after-hours emergencies; fax (011-593-2) 256-1524; Internet web site- The Consulate General in Guayaquil is located at the corner of 9 de Octubre and Garcia Moreno (near the Hotel Oro Verde); telephone (011-593-4) 232-3570 during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 232-1152 for after-hours emergencies; fax (011-593-4) 232-0904. Consular services for U.S. citizens in the Galapagos Islands are provided by the Consulate General in Guayaquil.


Pets are generally well accepted in Ecuador and relatively easy to bring into the country. Dogs and cats should have an up-to-date health certificate certified by your veterinarian. The certificate should include name of pet, age, sex, breed, color, and an up-to-date certification of rabies vaccination. You should carry these papers with you and make at least one copy to put in the animal's cage. Please note that pets greatly limit the choices for temporary quarters upon arrival, since many of the better hotels do not allow pets.

Firearms and Ammunition

The Government of Ecuador currently imposes the following size restrictions on the importation of personal firearms:

Handguns cannot exceed 9 mm; Rifles, limited to .22 to .30 caliber; Shotguns, 10, 12, 16, 20, 28, and 410 caliber.

Private weapons will only be used for recreational purposes, such as hunting and target shooting, and not for personal protection.

All are required by Ecuadorian law to register firearms. Upon registration, individuals will receive a weapons permit issued by the Ministry of Defense. This permit entitles them to possess and carry the weapon.

Carrying firearms about the city is dangerous, provocative and, generally, ineffective for protection. U.S. citizens abroad bearing or using weapons can lead to legal and diplomatic problems.

Possession and use of any firearm must be in compliance with Ecuadorian policy. Persons who maintain weapons in their homes are urged to be cautious in the use of such weapons. All weapons should be stored in a manner to preclude accidental discharge by children or domestic employees.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The Ecuadorian unit of currency is the Sucre, designated "S/." and issued in bills of 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000. Coins are minted in denominations of 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 Sucres. After several years of relative stability on the exchange market, the Sucre has deteriorated in value against the U.S. dollar from S/120$1 in 1981 to S/11,143-$1 in August 1999.

The metric system is used for both weights and measures, although food is often measured in "libras" (pounds). The ounce and the yard may be used in commerce. In hardware stores, gauges of pipes and fittings are often listed in U.S. measurements, as well as metric.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property

Ecuador has a direct sales tax (LVA.) of 10% which is collected on sales of goods and services, except for food items. A 10% service charge (tip) is included on most restaurant bills, along with the direct sales tax of 10%. It is not necessary to tip further, although an extra 5% is always appreciated when service has been excellent. An airport tax of U.S. $25.00 is charged to all persons leaving Ecuador. A tax of 10% is charged on the purchase of airline tickets when travel originates in Ecuador.

There are no currency controls in Ecuador and the Sucre is traded freely at any of a number of banks and exchange houses. Some find local Sucre accounts useful. Citibank maintains an exchange service in the Chancery, and you may cash personal checks, purchase Sucres or Sucre checks, and buy travelers' checks. Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Diner's Club credit cards are honored in most shops and restaurants.

Disaster Preparedness Volcanos

Beginning in September 1998, the Guagua Pichincha Volcano, located just west of Quito, has exhibited a significant increase in the number of tremors and an accompanying rise in magma level. Since October 1999, there has been an intermittent series of explosions. Volcanic ash has fallen on Quito during some of the explosions, causing temporary closings of area schools and the airport. In the event of a full-scale eruption, geological experts conclude that the city of Quito is protected from possible lava flows, avalanches, and lateral explosions by the bulk of Pichincha Mountain, which stands between the city and the volcano crater. Parts of Quito could be affected by secondary mud-flows caused by heavy rains that usually accompany an eruption. The entire city could also be affected by slight to significant ash falls and resulting disruptions of water, power, communications, and transportation.

The town of Banos, a popular tourist destination located approximately 80 miles south of Quito, was evacuated in November 1999 because of the increased activity of the adjacent Tungurahua Volcano. The volcano has been ejecting significant amounts of ash and incandescent rocks. Geological experts advise that an explosive eruption could occur quickly and with little warning. The resulting pyroclastic flows would pose a significant and immediate threat to Banos and several small villages in the vicinity. Travelers are advised not to travel to Banos or the surrounding area.

The Quito City Government and the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute continue to monitor these volcanoes and issue regular reports on their activity. Travelers are advised to pay close attention to the news media in Quito for updates on the situation. Besides Guagua Pichincha and Tungurahua, other volcanoes in Ecuador may, from time to time, also exhibit increased activity. Further information about these and other volcanoes in the Western Hemisphere is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via the Internet at


Jan.1 New Year

Feb.26, 27 Carnival

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1 Labor Day

May 18 Battle of Pichincha

July 25 Founding of Guayaquil (Guayaquil only)

Aug. 10 Independence Day

Oct. 9 Independence of Guayaquil

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Nov. 2 All Souls' Day

Dec. 6 Founding of Quito (Quito only)

Dec.25 Christmas Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.

Alban, Veronica, with photographs by Jean Claude Constant. Los Andes Ecuatorianos. Macalban Editores: Guayaquil, 1976. Parallel English text.

American University Foreign Area Studies. Area Handbook for Ecuador. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC. 1976. Gives general background and covers all areas.

Anhalzer, Jorge. Through the Andes of Ecuador. Ed. Campo Abierto: Quito, 1983. Mountaineering and snowcapped peaks with beautiful photographs;

Ayala, Enrique. Resumen de la Historia del Ecuador. Corporacion Editora Nacional, 1995. A good overview of Ecuador's history in Spanish.

Blanksten, George I. Ecuador: Constitution and Caudillos. New York: Russell and Russell, 1964. A detailed study of Ecuadorian Government and politics.

Bork, Albert William, and George Maier. Historical Dictionary of Ecuador. The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1973. A panoramic view of the country from pre-Columbian days with the general political and social organization, the principal zones of archeological investigation, and similar matters of general interest presented in a dictionary format with concise informative paragraphs.

Brooks, John, ed. The South American Handbook. Trade and Travel Publications: England. Handy guide to all Latin American countries. Updated annually and fun to read.

Brooks, Rhoda and Earle. The Barrios of Manta. New American Library: New York, 1965. Written by and about Peace Corps Volunteers and conditions under which they worked in an Ecuadorian city.

Bustamante, Edgar, ed. Maravilloso Ecuador. Circulo de Lectores: Quito, 1978. Essays by contemporary Ecuadorian writers, covering the country region by region. Color photographs.

Corral, Pablo and Loup Langton. Discovering Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Imprenta Mariscal, 1994. An excellent photographic overview of the country produced by 38 international photographers.

Cueva, Juan. Ecuador. Ediciones Libri Mundi: Quito, 1980. Color photographs with captions in Spanish, French, English and German.

Eichler, Arthur. Ecuador: A Land, a People, a Culture. Ediciones Libri Mundi: Quito, 1982. A small general guidebook.

Elliot, Elizabeth. The Savage, My Kinsman. Harper and Brothers: New York, 1961. Deals with the primitive Auca tribe in the Oriente.

Fitch, John S. The Military Coup d'Etat as a Political Process: Ecuador-1966. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1977. General consideration of factors leading to coups, and specific details on post-war Ecuadorian politics.

Gartelmann, K.D. Ecuador. Imprenta Mariscal: Quito, 1975; rev. ed., 1979. Photographs. Text in Spanish, English and German.

Hassaurek, Fredrick. Four Years Among the Ecuadorians. Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale, 1967. Edited from the 1867 edition written by an American Consul in Quito: an interesting commentary on Ecuador 100 years ago.

Hickman, John. The Enchanted Islands: The Galapagos Discovered. Anthony Nelson Ltd.: England 1985. History and Science with beautiful photographs.

Histografia Ecuatoriana. Banco Central del Ecuador, Corporacion Editora Nacional: Quito, 1985.

Hurtado, Osvaldo. The Political Power in Ecuador. 2nd English ed. Westview Press: Boulder, 1985. Analysis is made by Dr. Hurtado before his election to the vice presidency in 1979 and his ascension to the presidency of Ecuador in 1981. This edition contains updated information on the period since 1979.

Inter-American Development Bank. Economic and Social Progress in Latin America. Washington, DC, 1976.

Linke, Lilo. Ecuador: Country of Contrasts. Third edition. Royal Institute of International Affairs: London, 1960. A broad study of Ecuador and an excellent basic reference.

Martz, John D. Ecuador: Conflicting Political Culture and the Quest for Progress. Allyn and Bacon: Boston, 1972. An overview of political developments in the contemporary period.

Meggers, Betty. Ecuador, Thomas and Hudson: London, 1966. An archeological study of the country and its people.

Mills, Nick. Crisis, Conflicto y Consenso: Ecuador, 1979-84. Corporacion Editora Nacional: Quito, 1984. An analysis of political relationship during the administrations of Jaime Roldos and Osvaldo Hurtado.

Oxandaberro, Roura. Ecuador: Art/Folklore and Landscape. Su Libreria: Quito, 1965.

Porras, Pedro. Arqueologia del Ecuador. 3d ed. Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador: Quito, 1984. The most up to date guide to archaeological finds in Ecuador.

Reyes, Oscar. Breve Historia General del Ecuador. 3 vols. 14th ed. Quito, 1981. A general but not brief, history of the country.

Salvat, Juan, and Eduardo Crespo, ed. Arte Contemporaneo de Ecuador, and Arte Precolombino de Ecuador. Salvat Editores Ecuatoriana S.A: Quito, 1977. Amply illustrated text treating painting, sculpture, and handicrafts.

Thomsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. University of Washington Press: Seattle, 1969. An excellent book written about the author's experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rio Verde, Ecuador.

Zendegui, Guillermo de, ed. Image of Ecuador. Organization of American States: Washington, DC, September 1972. A well-written, 24-page summary of Ecuador and its people.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Ecuador
Region: South America
Population: 12,920,092
Language(s): Spanish, Quechua
Literacy Rate: 90.1%
Number of Primary Schools: 17,367
Compulsory Schooling: 10 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.5%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,888,172
  Secondary: 814,359
  Higher: 206,541
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 127%
  Secondary: 50%
Teachers: Primary: 74,601
  Higher: 12,856
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 28:1
  Secondary: 13:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 119%
  Secondary: 50%

History & Background

In the fifteenth century, Incan invaders, having conquered the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, incorporated the land and its people as Tawantinsuyu, under then Incan ruler Huayna Capac who a quarter of a century later divided his empire between two of his sons. One of the sons, Atahualpa, received the northern portion that included Ecuador, and a civil war erupted. While the Incan brothers were fighting for control of the empire, Bartolome Ruiz, a Spanish explorer under the command of Francisco Pizarro, landed in Ecuador in 1526. By 1533 Pizarro's forces were in command of the country and had executed Atahualpa. In 1548, Gonzalo Pizarro was defeated by the forces of a subsequent royal emissary and executed for treason. This ended the era of the conquistador and started two and a half centuries of colonial rule. Colonial Ecuador was first considered a territory within the vice-royalty of Peru, but in 1563 Quito became a presidency or a judicial district of the vice-royalty with its own courts and president. In 1822, at the Battle of Pichincha, Spanish royalists were defeated by Antonio Jose de Sucre Alcala, and Quito became known as the Department of the South, which was part of the confederacy known as the Republic of Colombia, a confederation with Venezuela and Colombia. Simon Bolivar had liberated the area by the same year. Some church control of education was loosened and Bolivar attended to the establishment of schools, libraries and other educational institutions. Church run schools continued to dominate the education culture of Ecuador. 1830 saw the breakup of the confederation, and Quito became an independent state adopting the name of Ecuador. By 1861 Garcia Moreno, the father of Ecuador's Conservative party, had organized the elementary school system. The next two decades witnessed growth in the number of schools in Ecuador, the budget for education, and the number of universities. Compulsory education was also introduced.

Today Ecuador is the smallest of the Andean countries, but it has the highest average population density in South America, the highest annual rate of natural population increase (2.8 percent) over the last decade of any country in South America, and the highest percentage of Native Americans. Extending over both sides of the equator, it is bordered in the north by Colombia and in the east and south by Peru. The Galapagos Islands are a province of Ecuador. Native Americans make up 40 to 60 percent of the population. Approximately 52 percent of the population live in the coastal lowlands with an average population density of 80 persons per square kilometer. The most densely populated region is Guayas, which includes Guayaquil with 130 persons per square kilometer. The development of oilfields and agriculture over the last 25 years has resulted in a significant increase in the population of the eastern region without sufficient educational support for this new population.

The period since the late 1980s when Ecuador moved beyond the debt crisis has witnessed a number of significant improvements in macroeconomic performance, some wise decisions as to what to do with society's surpluses and stabilized inflation. The 1980s were dominated by efforts to reverse the declining GDP, to limit inflation, and to shore up the currency, although the GDP fell by .3 percent per year from 1980 to 1992, and inflation averaged 39.5 percent. Increased capital flow into Ecuador combined with some stability in the early 1990s allowed Duran Ballen's administration (1992-1994) to stabilize inflation at around 25 percent. For the next two years after his administration, positive growth of 3.3 percent occurred. Part of Ecuador's economic and political instabilities arose from the fluctuations in world market prices of its main products, oil, bananas, and shrimp. Having joined the World Trade Organization in 1996, it has failed to comply with many of its policies. Growth has been uneven due to ill-conceived and unsuccessful fiscal stabilization methods. While it had recently recovered some stability with the increase in oil prices, the aftermath of El Niño and the depressed oil market of 1997-1998 drove Ecuador's economy into a free-fall in 1999 beginning with the decline of the banking sector in the early part of that year. A 70 percent depreciation of the currency with a desperate government dolarizing it in 2000 caused that government to collapse. With the highest 10 percent of the population possessing a household income or consumption percentage share of 37.6 percent (1994) of the purchasing power parity of $54.5 billion (1999 estimate), inequalities in the education system are as inevitable as finance-driven reforms.

On 5 February 1997, between 2.5 and 3.0 million Ecuadorians, about one-quarter of the population, demonstrated in the streets against the president they had elected the previous July. While attempting systemic change, the uprising actually strengthened the military. In September 1998, President Mahuad announced the cancellation of subsidies on electricity, cooking gas, and fuel while at the same time beginning a new system of cash assistance to poor mothers. Added to these economic problems, in January and February 1995 the old border dispute with Peru flamed into open conflict in the upper Cenepa valley, although subsequent peace talks have proved successful. In August 1998, a flare-up of tension occurred again and was resolved in 1999.

The last decade of Ecuadorian politics has been filled with problems. In 1996, Abdala Bucaram, from the Guayaquil-based Roldosista Party (PRE), won the presidency on a platform that promised populist economic and social reforms and the breaking of what Bucaram termed the power of the nation's oligarchy. During his short term of office, Bucaram's administration drew criticism for corruption and Bucaram was deposed by the Congress in February 1997 on grounds of alleged mental incompetence. In his place the Congress named Interim President Fabian Alarcon, who had been President of Congress and head of the small Radical Alfarist Front party. Alarcon's interim presidency was endorsed by a May 1997 popular referendum. With the 1996 election, the indigenous population began to abandon its traditional policy of shunning the official political system and has entered the political arena as a force which will inevitably grow more powerful.

The new government leaders have attempted to deal with some of Ecuador's problems and to develop the country's potential. Ecuador passed comprehensive legislation setting forth protections for intellectual property rights in May 1998. The government has suggested plans to partially privatize some of the major state enterprises and has obtained legal authority to privatize 35 percent of the telephone service. However, two auctions of the telephone company scheduled for late 1997 and early 1998 had to be canceled due to a lack of bidders. There is substantial political opposition to privatization proposals. Since 22 January 2000, the chief of state has been President Gustavo Noboa, following a military indigenous coup that deposed President Mahuad. The last presidential election was held 31 May 1998 with a run-off election on 12 July 1998. The next officially scheduled election is 2002.

Servicing the national debt continues to be a drain on Ecuador, absorbing large portions of its foreign exchange earnings and fiscal receipts (14 percent and 45 percent). Ecuador's public foreign debt burden rose 0.25 percent to $11.2 billion in February compared with the month before. This debt is equivalent to 66.1 percent of the Andean nation's gross domestic product. Ecuador alarmed international investors in 1999 when it defaulted on part of its foreign debt. The government restructured Brady and Euro bond debt in August 2000, issuing new global bonds to reduce this debt by 40.6 percent. The Paris Club of creditor nations suspended negotiations with Ecuador over more than $300 million in debt and also over $800 million in debt agreed to in September 2000 if Ecuador does not reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund. In April 2000, Ecuador's Congress failed to approve an International Monetary Fund required tax increase. Ecuador is facing a grave economic crisis that greatly influences its plans to improve its education system.

Ecuador's diverse middle class has concentrated itself in cities and larger towns. A minute, ill-defined group during most of the country's history, its numbers grew in the twentieth century. In the late 1970s, estimates based on income indicated that roughly 20 percent of the population was middle class. Economic expansion and increase in government employment contributed both to the size of the middle class in absolute numbers and to the group's political awareness. The rise of a middle class whose interest was not like that of the rural oligarchy transformed national politics. The upper echelons of this middle class frequently identified with and emulated the elite while the lower levels often made common cause with the more prosperous segments of the working class.

The public education system is tuition free and attendance is mandatory from ages 6 to 14. In practice, however, many children drop out before age 14, and in rural areas only about one-third complete sixth grade. The government is striving to create better programs for the rural and urban poor, especially in technical and occupational training. In recent years, it has also been successful in reducing illiteracy. Literacy, according to age structure, is as follows: 0-14 years, 36.23 percent (male 2,379,541 and female 2,301,543); 15-64 years, 59.4 percent (male 3,794,515 and female 3,880,367); and 65 years and over, 4.37 percent (male 262,701 and female 301,425) (2000 estimate). Enrollment in primary schools has been increasing at an annual rate of 4.4 percent, which is faster than the population rate growth. According to the 1979 constitution, the central government must allocate at least 30 percent of its revenue to education, but in practice it allots education a much smaller percentage.

Public universities have an open admissions policy. In recent years, however, large increases in the student population, budget difficulties, and extreme politicization of the university system have led to a decline in academic standards in some areas. The central, provincial, and municipal government all contribute to the financing of education. The provincial role is generally limited primarily to the construction and furnishing of schools. The municipal government has been required to give 15 percent of their budgets to education while the central government increasingly contributed to education until the 1980s.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The law-making process in Ecuador begins when a bill is initiated by legislators or Plenary of Legislative Commissions (PCL), the president of the republic, judicial organs, or popular initiatives. A test is provided to each piece of legislation 15 days prior to debate in Congress. The proposed bill is discussed in two debates on different days. After the first debate, it may be returned to the originating commissions, which must report on new observations to modify, alter, or change it.

On 10 August 1998, Ecuador's new constitution came into effect. These constitutional changes enacted by a specially elected National Constitutional Assembly in 1998 strengthened the executive branch by eliminating midterm congressional elections and by circumscribing Congress' power to challenge cabinet ministers. To demonstrate his commitment to learning, President Mahuad chose Gustavo Noboa, Rector of the Catholic University in Guayaquil, as his Vice President. He also chose Ministers of Education who were committed to open and frank dialogue and to fixing a system that provides good education coverage, but poor and declining educational quality. He submitted a comprehensive educational reform bill to Congress and gave them 30 days to approve it into law. Although literacy is high, Ecuador is still concerned about upgrading the quality of technical training and teaching teachers and professor modern practices of teaching. Dr. Vladimiro Alvarez Grau, former minister of Education, suggested that there is too much focus on memorization and repetition and insufficient work on critical thought and analysis.

The president serves for four years and can be reelected after sitting out a term. The legislative branch is a unicameral National Congress with 121 seats. Seventy-nine members are popularly elected nationally to serve four-year terms. Forty-two members are popularly elected by province for four-year terms. Two are elected from each province. The constitution provides for concurrent four-year terms of office for the president, vice-president, and members of Congress. Presidents may be re-elected after an intervening term, while legislators may be reelected immediately. The executive branch includes 17 ministries and several cabinet-level secretariats headed by presidential appointees. The president also appoints Ecuador's provincial governors who represent the central government at the local level. Provincial prefects and councilors, like municipal mayors and aldermen, are directly elected.

Each two years legislators elect from among themselves a president and vice president of the Congress. Congress meets for two months of the year. For the remainder of the year, unless an extraordinary plenary session is called, all legislative business is transacted by the 35 members of Congress who serve on 5 permanent committees. Ecuador has a three-tiered court system. The Congress appoints justices of the Supreme Court for six year terms. The Supreme Court names the members of the superior or provincial courts, who, in turn, choose ordinary civil and penal judges.

Throughout the years, Ecuador has faced some serious reforms in education. In 1930, the National Congress of Elementary and Normal School Education generated recommendations for a curriculum that still makes the educational programs today. The Congress produced the first detailed outline of curricular content and achievement expectations at each level. By 1938, the Organic Education Law put all schools under state control, focused on education at all levels, and made way for the current administrative organization of Ecuador's educational system. The education system in Ecuador still has developing to do, particularly in the areas of teacher education, textbook writing, and the addressing of ethnic, gender, and social bias. Some say that there has already been an educational revolution in Ecuador since in the 1990s when a process of updating and rewriting textbooks, workbooks, teacher guides, and other tools to begin to eliminate ethnic, gender, and social bias began. Only time will tell if this educational reform is successful. The Ministry of Education has an educational reform in mind that would introduce new courses and train thousands of adults in crafts, agriculture, small-business management, industry, trades, and services, as well as information management systems.

Literacy is defined as those age 15 and over who can read and write. A total of 90.1 percent of the population qualified (92.0 percent male and 88.2 percent female) in 1995. With 10 internet providers in 2001 and 30,000 internet users, 15 television stations, 392 AM stations, 27 FM stations, and 29 short wave radios (1998), getting news is easier than using the telephone system, which is inadequate and unreliable. One Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) satellite earth station does make international telephone service possible though. There are approximately 748,000 telephones (1998) and 497,765 mobile cellular phones (1995).

According to the last census (1995), the following tabulation was made concerning the level of functional literacy, years of school, and consumption. Those who live in the countryside have 4.4 average years of schooling and an illiteracy rate of 17.9 while those who live in the city have an average 8.8 number of years of schooling and an illiteracy rate of 6.0. In the city 42.4 percent of the people are at or below the poverty rate, as compared to 75.9 percent in the countryside.

According to the 1979 constitution, the central government must allocate at least 30 percent of its revenue to education, although a much smaller percentage was actually allocated. The teacher's union claims that there has been a permanent reduction of the budget for education and although teachers, parents, and students successfully fought to have the new Constitution require 30 percent of the State budget be earmarked for education, currently only 2.3 percent of the budget is actually dedicated to education. The union also claims that there has been delayed payment of teachers' salaries and an elimination of benefits held in the past. Calling for an optimization of educational services, efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity, the government had one form of educational reform platform and the teacher's union had another. The 1982 law, still in effect in the university sector, was developed and passed to change the educational system and to restore democracy. The administration also developed a National Plan at this time, which privileged education in state expenditures.

Education in Ecuador has not always responded to the challenges posed by new development models because of international, economic, political, and social instability. While education is repetitively made a new priority by the newest leaders replacing failed administrations, the expertise required to adapt or create technological innovations with the ability to reason and to learn independently has not occurred in sufficiently large numbers either in the urban or rural communities of Ecuadorian citizens. Initiatives to overcome extreme poverty, child labor, urban and rural violence, and eliminate extreme social inequalities while establishing a community of informed and responsible citizens have not been completely successful. Inequitable education does not foster political tolerance or reduce violence.

Educational SystemOverview

In the nineteenth century, Ecuador's education structure was under the control of the Catholic Church. During this century various political leaders had a tremendous effect on the education system. Ecuador has had a strong history of educators. As early as 1835, Vicente Rocafuerte began to change the education system of Ecuador. A strong believer in education, he was known to say "to govern is to educate." He stated that any government that holds power as a result of elections must have an education system that provides intellectual development and training for positions in industry and commerce. The National Assembly granted Rocafuerte the power to execute his educational objectives but they also required that he do the same for the Indian masses. Rocafuerte requested the creation of Colegio Santa Maria del Socorro, an all girl school in Quito. In 1836 he furthered his cause by attempting to establish a directorate to supervise curriculum and instruction throughout Ecuador. The purpose of this agency was to deal with university and secondary education. This agency, for example, developed the University of Quito's curriculum. Since it did not cover primary education, a slow educational development resulted at that level. In 1838 Rocafuerte established educational agencies to provide regional supervision in Guayaquil, Cuenca, Marabi, Loja, Chimborazo, and Imbabura. At this time primary education consisted only of religious and moral education, reading, writing, Spanish, and weights and measurements. The secondary school program differed from school to school and its curriculum was based on a variety of subject matters.

Arguably, the most significant education reform that Ecuador has ever experienced was that of Juan Leon Mera' in the 1850s. It based educational reform on the restoration of and emphasis on Ecuadorian themes in the entire educational system. Mera showed how "national education could encourage the integration of the country and define its cultural identity" (Paladines 1997). Gabriel Garcia Moreno took over the presidency of Ecuador in 1861. He made education the Church's responsibility. Secular educators were prohibited from teaching anything that would be considered different from church doctrine. Moreno wanted to create a system of primary schools. The Christian Brothers and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart took over the primary schools for boys and girls respectively.

The secondary schools, which prepared students for the university, were to be run by the Jesuits. At this time, primary education was free and mandatory. This increased the school population to 14,731 in 1871. In 1904, the structure of secondary schools was reorganized by reducing the program from seven to six years. The liberal arts program was reduced to the first three years of the program. In the last three years of secondary school a student must either specialize in philosophy, math, or natural science. The secondary school program required students to complete the following courses: moral and religious instruction, civics, hygiene, Spanish grammar, geography of Ecuador, world geography, history of Ecuador, world history, English or French, mathematics, literature, natural sciences, cosmography, physics, chemistry, philosophy, drafting, and penmanship.

There is no doubt that the governments of Ecuador have made good efforts to extend universal education through primary school. The Ministry of Education's 1970 plan addressed retention problems at the primary level and proposed workable solutions, a restructured curriculum, and increased practicality. Truly compulsory since the constitution of 1945, primary school has had a couple of serious leaps in the number of students attending. Perhaps the greatest leap was in the 1960s when primary enrollment almost doubled, secondary enrollment almost tripled, and those attending colleges and universities grew by 500 percent.

If the constitution of 1945 made primary school attendance mandatory by law, subsequent legislation required school attendance by all youth between the ages of 6 and 12. Before the 1960s primary schools in rural areas did not necessarily have a building nor did they uniformly offer education in grades one through six. In many areas no school existed within a reasonable radius until organizations like the Peace Corps stepped in. In other areas, only grades one through three or four were taught. The tuition free public educational system is mandatory from ages 6 to 14. In practice, however, many children drop out before age 15, and, in rural areas, only about one-third complete sixth grade. The government is striving to create better programs for the rural and urban poor, especially in technical and occupational training. In recent years, it has also been successful in reducing illiteracy. Enrollment in primary school has been increasing at an annual rate of 4.4 percent, faster than the population growth rate.

Primary education begins at age 6 with the first grade and ends at age 12 with sixth grade. Secondary education consists of two three-year cycles, a basic cycle, and a diversified cycle. This latter cycle may lead to higher education. University studies last from four to seven years, depending on specialization. The age limits for compulsory education are from 6 to 14. The minimum age for entry into preprimary education is four for kindergarten and six for the first grade of primary school. Preprimary education, which is noncompulsory, is two years. Primary school is six years. The primary years are divided into two cycles of three years each, and exams are given at the conclusion of each cycle.

Based on information from Banco Central del Ecuador, enrollment levels in 1979, 1983, 1984, and 1985 were respectively as follows: In primary school, 1,427,627; 1,677,364; 1,672,068; and 1,741,967. In the secondary school first cycle for the same years, 345,569; 405,445; 438,718; and 452,262. For the secondary school second cycle for the same years, 189,876; 244,833; 267,058; and 277,368. In higher education the total in 1979 was 225,343.

In 1989 the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) signed a historic agreement with the Ministry of Education that established a national program of bilingual, bicultural education designed and managed by CONAIE and its member organizations. It claims that 45 percent of Ecuador is indigenous, yet there is only 1 indigenous member of Congress (1995). It also claims that 80 percent of the rural, mostly indigenous population lives in poverty; that indigenous farmers produce 75 percent of Ecuador's basic foods while only having 35.5 percent of the arable land; and that these people are endangered by Ecuador having the highest rate of deforestation in the Americas.

Literacy rates have changed somewhat in terms of urban males and females. In 1950, approximately 89 percent of urban males were literate while in 1982 at least 96 percent were literate. In 1950, approximately 79 percent of urban females were literate while in 1982 about 94 percent were literate. In 1962, approximately 92 percent of urban males were literate while in 1974, about 94 percent of urban males were literate. In 1962, approximately 86 percent of urban females were literate while in 1974 that percentage had risen to 89 percent. In 1950 only 51 percent of rural males were literate but by 1982 that number had climbed to 80 percent. In 1950 only 38 percent of rural females were literate but by 1982 that number had climbed to 71 percent.

Traditionally, the school year is different in the sierra and costa regions. In the sierra, schools have operated from October to July; in the costa, they operate from April or May to December or January. This arrangement has been based on both climatic and economic considerations and has led to nationwide coordination problems as well as perpetuating a divisive regionalism. A proposal for a unified school year has not only been discussed but also enacted.

One problem, particularly in rural areas, is that even though education is compulsory, all classes were in Spanish even though, in many areas, indigenous Indian groups knew only their native languages. In the 1980s there were efforts to target literacy programs to the needs of the rural population and non-Spanish speakers, but Spanish is the official language of Ecuador. Quencha, the original language of the Incas, is widely spoken in the sierra and is being pushed for recognition as an official language. It is recognized by the Ecuadorian Constitution as an important part of Ecuadorian culture, but is not yet classified as an official language. Many Quechua words have been adopted into the colloquial language, oftentimes used to describe something that does not have a Spanish translation. Many of the indigenous people are bilingual using both their native languages and Spanish.

Examinations are given in the primary years at the end of each of two cycles of three years. Secondary education consists of two three-year cycles as well and exams are given at the end of each cycle. University studies last from four to seven years, and exams are given for entrance into university programs. Historically, since teachers relied on the lecture method, students were required to take notes and memorize massive amounts of material in the classics and humanities. Each level saw as its goal the preparation of students for the next level. Therefore students who did not complete a course of study found much of the material irrelevant memorization, and the attrition rate was high. In the last few years, serious attempts to change this have occurred both at the university and government levels.

In 1946, Belasco Ibarra authorized private universities to be established in Ecuador. This permitted the founding of the Universidad Catolica del Ecuador. The Constitution of 1946 also granted public schools the right to operate freely. The Ministry of Education was instructed to make its social services available to private schools. Although less than 18 percent of the primary enrollment in Ecuador is in private schools, the percentage of enrollment in private schools increases in secondary education. The Catholic Church runs more than 88 schools. Protestant schools are increasing but still are few. Private schools are largely urban phenomena, making up less than 6 percent of the rural schools private. Over 20 private secondary schools or normal schools offer teachertraining programs to prepare students to be elementary teachers. With the economic problems of the government, much of the new growth in colleges in Ecuador has lately been in private schools. The enrollment in private schools increases with grade level; slightly less than 20 percent of primary students and more than 40 percent of secondary students attend private schools. Private education was predominantly an urban phenomenon. Approximately one-third of urban primary and secondary schools were private. With the worsening of the governmental economic emergencies, new growth of the population able to take advantage of higher education has provided opportunities for private schools and fee-based development. In the 1960s the government established a strong, centralized control over both the public and private system and allotted a high proportion of the national budget to education in an attempt to gain this control over its own school system and that of religious schools.

Another organization dedicated to helping improve education in the science and technology arena is Fundacyt. This is a private foundation, whose president is also the National Secretary of Science and Technology under the vice president of the republic. Fundacyt has very ambitious goals including funding science and technology research and sending university graduates to get their Masters and Ph.D. degrees. Only 2000 Ecuadorians living in Ecuador have Ph.D.s, as compared to 14,000 in Venezuela. Santiago Carrasco, President of Fundacyt in 1999, sees a future in areas such as biotechnology, biological engineering, and health and genetic research. As part of the arrangement, students who receive scholarships must come back to Ecuador and work in the country.

Through the 1980s textbooks and teaching aids were limited so learning had to consist mostly of memorization and rote work since the entire class would not have textbooks. Memorization, board work, and note taking often took the place of reading. Often rural children would be forced to read urban oriented books when they had them. One of several textbook-rewriting programs began in the 1960s, but it made little headway. The more recent textbook updating is clearly already more successful. In the 1990s the Ministry of Education began the gargantuan task of updating textbooks to rid them of ethnic, gender, racial, and class prejudice. One of the most successful textbook publications was a collection of articles entitled Escuela Para Todos, which in 1972 were placed in adult education centers throughout the country. Government efforts to increase access to education have been connected to textbook publication and adoption.

Both UNESCO and OEA have played major roles in offering technical advice and help to Ecuador. USAID plays an important role in Ecuador, but the World Bank, with its studies of the educational system and its great influence as an international agency, plays an even greater role. Some deterioration in the higher education system can be expected with the strains of democratization if not accompanied by governmental expenditure increases or international funding. The Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance (VVOB) has during the last few years sent a group of GIS professionals to different Ecuadorian universities. The idea of this cooperation is primarily to improve the academic standard regarding GIS related subjects. A complementary benefit, however, is the implementation of GIS in both private and public projects. Experience was gained in the field of GIS applications in collaboration with academic staff and students within the faculties of agriculture and/or computer engineering of the National Polytechnical School (Quito), the University of Cuenca, and the National University of Loja. These universities were chosen because of their interest as well as for the likelihood of reaching their desired goal. Collaboration with the faculties of civil, agricultural, and/or computer engineering within these universities was considered most likely to achieve success. Local collaboration and support varied due to political and financial differences.

From these experiences some conclusions can be drawn regarding the situation of GIS at university level in Ecuador. The general and preliminary knowledge of computers among agricultural engineers, the availability of hardware and software at universities, the introduction and acceptance of new technologies, the ability of the infra-system to handle the technologies, and the career perspective of GIS-trained professionals are all areas of concern. Wealthy Ecuadorians and fortunate outstanding students have often had access to external studies, and various scholarship programs, such as the Fulbright, have provided selective access to post-graduate education. This is compounded by the newly created business class, which has a stabilizing influence on the middle class in Ecuador but is also dependent on its links with foreign firms, products, and partners.

In the 1980s and to an extent even earlier, the burgeoning school populations led to students graduating from institutions of higher learning without being able to get a job because the number of new jobs remained smaller than the number of increasingly higher educated students. This caused many well-educated Ecuadorians to leave the country for opportunities abroad. However, education has been tied to the banking system in Ecuador and a good deal of development has occurred through this joint venture with the Bank of Ecuador, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. The Inter-American Development Bank reviews the economic reforms in Ecuador in relation to earlier efforts, sequencing, structural reform and stabilization, sustainability, and priority. A new understanding of the role of higher education in development has brought the beginnings of systemic reform and a new conceptualization of the potential roles in development education can play. The Inter-American Development Bank optimistically believes that while economic stabilization has been difficult to achieve some meaningful structural reform and development have emerged through the chaos. The economy-driven nature of reform has caused a systemic approach to moving forward at a much slower rate than might otherwise have occurred. Jameson suggests that education has not played a more successful role in development because "fundamental reform awaits a movement away from the current neo-liberal understanding of development" (Jameson 124). However, it seems that, despite the crisis, development is going on right now in Ecuador. Pragmatism, efficiency, and international competitiveness have caused both government and development sectors to look to education to function well in training all Ecuadorians. Forced upon Ecuador in part by its international lenders, systemic reform is occurring despite the defeat of plans to organize it. Higher education reforms are going on, and there is reason for optimism about the current economic reforms, actual outcomes, and at least initial assessments. Time will tell if the extended outcomes match the hopes and expectations of those involved with Ecuadorian higher education. Equity-driven reforms from the 1970s have taken another step in the 1990s. While the earlier reform extended education to disadvantaged groups such as women and indigenous people, the more recent reforms have extended the same educational opportunities to the disabled and those with learning problems so that society is maximizing human capital development or the human resources of its competent citizens. This is one of the rewards of inclusionary democracy in education.

As late as 1970, over 70 percent of the primary and secondary schools were run by the states, 10 percent by municipalities, and 20 percent or fewer by private organizations. The extreme increase in university enrollment and the expansion of enrollments at all levels, including higher education, are natural outgrowths of the expansion of primary and secondary education in earlier years and of the 1982 law guarantee of access to free university education without a national entrance examination. It originated from the need to create the education populace necessary for post-military democracy. Equity-driven reform fundamentally changed the nature of the educational system.

The Duran Ballen administration changed the mechanisms of access to economic and social services away from entitlements and government provision to market determination and the ability to pay. Higher education reform became private university and economic reform. In the 1960s the rural curriculum was upgraded to better compare with that of urban institutions, and the curriculum was revised to be more relevant to students' lives and to reflect the modern world. The government, after April 1998, promoted school autonomy in the rural centers and pushed municipalities to take charge of the educational establishments. The city of Loja, for instance, has turned over 10 schools to municipal control. It is also developing a new legal structure that includes the restructuring of teacher pay scales, the creating of new mechanisms for disciplining teachers through the Network Councils, and the transferring responsibility for teacher training to NGOs. On 11 November 1998, the Inter-American Development Bank announced the approval of a $45 million loan to Ecuador to support improvement in rural education by organizing school systems with greater autonomy and parent participation. A pioneering component of the program is projected to be results-based incentives for teachers that will improve quality and innovation in instruction. The project was expected to benefit around l,800 schools or 20 percent of the rural schools in Ecuador and is focused on improvements in grades one through nine. Investments were planned in school infrastructure and educational materials, and technical assistance was to be provided to assist the development of stronger, more autonomous systems. Non-profit organizations, universities, and other civil society organizations were to be enlisted to assist in the strengthening of rural school networks to reduce the isolation of individual schools and offer greater possibilities of educational improvement. One result of the great growth in enrollment of schools in Ecuador was that almost all funds went to the salaries of the teachers and little was left for building and maintenance costs. This worked to the disadvantage of rural areas. According to the 1983 UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, in 1980 approximately 33 percent of total government expenditures went to education, but only 6 percent of this was used for capital construction. A training component of the program was to increase management skills of local school officials, thereby enhancing their capacity for management in a more autonomous setting. Investments were planned in bilingual programs to benefit indigenous communities. The project, planned to be carried out by the Education Ministry, is designed to serve as a model to improve basic rural education throughout Ecuador. The total cost of the program is 50 million dollars. The IDB loan is for 25 years with a four year grace period at the variable annual interest rate. Local counterpart funds total $5 million.

Preprimary & Primary Education

In the late 1980s formal education was divided into four cycles: a preprimary two-year cycle; six years of primary school; secondary school, which was divided into two three-year cycles; and higher education. Children could begin attending preprimary school at four and primary school began at age six. Attendance theoretically was compulsory for children from 6 to 14 years of age. The first three-year cycle of secondary school dealt with general curriculum that elaborated on that of the primary school. In the second cycle, students could specialize in one of several different curriculums. An academic liberal arts course led to university admission. Other specialized courses prepared students for technical schools or teacher training. Roughly 20 percent of primary and secondary schools were privately run.

Secondary Education

In the 1960s the secondary curriculum was made up of general studies, Spanish, foreign languages, mathematics, natural sciences, physical sciences, history, geography, physical education, and applied electives such as agriculture, business, artisan skills, and music. Military training was included in some schools in the sixth year. In the 1970s there were nine types of secondary schools in Ecuador. There were the traditional, university preparatory schools, such as Colegio de Humanidades Modernas and Colegio de Huanidades Clasicas. There were also business or commercial schools, normal schools, fine arts schools, music schools, manual arts schools for boys, manual arts schools for girls, and agricultural and animal husbandry schools. The large number of subjects as well as the long class day prevented most students from fulfilling any portion of the disciplines of the program. The rampant child labor abuse among the poor also caused students to drop out. Students began their day no later than 8:00 a.m. They were dismissed at noon and returned home for lunch. The lunchtime usually lasted from two to two and a half hours. Most schools followed lunch with an afternoon session that lasted two to three hours.

Higher Education

Much can be explained about Ecuadorian higher education by an understanding of arguably the most important historical reform in universities throughout Latin America, the Cordoba Reform of 1918. This reform provided universities the autonomy which they are still attempting to hold onto today. Because of that reform, universities have challenged the authoritarian excesses of civil and military regimes, provided presidents and vice-presidents of Ecuador, and generally been highly politicized organizations. Ecuador has 33 universities and technical colleges with 202,683 students. It has 12 state universities, equally divided between the costa and the sierra, and an additional 5 private universities, 3 in the sierra and 2 in the costa. A number of polytechnic schools and teachers' colleges offer specialized postsecondary studies. The number of university students per 100,000 members of the population grew fivefold from 1960 to 1980; the number of professors grew ten times. About two-thirds of those enrolled in higher education attended public institutions, especially the Central University in Quito. The postsecondary population of 208,000 students represents a 33 percent increase since 1982. Since 1985, some 12 new universities have been founded bringing the total to 29, and the number of faculty increased from 6,884 in 1980 to over 12,000 by 1993. Since providing high quality education, which will actually prepare university students for the technological and economic future, requires a heavy investment in human, technological, and physical resources, Ecuador faced a difficult challenge. Public universities generally have an open admissions policy. In recent years, large increases in the student population, budget difficulties, and the extreme politicization of the university system have led to a decline in some academic standards. The progress of higher education in Ecuador seems, in many ways, to be out of control because external forces such as economic and political conditions have changed the characteristics, emphasis, curriculum, and student populations of most public institutions. Certainly, during the past two decades, the chronic sifting of the educational, political, and economic agendas has resulted in new goals, priorities, and missions for public universities. New academic and economic models had to become important to the higher education equation. Extreme financial constraints have challenged the traditional vested rights of public higher education. Reforms have been difficult and are not likely to further equalize university entrance. Some university and student leadership has appeared that has attempted to solve some of the many problems faced by changes in the higher education in Ecuador. The Consejo Nacional de Educacion Superior or National Council of Higher Education is the coordinating body for institutions of higher education. Universities and colleges are members. Since higher education's share of the national government's budget fell from 26 percent in 1981 to 19 percent in 1994, and from 4.6 percent of the GDP in 1981 to 2.7 percent in 1993, it is understandable that much of the growth in recent years has been in the private sector.

Ecuador's universities are changing to meet the challenges of the technological age. During the colonial period, the authorizations for universities were by papal authority, royal decree, or authority of the Council of the Indies. All the universities established during the colonial era emulated the University of Salamanca model, which emphasized theology, law, arts, and medical studies. The Universidad de San Fulgencio de Quito was Ecuador's first university. It was authorized by papal bull in 1586.

Originally places to train priests, the universities of Ecuador have gone through changing missions. While more recently they have trained students in the law, arts, and philosophy, they now prepare to train students in engineering, technology, and CIS. Perhaps the greatest problem is one that is seen in many countries: budgets were not compensated when enrollment increases occurred. Thus the growing demand for admittance to universities and access to academia through public universities over-came the delivery abilities of those schools. University budgets, which needed room for the physical plant and operating costs, were almost entirely consumed by faculty and staff salaries. In the face of the growing student population, particularly with the population growth of Guayaquil, university administrations were faced with delayed maintenance, deteriorating physical plants, antiquated technologies, anachronistic curricula, and a professorate without the means of updating their knowledge-base or credentials. That is not to say that Ecuador's public universities do not have many well trained academics with terminal degrees from major international universities. Its universities have highly trained faculty, some of whom earned graduate degrees abroad and are themselves successful researchers and authors, but their numbers are inadequate for the job of educating the bulging population of university-bound students.

The government, attempting to finance the onslaught of students, embraced international economic ideologies, but was unable to create the massive public subsidies necessary for the growing student populations. One of the answers to this problem is to diversify funding resources through funding initiatives of different kinds. Since the traditional source of financial resources, the central government, of necessity has withdrawn much of its resources for the public university, academic administrations have had to develop new budget sources. Diversification of funding sources includes the volatile issue of student fees. University education had been a ticket out of poverty for many talented young people who were not likely to be able to pay anywhere near the real cost of their education. The problem that public institutions are facing is one of growing elitism. With rising student fees, increasing technological costs, and a government less willing and able to continue to pay the traditional percentage of the cost of educating a student, an economic crisis of sorts has occurred in major Ecuadorian universities. Free higher education is a longstanding tradition in Latin America and often constitutionally guaranteed. The administrations of the Escuele Superior Politecnica de Litoral (ESPOL) in Guayaquil, perhaps the hardest hit with this population explosion, and the Escuele Politecnica Nacional in Quito, the two leading public technical universities, have tried to face this issue. Variables such as family income and academic standing were considered in designing the fee schedules. In Guayaquil students, frustrated by the outdated technical equipment, proposed a laboratory fee schedule that would repair old and buy new equipment. The university approved the student plan. The predominant sentiment sometimes seems to be in favor of improving the conditions and equipment for learning even if it means costs billed directly to the student, but this does not mean that there have not been student protests. There were brief demonstrations at ESPOL and at Politecnico. In both cases some concessions were made to student demands, such as the lengthening of implementation schedules, but income was still generated through student fees.

Student fees gathered insufficient funds to take the place of withdrawn government assistance. Other initiatives had to be implemented, many of them familiar to not only to Latin American university administrators, but to North American administrators as well. President Nelson Cevallos of ESPOL removed services such as maintenance, security, the bookstore, and bus service from the university budget and contracted them to providers in the private sector as part of a large privatization policy. The self-financing degree program was also considered. Reduction of the dependency of the university on the government could occur with self-generated income so Cevallos created 27 new self-financing degree programs, introduced a structure of reward for departments and faculty members who rent university faculties to outside groups, expanded continuing education, and sold consulting services. In 1992, approximately 26 percent of EXPOL's budget was self-generated. By 1996, approximately 56 percent of the operating budget was self-generated.

Another increasingly used technique to limit bulging enrollment is the admissions aptitude test. Limiting admissions to certain programs on the basis of who is likely to be able to be successful in that program contributed to the strike at the Politecnica. Denying the concept of open access and implementing the concept of limited access through admissions testing are still seen as threats to the older system and traditional students rights and entitlements.

Another concern in higher education is the knowledge of computer information systems. A study at the University of Cuena in 1996 found knowledge of computer sciences very low among the agricultural faculty, more acceptable among the civil engineers, and very application oriented in the faculty of computer engineers. Even the knowledge of geography is limited among both the agricultural and civil engineers and nonexistent amongst the computer engineers. Hydrology, soil sciences, topography, and computer science are all taught by different members of different faculties without any organized interrelationships or strategic partnering among them. In 1996 computers were not available in faculties other than computer science. The Program for Land and Water Management of the University of Cuenca is being executed by an interdisciplinary team of local engineers, economists, sociologists, and three foreign experts. This strategic partnership is active in research projects, teaching, and consulting.

In Loja, the Center for Agricultural Computer Science was created in 1994 at the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering of the National University of Loja with the goal of introducing computer science in the fields of agronomy, irrigation and forestry at university level as well as in local private and public organizations. In Quito, at the Escuela Politenica Nacional, the department of Inteligencia Artificial y Sistemas de Informacion Geografica was founded in 1993. The goal of the department was to organize courses in the field of artificial intelligence, GIS, and remote sensing. Most of the graduate students are doing their theses in computer engineering though. Database management applications in areas such as hydrology, irrigation, tourism, city planning, and natural resources management are only some of the GIS related projects. Funding is hard to find though. Interdisciplinary contact is also part of the training for the workgroup. The Escuela Politecnica del Ejercity, probably the best-equipped institute in Ecuador for both hardware and software, is the only university where a faculty of geographical engineers exists.

University faculty is selected for four-year terms by each institution's university council from lists suggested by the faculty. The 1970 Law of Higher Education requires that faculty appointments be based on merit. In 1995, the entire governance structure of higher education was to be changed to more closely resemble a corporate model. Two presidents of "Production Associations" would be added to the governing assembly of universities or the National Council of Universities and Polytechnical Schools (CONUEP). An executive committee of CONUEP was formed to centralize decision-making and create a series of new powers such as being able to audit universities, close inefficient programs, distribute funds according to a systematic formula based on production, create a national student admissions system, and run the university. The internal governance of the university would include traditional outsiders and concentrate power and authority in the University Council for each university. This council is composed of a businessperson, three ex-rectors, a representative of the President of Ecuador, and two alumnae. The University Council would designate the rector through a national search, set internal policy, evaluate the functioning of the academic units, and approve strategic plan (Jameson 129). If this is accomplished, it destroys the old system, which was based on university autonomy from national governmental control. Authority to create universities might be removed from Congress and given to CONUEP, which would also play a greater role in planning and programming if certain reforms suggested for higher education occur.

The National Council for Modernatization Reform (CONAM) was proposed as a process for removing faculty members and required scholarships for students unable to afford university education. Had this proposal been enacted, it would have formalized the de facto changes being imposed on the public university system. CONAM was proposed by an ad hoc committee, supported by Vice-President Alberty Dahik and two-day President Rosalia Arteaga. Dahik's resignation and flight from the country ended the possibility of enacting the CONAM proposal. Several of the new universities, such as the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, operate under a different set of rules since they refused to adopt governance systems mandated by the national law.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

A program of institutional diversity and of acquisition and differentiation according to market trends is part of the desired reform in the present decade. The market route to mass higher education, higher education markets and public policy, government strategy toward education, and the role of the university in promoting and developing technology are all part of the necessary strategic planning that must come from the Ministry of Education with the cost sharing mechanism already in play. Curricular changes based on these are certainly part of every rector's concern in Ecuador. Many have already started to create pools, internally or with other universities, to offer more training facilities and to develop educational packages that will be at the disposal of students in remote areas and other places or regions. Some are also developing a "flexible delivery" mode, meaning that parts of the courses are delivered traditionally, while others are based on the internet or other formats. Distance learning programs and modules, virtual courses, and virtual universities are already issues of higher education. The roles of international organizations such as UNESCO are being looked at in regard to them.

The successful expansion of the Ecuadorian educational system created its own set of problems. Construction of schools failed to keep up with the increase in students. A significant proportion of teachers lacked full accreditation, especially at the levels of secondary and higher education. These deficiencies were most evident in the countryside where the percentage of uncertified primary teachers was estimated to be double that of the cities. Finally, despite enrollment increases by the 1980s, the percentage of school-aged children attending school lagged. Rates were particularly low for rural primary school aged children. Relatively few children continued beyond the first cycle of secondary school. At this time, about 20 percent of primary and secondary schools were privately operated. Ecuador had about 12 state universities and 5 private universities throughout the sierra and the costa. There were a number of polytechnic schools and teachers' colleges that offered specialized postsecondary studies. Ten percent of the country was illiterate, and there were reading and writing centers and schools for adults. The official discourse of the recent governments of Ecuador has centered on blaming the teachers and their representative organization, the UNE, for the current education crises. Promotion of individual school autonomy and greater involvement by parents and the community are popular with the Education Ministry.

President Jamil Mahuad and his minister of education, in compliance with international institutions, implemented a project called the "Immediate and Long Term Plan for the Ministry of Education and Culture" that synthesizes its agenda for the education sector. To apply its educational proposals, the government used legal instruments that included the new Constitution of the Republic and various projects financed with international resources, such as the EBPRODEC (which attends to the main marginalized urban educational centers), PROMECER (which administers the main rural education centers), and PROMET 1 and 2 (which attend to technical education). These instruments are linked with putting legal parameters on teacher collective bargaining and training. The imposition of legal controls through regulations on the National Teachers Qualification Scale, collective bargaining, demonstrating, assembling, and striking.

In 1994, the Ministry of Education proposed new curricula reforms that contemplated three steams of education: basic education for the majority, technical or career education, and special education aimed at forming the new educated elite. This proposal met widespread disapproval from the teacher's union and was suspended due to activities of the National Educators Union. The National Congress approved the Ecuador Family Freedoms Act, which would require two hours of religious instruction. A large national movement spearheaded by the teachers claims to have prevented this law from entering into effect.

In April 1998, the National Constituent Assembly incorporated the decentralization of financial, pedagogical, and administrative aspects of the educational system into the new Constitution. It also revised the basis of payment of teacher salaries on measured performance. The teacher's union blamed the World Bank for special reference to the savings that can be made to the educational budget through increasing the number of students per class and noted that the World Bank argued that since they have measured no substantive increase in academic performance when class sizes are reduced from 45 to 35, these reductions are therefore costly and unnecessary. The teacher's union has claimed that while decentralization would appear a positive measure, it is really a policy whose primary purpose is to reduce the central government's financial and administrative responsibility for education and move even further away from an equitable national teacher pay scale. Local authorities supplement these funds when they can and teachers are badly paid when they cannot. Thus there is a reduction of educational resources for the poorest schools, a municipalization which becomes a kind of privatization since it is from local resources that the best schools are largely supported. The teacher union has argued that this "privitization" in the area of education is not a total privatization of the service but a privatization of the management of education. There are diverse formulas, such as cost recovery, the suppression of obstacles to the creation of private schools and universities, study vouchers, and "free choice" of school selection through public subsidies for private teaching. The teacher's union argues that while central government money is saved, according to World Bank planning, studies indicate that students from the upper classes showed a slight improvement, while those from lower income families showed a sharp drop in their performance. In 1994, the Chilean Ministry of Education, who had enacted a plan like this one, recognized that these policies had had negative effects on the quality of education. Part of larger economic austerity measures, they were to have helped to drop the inflation rate of 50 percent in the early 1990s to a more reasonable amount by the new millennium. The Ecuadorian reforms of the late 1970s, increasing the democratization of the primary and secondary systems, has put great pressure on higher education. This pressure brings greater efficiency and reform policies. Reform at the institutional level will not replace a larger reform policy in bringing change. Among the rather piecemeal changes is an increase in the number of universities, implementation of student fees in state universities, development of a program of voluntary accreditation, and creation of private universities. These reforms have come largely from external demands of a tactical rather than strategic nature. Several attempts have been made to organize a systematic and centralized process of development.

While the Ministry of Education is training teachers to teach better, Fundacyt is teaching students and professors how to conduct research. Part of the plan is to establish a world network for research and technology. Thirty universities in Ecuador are currently tied to the network.

Universities receive computers, get connected to the world, and develop their own databases in their primary fields, which are then used to support science and technology research. UNESCO supports the centrality of educational research, saying: "It is evident that no higher education system can fulfill its function and be a viable ally for society in general, if part of its teaching staff and its departments do not carry out any research work, in accordance with particular institutional goals, the academic potential and material resources" (Tunnermann 1996).

All schools are run by the Ministry of Public Education, which has control over the curricula it prescribes for schools, public and private. All schools are recognized only when a representative of the ministry has supervised final exams. State preprimary and primary schools are administered through provincial directorates of education, which employ more than 200 inspectors and a small group of inspectors that are attached to the ministry. At the secondary level, inspection is the responsibility of centrally based officials who specialize in a particular type of secondary school, such as academic, vocational, and normal. Because the Ministry of Education is in charge of all public and private schools in Ecuador, all schools must follow ministry approved instructional programs. The Ministry of Education is divided into five major agencies, all of which report back to the Minister of Education. The first agency is the Department of Educational Planning, which is responsible for the augmentation of all educational programs. The second agency is the Office of the Technical Director of Education, which administers and supervises activities such as adult and music education. The third agency is the Division of Internal Affairs. The fourth agency is Internal Administration. The final agency is the Department of School Construction.

Nonformal Education

To evaluate the level of effective literacy in a region or country, the presence in a household of a literate person who generates a positive public good for illiterate members as well as a considerable rise in nonagricultural employment and literacy is taken into account. Although the largest numbers of adults are trained by the military, in 1962 the Ministry of Public Education established a department of adult education in response to a law which required literacy training for all illiterates between the ages of 15 and 50 years. This program has been extremely successful. During the first year, 50,000 people participated.

The military acts in some ways as a nonformula educational institution. According to the Constitution, all Ecuadorians are subject to military service obligations, but in practice conscription applies only to those who are liable for call-up at age 19 for 1 year of service. As of 1988, about 80,000 of approximately 1.8 million males in the 18 to 49 age bracket were in the military. In a country of chronic underemployment, many poorer youths improve their education, housing, and dietary situations by joining the armed forces. Ambitious young men with few opportunities in the civilian labor market might be successful candidates for further service and training, thereby learning valuable skills and finding an avenue for upward mobility. Students in good academic standing receive deferments, and only sons, breadwinners, or heads of household are excused from service. All officers graduate from one of three military academies. Those of working class or middle class origins, whose fathers were artisans, military NCO, or workers, constituted approximately 20 percent. John Samuel Fitch's study found a striking pattern of recruitment to the officer corps from the interior highlands, which has persisted in spite of the shift of population toward coastal provinces. Fitch also notes a definitive trend towards the democratization of the officer corps.

Naval cadets attend the Advanced Naval Academy at Salinas in a four year program that stresses the humanities, scientific subjects, naval science, and physical training. Located in Guayaquil, the Naval War College was the senior instructional institution and prepared officers, generally at the level of commander, for higher ranks and general staff duty. The two year course of study covered such topics as strategy and tactics, logistics, geopolitics, operational planning, intelligence, and international maritime law, with sociology, economics, and other nonmilitary subjects. The marines operated their own instructional program, including a basic school for recruits and more advanced courses in amphibious operations, communications, intelligence, and weaponry, plus special courses in frogman and paratrooper skills. The navy also administered the Merchant Marine School whose cadets received some military training and formed part of the naval reserve after graduation as merchant marine officers.

In an effort to standardize army training, the Department of Instruction was created in 1988. Upon attaining the rank of corporal, conscripts accepted for enlistment for further service could apply to one of several NCO schools. Each school included a core curriculum accompanied by training in a military occupational specialty at such facilities as the armor school at Riobamba or the engineers' school at Esmeraldas. The intense competition and difficulty of courses produced a high dropout rate among NCO candidates. Cadets preparing for commissioning as army second lieutenants studied at the Eloy Alfaro Advanced Military School in Parcayacu. The Army War Academy, the Army Polytechnical Institute, and the Institute of Higher National Studies complete the training schools comparable to the National Defense University in Washington.

Distance Education is represented in Ecuador through Globatel, a company dedicated to interactive distance learning (IDL) that has come up with a way to open higher education to larger numbers of people. Kurt Freud, a founding member of Globatel and of the University of the Pacific in Ecuador, a university dedicated to finance and business, suggests that it is possible to develop an IDL system with fluid, interactive capabilities that will allow governments to popularize education in a way that is cost effective and feasible. Globatel has developed an IDL system that uses combined satellite and computer mediated communication. In the system, users can communicate simultaneously and interact freely and effectively, including sharing graphical and textual data via computers. Students can also interact with the instructor using regular telephones connected to the system via satellite. The phone keypads act as a keyboard for data communication, while voice communication is handled through regular headsets. Obviously, for this kind of system to work optimally, Ecuador needs a more reliable telephone system, and this has not gone unnoticed. Ecuador has been developing its computer and satellite capabilities for many years. Ecuanet was one of the first Internet providers in Latin America. It is also a non-profit organization under the auspices of the Banco de Pacific. A decade ago, Ecuanet came to life as a scientific network and today Ecuanet works with the University of Miami to provide access to schools, businesses, and individuals.

Teaching Profession

Traditionally, a large percentage of teacher-training institutions have been run by private secondary schools which cater to females, but both private and public school teachers must meet the same requirements. Primary school personnel must be 18 years old or older; must have graduated from normal schools, although this is not always the case; must be in good standing in their communities; and must be in good health. In addition to these requirements, secondary and normal school teachers must have completed a four year course of study in a faculty of philosophy, letters, or education at an accredited university. Teachers who meet these requirements are titulado or accredited by the Ministry of Public Education. Because of the requirement of a university education, a high proportion of secondary school teachers are not accredited, while a large percentage of primary school teachers are accredited or titulado. Many primary teachers are recruited largely from the lower classes in the urban areas, but they are often community leaders in the rural areas even though they are likely to be less educated there. Secondary teachers are appointed directly by the Ministry of Public Education and more often male.

The low wages for university professors hampers knowledge gathering in new "high-tech" fields and is the reason in some cases for why the transfer of knowledge to colleagues or students is limited. Employment opportunities in universities are often not very attractive because of low salaries and limited resources for research. A university professor earns about US$400 a month.


There is remarkably little research done on higher education in Ecuador, but the World Bank financial support of $400,000 will create an information bank. The goal of the project was to develop reforms based on an empirical study of the system. The information gathered was primarily on organization, inputs, and activity levels. It resulted in a series of 10 volumes (CONUEP 1992). The rationale for reform was that there was a crisis due to the democratization of education and the expansion of access to higher education. The growing interest from both foreign development aid organizations and local institutions to apply scientific principles to problem solving has brought foreign professionals to support and organize courses. Existing faculties will need to take over again in the coming years. Perhaps it is too much to hope for a system-wide, top-down reform, as equity-driven reforms have been largely minimal. Ecuador is in a revolution in terms of broad-based education, but its serious economic problems and lack of funding will force it to face terrible challenges and make draconian decisions in the coming years as it attempts to fund new universities. Greater research and support of its best students ought to be a goal, as well as the broadening of the base for the democratization of education. Ideally, the most capable of even the most marginalized and threatened groups could take advantage of the best that education has to offer. Their capacities could be utilized as human resources to enrich the larger society.


Auzpuru, P. "La educacion y la intergracion nacional del indigena en la Revolu ecuatoriana, 1895-1912." Educacion rural indigena en Iberoamerica, 65-86. Mexico/Madrid: Universidad Nacional de Distancia.

Arellano Escobar, E. Pensamiento Universitario Ecuatoria Part. Quito: Banco Central del Ecuador/Corporacion Editora Nacional, 1988.

CONADE. "The Reorientation of the Educational System of Ecuador." In Section V of report on Ecuador. Quito: 1991.

CONUEP. Ecuadorian Universities: Their Mission for the Twenty-First Century. Quito:1994.

. Evaluations of the Actual System and Perspectives of the Short and Medium-range Plans of the Universities and Politechnic Schools. Quito: 1992.

IDB (Inter-American Development Bank). Development Policy. Washington, DC: 1996.

Jameson, Kenneth P. "Reform and Stress in a Vacuum: Higher Education in Ecuador." Higher Education 33(3) (1997): 1-17.

. "Moving Social Reform to Center Stage: Lessons from Higher Education in Ecuador Higher Education Policy." 12. (1999): 123-140.

Ministerio de Educacion Nacional de Ecuador. Sist Educativos Nacionales. Madrid: OEI, 1994.

Tunnermann, C. "A New Vision of Higher Education." Higher Education Policy 9(11) 127.

Yanez, Cossio, C. "Algunos aspectos de la educacion bilingue inter Ecuador." Revista de la Universidad Catolica del Ecuador 42 6.

Merrilee A. Cunningham

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Republic of Ecuador

República del Ecuador



Located between Colombia and Peru on the west coast of South America, Ecuador has an area of 283,560 square kilometers (176,204 square miles) and a coastline of 2,237 kilometers (1,390 miles). The Galapagos Islands, which rest 960 kilometers (600 miles) to the west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean are part of the Republic of Ecuador. Ecuador is slightly smaller than the state of Nevada. Ecuador's capital city, Quito, is located in the Andes mountain range on the equator, while Guayaquil, the country's most populous city, is positioned on the southern coastline about 210 kilometers (130 miles) from Quito.

POPULATION. An estimate in July 2000 put the population of Ecuador at 12,920,092, representing an increase of almost 26 percent over the nation's 1990 population of 10,260,000 and making the country the most densely populated in South America with 187 people per square kilometer (484 people per square mile). The birth rate in Ecuador for the year 2000 was 26.51 per 1,000 inhabitants, while the death rate the same year was 5.52 per 1,000 inhabitants. Population growth is expected to slow slightly to an annual rate of 1.6 percent between 2000 and 2010, bringing the population to 14.9 million by 2010. The percentage of people residing in urban areas has grown steadily since the 1960s and was estimated to be 62.7 percent in 2000. Guayaquil, Quito, and Cuenca are the 3 largest cities in the country.

The Ecuadorian people are one of the more diverse groups in Latin America. The Ameridians, descendants of the groups who inhabited the area before Spanish colonization of the Americas, make up 30 percent of the population. The other ethnic groups include the mestizo (mixed Spanish and indigenous descent), Spanish, and black and account for 60 percent, 7 percent, and 3 percent of the population. Indigenous presence in Ecuador is the second highest in South America after Bolivia. The population of Ecuador is also young, with 70 percent of the country's inhabitants under the age of 35. Over the next 10 years, if population growth rate in Ecuador slows and life expectancy improves as anticipated, age distribution should even out slightly.

Sustaining the population is one of the Ecuadorian government's primary national concerns. Article 39 of the Ecuadorian Constitution addresses the issue of population, guaranteeing individuals the right to determine how many children they will have, while noting the accountability of the state to inform and educate individuals about the responsibilities that accompany this right. Because of Ecuador's strong Catholic influence with its emphasis on family, population control is a sensitive topic, and the government is reluctant to make strong statements on the issue. To ameliorate poor crop production and slow rural to urban migration, the government offers small grants to individuals to subsidize their farming practices.


Because of its rich natural resaources and mild climate, Ecuador's economy first developed around the harvesting of agricultural products such as coffee and cocoa. As different regions of the country were settled, other resources were exploited and production diversified to include lumber and oil from the Amazon, shrimp and fish from the coast, and fruits, grains, and other food commodities from the sierra (mountain country) and coastal regions. The economy of Ecuador is still rooted strongly in extractive products and primary commodities , particularly in exports. Oil, shrimp, and bananas are the nation's top 3 exports, while the manufacturing sector (including basic manufactured goods, machines, and transport equipment) accounts for less than 7 percent of all exports.

Ecuador faces many economic problems experienced by developing nations. Political instability in the country has affected the national economy, discouraging international and domestic investment in Ecuador's market and sparking higher interest rates. In 1979, Ecuador led the way in Latin America by developing a democratic government. Since then, the country has endured political corruption, inefficiency, and erratic transfers of political power that thwart the pursuit of economic progress. Ecuador's inability to post consistent growth in production has had serious social ramifications, causing half of the population to fall below the poverty line in 2000 and pushing unemployment to 15 percent.

Despite restructuring the nation's debt is more than $15 billion, making the country a high-risk area for investors. Ecuador also faces a deteriorating balance of trade because of its heavy reliance on primary commodities for export. Without support from foreign investors, there is little hope that the country will be able to develop more profitable industries. In addition, tax evasion and the ineffectiveness of the administration to collect taxes cause great problems to the domestic economy.

Because of the lack of well-paid jobs in Ecuador, almost 60 percent of economically active Ecuadorians turn to the informal economy for employment. Informal workers, instead of working for the state or state-recognized private employers, support themselves by working for micro-enterprises or selling items illegally (without permits or income reports to the state) in metropolitan areas or market towns. One of the most visible concentrations of informal employment is in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil, where vendors set up kiosks in the city centers and sell items to passers-by. The scarcity of money has led to child labor. It is common to find young children shining shoes or selling candy on the streets to augment their parents' income. Many international funding organizations (the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and USAID) sponsor development projects in Ecuador to improve the socio-economic situation, but the scope of these projects has been local and have not made significant contributions to economic stability or growth.

In 1999 unstable export prices and the natural disaster of El Niño combined with internal stresses to induce a severe economic crisis. The crisis spurred the government to adapt a new economic program in 2000, which included the privatization of many state-owned enterprises, more flexible labor laws, and reductions in public expenditure. These measures, commonly referred to as structural adjustments and actively endorsed by organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are expected to bring a strong sense of discipline to the economy and provide the foundation for future growth.


Ecuador is a unitary republic that consists of 3 governmental branches: the executive, legislative, and judiciary. Presidents and congressional representatives are elected by popular but compulsory vote, while members of the independent judiciary branch are appointed. Still in the early stages of democracy, Ecuador has not seen the consolidation of political parties. Instead, there is a multitude of parties whose popularity wavers from election to election, sometimes based on the performance of individual politicians. The leading parties to have emerged from the 2000 congressional election are the Social Christian Party (SCP, center-right), the Popular Democratic Party (PDP, center-left), the Democratic Left (DL, center-left) and the newly founded Pachakutik-New Country Party (P-NC, populist-left). All parties support government-funded social programs, but they have dissenting opinions about privatization and the economic role of the state. The SCP supports economic liberalization and the privatization of state-owned entities such as water, electricity, and the postal service. The PDP and DL support a broader economic role for the state and, therefore, advocate price subsidies and continued state ownership of most utilities. The P-NC is the most liberal of the 4 parties, favoring tax, welfare, and social policies that would benefit the most Ecuadorians rather than the elite.

Ecuador's economic reforms of 2000 established the U.S. dollar (US$) as the official monetary unit and diminished the role of the Ecuadorian government in the economy. Before reform, the state had played an important role in economic affairs, holding a large payroll, providing price subsidies on gasoline, and cooking gas, maintaining ownership of telecommunications, and the production and distribution of electricity. The reform agenda cleared the way for structural adjustments to reduce the number of state employees, auction off utility companies to private enterprise, and adjust the price of gas and other commodities to international levels. The role of the Ecuadorian government in the economy will be much smaller if these reform measures are carried out.

There are several different types of taxes in Ecuador, including value-added tax , personal income tax , a consumption tax on domestic fuel, and a financial transactions tax. These taxes were adjusted when the liberalization program was adopted, shifting the bulk of taxpayer responsibility to individual Ecuadorians through higher personal income tax. These measures were taken to lower the financial transactions tax and encourage foreign and domestic investment. Tax policies, like most other economic policies in Ecuador, are designed by the executive branch of government and carried out by the legislature.


Ecuador is well-served by an accessible transport system and profits from an extensive infrastructure of roads and an uncommonly efficient bus system that make travel to almost any region possible. The country has 43,197 kilometers (26,843 miles) of highways, of which 8,165 kilometers (5,074 miles) are paved. Three national airlinesSaeta, Tame, and Ecuatorianaprovide flight services within Ecuador and from the international airports in Quito and Guayaquil to select locations outside the country. Because the vast changes in altitude and terrain in Ecuador can make road travel slow and difficult, tourists and Ecuadorians alike frequently utilize in-country flights. Taxis and buses provide nonstop city transport for very reasonable fares, and a newly constructed trolley line in Quito delivers passengers to the center of the city. The trans-Ecuadorian railway, which extends for 812 kilometers (505 miles), needs renovation and is used for freight purposes.

Telecommunication and electrical services in Ecuador are state-owned and operated. They are available to Ecuadorians at subsidized rates but perform at less-than-desirable levels. The domestic telephone service is inadequate and unreliable because of its dismal 40 percent completion rate. Despite the limited portion of the population that can afford modern communication devices, the communications industry is growing rapidly. Ecuador has 15 television stations, 419 radio broadcast systems, and 8

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Ecuador 70 419 293 11.7 25 N/A 18.5 1.42 35
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Brazil 40 444 316 16.3 47 3.1 30.1 18.45 3,500
Colombia 46 581 217 16.7 49 4.8 27.9 7.51 664
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Internet service providers, but many individuals cannot afford televisions, radios, or personal computers.

Besides excellent transport for commuters and travelers, its seaports equip Ecuador for international commerce. The largest is at Guayaquil, the main port for oil exports is at Esmereldas, and there are other major ports at Manta and Machala. While the extensive road infrastructure and port system contribute to productive domestic and international trade practices, productivity is hindered by aging vehicles and oil pipelines.


Although Ecuador originated as an agrarian society, over the past 30 years the global market has shaped the country's economic focus toward industry and services. Part of this shift has occurred because of more advanced production practices. Despite new methods of technology and production, the country experienced severe stagnation in its production of goods and services at the end of the 20th century. In 1999 gross domestic product (GDP) shrunk 7 percent from its 1998 level, and imports fell drastically because of the lack of financial capital in the country. The CIA World Factbook estimated that agriculture accounted for 14 percent of the GDP, industry for 36 percent, and services for 50 percent in 1999.

Political instability and inefficiency prevented the implementation of economic reforms during the 1980s and 1990s. Loose fiscal policies , a burgeoning external debt , and rampant inflation culminated in a financial crisis in 1999. The crisis caused drastic economic reforms in 2000, including dollarization, privatization of state-owned entities, and liberalization of trade and labor. These policies, advocated by the IMF and the United States government, are expected to bring new growth to the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors of the economy.

Remittance pay, the money sent to Ecuadorian residents by family members or friends living and working abroad, is an important factor in Ecuador economy that does not fall into conventional economic sectors. Because of poverty and the lack of well-paid jobs in Ecuador, many Ecuadorians emigrate to countries such as the United States and Spain, where jobs are easier to find. These individuals send parts of their paychecks back to Ecuador to support their families or supplement the family income. With increasing rates of poverty and consequent emigration, remittance pay has become an enormous force in the Ecuadorian economy and, valued at US$1.185 billion in year 2000, was the second largest source of national income after petroleum exports.



The agricultural sector, which accounts for about 14 percent of the GDP and 30 percent of the labor force (1.25 million workers), is sustained by its largest export, bananas. Owing substantially to the cheap price of unskilled, unorganized labor (Ecuadorian banana workers are not unionized and earn roughly US$2-3 per day), Ecuador provides an attractive base of operation for fruit companies. The banana industry faced temporary difficulties with production in 1998 when El Niño destroyed much of the crop, but it has since recovered its position as the world's top exporter. A more stubborn problem facing the industry is the low price for bananas on the international market. Despite Ecuador's domination of the world banana trade, profits from the industry are declining and thus contributing to the nation's deteriorating trade.


Since 1970, the role of coffee in Ecuador's agricultural sector has diminished. Coffee was once the foundation of Ecuador's export economy, but it has been damaged by the global coffee recession , which has seen the production of coffee beans taper off over the past 30 years. From 1995 to 1999, production dropped from 150,000 metric tons to 57,000 metric tons. Nevertheless, coffee is considered a staple of Ecuadorian agriculture and is one of the country's largest exports after bananas. The production of cocoa beans, another of Ecuador's oldest cultivated crops, has remained stable throughout the last decade, probably because cocoa beans are cultivated for domestic consumption.


Ecuador produces more metric tons of sugar cane per year (7 million in 1999) than any other crop. Because of the immense demand for sugar and sugar-based foods, production barely guarantees the country's status as a net exporter of sugar cane. Much of the sugar crop is exported to neighboring countries, but almost as much is imported by Ecuador from surrounding Andean nations. This cross-border exchange usually occurs because of the changing demand for raw and refined forms of sugar in a country at any given time. Ecuador is striving to secure its position as an exporter of sugar by producing more than is needed for domestic consumption.


While agro-industries grow crops for export, many Ecuadorians live as subsistence farmers , selling or trading the food they produce to support themselves. Because of the multitude of fruits, vegetables, and grains that grow in Ecuador's climate, these small-scale farmers can trade to acquire any food they want. Commonly grown crops include rice, maize, potatoes, manioc, and soybeans. Indigenous Ecuadorians, whose heritage is deeply connected to the land for survival, make up most of the subsistence farmers. Their crops are sold at local markets and do not usually leave the country.


First introduced to Ecuador in the 1950s, industry makes up about 36 percent of the GDP and absorbs 25 percent of the total labor force (1 million workers). The chief industrial exports are petroleum and farmed shrimp, but mining of metals is emerging as a lucrative industry. Industry is a volatile component of the economy because Ecuador's industrial sector is oriented toward primary commodities. These command erratic prices on the international market when compared to the more stable demand for manufactured and value-added goods. The precarious structure of Ecuador's industrial sector was revealed in 1998 when oil prices dropped and South American shrimp were struck by the deadly Mancha Blanca virus. This double stroke of bad luck, afflicting Ecuador's 2 most important industrial products, led to a shrinking economy in 1999 that aggravated Ecuador's economic woes.

PETROLEUM. Oil is Ecuador's top export, its revenue makes up 10 percent of the GDP. A member of OPEC (Oil and Petroleum Exporting Countries) since the 1970s, Ecuador exports 60 percent of the oil it produces, most of which originates in the Amazon basin. Until recently, the government granted large price subsidies on domestic oil, driving down the price of gasoline for individuals and facilitating inexpensive fares on public transport. In 2000 as part of the nation's new economic reforms, these subsidies were gradually removed, and oil prices were set to international levels, making gasoline unaffordable for many Ecuadorians. Untapped oil reserves belong to the government by authority of the constitution, which decrees all subsurface resources to be the property of the state.


Ecuador is the world's second largest exporter of shrimp, which makes up 2 percent of the nation's overall GDP. The tools and production of the shrimp industry have changed over the past 2 decades in response to the forces of technology and international demand. The industry used to take its shrimp from the Pacific Ocean, but now shrimp farms are the prevailing method of production for export. Shrimp farms have a negative environmental effect on the mangroves and marine life in the ocean and have caused a serious decline in the wild shrimp population. This phenomenon, combined with the yellow head and white spot viruses that attacked Ecuador's shrimp in the late 1990s, threatens to destroy the shrimp industry if changes are not made to the system.


With abundant deposits of gold, silver, lead and zinc, Ecuador has great mining potential, but the country does not currently possess the financial resources needed to develop this industry. Mining accounts for only 0.5 percent of Ecuador's GDP, and much of this revenue is earned from black market sales. Nevertheless, mining is an emerging market in Ecuador and may become an economically vital factor with help from foreign investors.


The service sector, responsible for half of Ecuador's GDP and 45 percent of its labor force (1.9 million workers), embraces tourism, transportation, utilities, communications, parcel delivery, and financial services. Because of its beautiful geography, the diversity of its flora and fauna, and its cultural attractions, Ecuador is a popular destination for travelers and earns good profits from tourism. The other major economic force in the service industry is the informal work sector, which gives many people a means of income when formal employment is in short supply.


Ecuador collected US$281 million in foreign capital from tourist receipts in 1996. The Galapagos Islands, famed for their unparalleled biological diversity and as the site of evolutionist Charles Darwin's studies, are Ecuador's leading tourist attraction. Other main points of interest include Quito, which is stationed almost directly on the equator in the Andean highlands; Cotopaxi, the world's tallest active volcano; and the Amazon rain-forest. Tourism is still a budding industry in Ecuador, and the low prices attract many new visitors each year. But political instability and rising crime in 2000 discouraged many visitors and affected tourism revenues.


A huge, unofficial role in Ecuador's service sector is the informal economy, which supports a fluctuating percentage of Ecuadorians according to the availability of official employment opportunities. Products sold in the informal sector include clothing, small appliances, food, artisan crafts, stolen goods, and any item in demand. Vendors set up booths in commercial areas, while others navigate the streets of large cities during rush hour and make sales to motorists. Because of its underground nature, it is hard to estimate the national income that the informal sector generates, but it is playing an increasingly important role in the economy as urbanization and access to common markets escalate.


Ecuador's balance of trade fluctuates from year to year according to international demand and economic conditions in the country. In 1998 Ecuador ran a trade deficit, exporting $4.1 billion worth of goods and importing $5.5 billion. In 2000, exports were US$3.4 billion while imports reached US$5.6 billion. Ecuador's main trade partners are the United States, Japan, and Germany, followed by the other nations involved in the Andean Pact trade agreement (Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia). These trade associations have remained stable since the 1970s, and the quantity of goods traded has increased. A border dispute between Peru and Ecuador that flared up in 1994 caused a temporary damper on trade. During its war against Peru (which lasted until 1998), Ecuador imported greater quantities from the non-warring Andean nations to compensate for lost Peruvian goods.

Ecuador's main exports are oil, bananas, shrimp, and other agricultural goods. The United States, which provides a market for 35 percent of the country's exports, imported a total of US$1.2 billion worth of goods from Ecuador in 1998, most consisting of fish, petroleum,

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Ecuador
Exports Imports
1975 .974 .987
1980 2.481 2.253
1985 2.905 1.767
1990 2.714 1.865
1995 4.307 4.153
1998 4.141 5.503
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

fruits, and vegetables. Ecuador sends exports of a similar nature to Europe and Japan, where there is demand for primary products and non-native foods.


Until recently, Ecuador struggled with the persistent devaluation of its currency (the sucre) on the world market, making it harder for Ecuadorians to afford goods produced in other countries. After a decade of steady depreciation, the value of the sucre plummeted in 1999, prompting then-President Jamil Mahuad to announce the national policy of dollarization in January 2000. In September 2000, the country completed its dollarization process, stopping the printing of sucres and introducing the U.S. dollar as the official monetary unit for all banking and government transactions. Ecuador's problem with currency devaluation has since ceased, but inflation has continued to plague the economy, making basic goods unaffordable for many Ecuadorians.

Dollarization brought many changes to the banking sector. Although the Central Bank of Ecuador used to be

Exchange rates: Ecuador sucres (S/) per US$1
Jan 2001 25,000
2000 24,988.4
1999 11,786.8
1998 5,446.6
1997 3,988.3
1996 3,189.5
Note: On January 7, 2000, the government passed a decree "dollarizing" the economy; on March 13, 2000, the National Congress approved a new exchange system whereby the US dollar is adopted as the main legal tender in Ecuador for all purposes; on March 20, 2000, the Central Bank of Ecuador started to exchange sucres for US dollars at a fixed rate of 25,000 sucres per US dollar; since April 30, 2000, all transactions are denominated in US dollars.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

responsible for setting domestic interest rates and printing money, those responsibilities now rest with the United States Federal Reserve, which sells dollars to Ecuador and decides whether to raise or lower interest rates. Many banks in Ecuador went bankrupt because of the 1999 financial crisis. The government is working to revitalize its banks and pay back investors who lost money because of bank closures. Since adopting the dollar, Ecuador's banks have grown stronger attracting more investors. Interest rates are much lower than they were before dollarization, marking an improvement in investors' perception of the Ecuadorian economy. The GDP grew 2 percent in 2000, a modest but important sign of progress after a decline of 7 percent in 1999. It is too early to deliver a final verdict on the merits of dollarization, but these figures indicate that Ecuador's adoption of the U.S. dollar might well have paved the way for more sustainable economic development.


Ecuador's population was burdened by an unequal distribution of wealth in the 1990s. In 1996 the wealthiest 20 percent of Ecuadorians earned half of the nation's total income, while the poorest 20 percent collected only 5 percent. The gap between rich and poor grew noticeably during the 1999 economic crisis, when much of the middle-class fell below the poverty line because of rampant currency devaluation and inflation. Figures released by international organizations in 2000 show that half of all Ecuadorians were living in poverty, a dramatic increase from just a few years earlier, when the poverty rate was estimated at 35 percent. Poverty is more pervasive in rural areas of Ecuador, affecting almost 70 percent of non-urban dwellers (2000).

Because of the contraction of Ecuador's middle class, the division between the upper and lower classes has widened, allowing for little upward mobility among the nation's poor. Members of the elite are well established within their specialist fields as doctors, lawyers, politicians, or leading business entrepreneurs. The middle class embraces a wide range of professional and bluecollar

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Ecuador 1,301 1,547 1,504 1,475 1,562
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Brazil 3,464 4,253 4,039 4,078 4,509
Columbia 1,612 1,868 1,875 2,119 2,392
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Ecuador
Lowest 10% 2.2
Lowest 20% 5.4
Second 20% 9.4
Third 20% 14.2
Fourth 20% 21.3
Highest 20% 49.7
Highest 10% 33.8
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

workers, including teachers, bus and taxi drivers, service and retail employees, oil industry employees, small-business owners, and small-scale farmers. The largest segment of Ecuador's population includes peasants and subsistence farmers, informal sector vendors, agribusiness employees, temporary workers, and the unemployed. Most of these Ecuadorians are denied the education and connections to gain access to the small professional sector and are thus confined to low-paid jobs.

Ecuador's constitution, revised in 1998, places strong emphasis on social programs and assistance to the poor, promising free health care and government subsidies to the nation's most needy citizens. However, public welfare expenditure, limited by the government's cumbersome debt and lack of funds, has had little impact on poverty. A cash transfer to the country's poorest families, called a bono solidario (solidarity bond), is the most consistent element of Ecuador's poverty relief program, but it reaches only some of the poor. Public health care is officially free, but the quality of medical services is inadequate. A report on Ecuador's health care system released in 1996 by USAID, observed that "The supply and quality of care in Ministry of Public Health facilities is generally agreed to be inefficient and poor." The wealthy can afford private health care of a higher quality, but private care is increasingly beyond the reach of middle-and lower-class Ecuadorians.

The design of Ecuador's education system causes similar problems for economically disadvantaged citizens because the government subsidizes university education at the expense of elementary and secondary schools. Wealthy families can afford to send their children to the best private schools, while poorer families must settle for the variable quality of public education and disruption caused by frequent teacher strikes. Access to education is also divided along rural/urban lines, with public expenditure favoring urban schools and neglecting vocational and manual skills training.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Ecuador 26 9 15 13 10 3 24
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Brazil 22 13 18 15 34 4 -6
Colombia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.


Employment conditions vary greatly in Ecuador according to type of work, individual management styles, and susceptibility to government inspection. Inefficient government enforcement of labor codes and the pervasiveness of informal employment have created an insecure working environment where labor laws are flagrantly violated. Also, child labor is common, despite legislation that prohibits children under 14 from working.

About 12 percent of Ecuador's 4.2 million workers are unionized. The umbrella group Frente Unida de Trabajadores (United Front of Workers, FUT), the most visible labor advocacy organization in the country, is active in protesting against policies such as outdated minimum wage laws and the elimination of government subsidies on gas, which have a negative impact on Ecuadorian workers. Many formal sector workers, such as teachers, are also organized into independent unions to enable collective negotiation with management. However, the lobbying power of independent unions is weak and does little to improve the pay and benefits of employees. Unions are non-existent in the agricultural and informal sectors, where most Ecuadorians are employed and conditions are often worst. One poignant example of this phenomenon is the plight of Ecuadorian banana workers, who are unorganized and receive derisory wages of $2-3 per day. By contrast, unionized banana workers in Guatemala and other countries receive $10 per day plus benefits.

The Ecuadorian labor code, modified between 1991 and 1996, includes more than 600 articles regulating formal sector labor and the role of the government in arbitrating labor disputes. One of the most important policies outlined in the labor code is the official minimum wage, which was set at US$117.64 per month in 2001, a US$21 per month increase over the minimum wage in 2000. Minimum wage laws change frequently in Ecuador to compensate for rapid inflation. Employers in the formal sector are prohibited from firing workers without the permission of Labor Ministry inspectors. Other labor laws guarantee the right of large-firm workers to form trade unions but limit the length of solidarity strikes to 3 days, permit the hiring of temporary workers in export processing zones, and promise 15-day vacations, social security, and job training. Although these regulations are spelled out thoroughly in Ecuadorian law, they are enforced only in the formal sector and, therefore, do not benefit the majority of workers.

Unemployment lingered at 12 percent in early 2001, down slightly from 2000 but still well over the average rate for the 1990s. One of the most stubborn labor problems for the economy is the lack of skilled workers. The public school system focuses on academic and intellectual education and neglects vocational training, although there are few academic-oriented employment opportunities in Ecuador. The dilemma of vocational education is different for women, who are often pigeonholed into traditionally female work in the service sector, where they receive less pay than men do. While the GDP per capita was $4,940 in 1997, the GDP per capita for women was only $1,925.


1450s. Incas conquer indigenous tribes in and around Quito.

1531. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro lands on the Ecuadorian coast.

1534. Spain conquers Ecuador and claims the city of Quito. Ecuador becomes part of the Spanish Viceroy-alty of Peru.

LATE 1500s. The Spanish establish large agrarian estates, or haciendas, which feature indigenous peons working for European owners.

1739. Ecuador becomes part of the Spanish Royalty of Nueva Granada, which also comprises Colombia and Venezuela.

1822. Antonio José de Sucre, one of revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar's field marshals, defeats Spanish Royalists at the battle of Pichincha, near Quito. Ecuador becomes part of Gran Colombia, the independent territory comprised of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela.

1830. Ecuador leaves Gran Colombia to become a fully independent state.

1845-60. A period of political and military instability is caused by minor wars with Peru and Colombia and increasing tension between the conservative center Quito and the liberal metropolis Guayaquil.

1860-75. Autocratic conservative Gabriel Garcia Moreno holds power and establishes education and public works programs.

1895-1912. Radical liberal General Eloy Alfaro rules and reduces the power of the Catholic Church.

1925-48. Ecuador undergoes a period of great instability.

1941. Ecuador loses a border war with Peru and gives up land in the Amazon.

1970s. Ecuador becomes a major producer and exporter of oil.

1979. Ecuador adopts a new democratic constitution and gains official recognition as a democratic nation.

1981. Border conflict with Peru surfaces again.

1988. Rodrigo Borja Cevallos wins the presidency and introduces austerity measures designed to discipline the economy.

1992. Ecuador withdraws from OPEC to avoid export limitations.

1994. President Sixto Duran Ballen's neo-liberal program encounters strong opposition.

1995. War between Ecuador and Peru flares up again.

1997. President Abdala Bucarám flees Ecuador on charges of corruption. Fabian Alarcón becomes interim president.

1998. Jamil Mahuad becomes president and negotiates an end to the 157-year border dispute with Peru.

1999. Economic crisis hits, sparking rampant currency depreciation, high inflation, and severe unemployment.

2000. Mahuad is ousted in a non-violent coup after announcing plans to dollarize the economy. Vice President Gustavo Noboa is installed as president.

2000. Dollarization reaches completion.


There are several issues facing Ecuador that will influence its future economic performance. Dollarization and the economic reforms of 2000 will provide the economy with stability and credibility if they are carried out as designed, free of partisan battles. Yet, these reforms will not succeed without cost to the social wellbeing of the nation, since welfare and other social programs will be cut, government jobs will be eliminated, and further inflation will occur connected to the change of currency. The success or failure of reform will depend heavily on the reactions of the Ecuadorian people to these social strains. An uprising like the coup that occurred in January 2000 could upset the entire program and inhibit further progress; conversely, an expression of faith in Ecuador's government could help to consolidate democracy and attract investment from abroad.

Another immediate concern for Ecuador is the turmoil over Plan Colombia, the United States' US$1.3 billion anti-drug offensive in Colombia. A massive influx of people from southern Colombia into northern Ecuador is anticipated, and an overflow of violence into Ecuadorian territory. Ecuador has given the United States military access to its base in Manta, an agreement that created tension between Colombian guerillas and the Ecuadorian government. The severity of Colombia's internal conflict will have major implications for the Ecuadorian economy because the Ecuadorian government does not have money to set up a major operation on the Colombian-Ecuadorian border.

The long-term outlook for Ecuador's economic and social well-being is as precarious as in the short term. While the land is rich in natural resources, the country has not been successful in using this advantage to develop sources of consistent income and growth. Price instability for major exports on the international market makes for further difficulties. Ecuador's oil production will receive a boost from the completion of a new refinery and pipeline, expected within 2 years, but this will not be enough to sustain the national economy. The best hope for future growth in Ecuador is the diversification of its exports and substantial investment in value-added industries that can produce higher-value goods. Such diversification, combined with the consolidation of democracy and a disciplined approach to government expenditure, offers the best solutions for Ecuador's future economic and social advancement.


Ecuador has no territories or colonies.


"Access of the Poor to Health Care in Ecuador: Experiences withUser Fee Schemes." BASICS/USAID. <>. Accessed January 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Ecuador. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Ecuador: Economy." Country Watch. <>. Accessed January 2001.

Ecuador: Embassy of Ecuador, Washington, D.C. <>. Accessed October 2001.

"Ecuador: Foreign Labor Trends." U.S. Department of Commerce. <>. Accessed December 2000.

"Información Económica y Financiera." Banco Central del Ecuador. <>. Accessed January 2001.

USAID Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin America and the Caribbean: Selected Economic and Social Data. Washington, D.C.: USAID, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Heidi Jugenitz




U.S. dollar replaced the Ecuadorian sucres as the official monetary unit in September 2000.


Petroleum, bananas, shrimp, coffee, cocoa, cut flowers, fish.


Machinery and equipment, raw materials, fuels, consumer goods.


US$54.5 billion (1999 est.). [CIA World Factbook estimated the GDP at purchasing power parity to be US$37.2 billion in 2000.]


Exports: US$4.141 billion (1998). Imports: US$5.503 billion (1998). [CIA World Factbook estimated exports to be US$5.6 billion f.o.b. and imports to be US$3.4 billion f.o.b. in 2000.]

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Ecuador
Region (Map name): South America
Population: 13,183,978
Language(s): Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)
Literacy rate: 90.1%
Area: 283,560 sq km
GDP: 13,607 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Sets: 1,550,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 117.6
Number of Cable Subscribers: 323,820
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 25.7
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 9,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 0.7
Number of Radio Stations: 448
Number of Radio Receivers: 4,150,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 314.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 275,000
Computers per 1,000: 20.9
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 180,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 13.7

Background & General Characteristics

Named for its proximity to the Equator, La República de Ecuador (The Republic of Ecuador) is located in the northwest part of South America, bordering Colombia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean. Originally part of the federation known as La República de Gran Colombia which gained independence from Spain in 1822, Ecuador became a separate country in 1830. Part of its land was lost in disputes with Peru in the early part of the twentieth century. Today Ecuador is about the size of Colorado and is the smallest country in South America.

The people of Ecuador have a diverse ethnic heritage. About one-fourth of the population is indigenous to the area, about half is mestizo (mixture of Indian and European), and the remaining one-fourth is comprised of other ethnicities, including African and Caucasian. Ecuador has a total population exceeding 13 million people; approximately 1.5 million live in the capital city of Quito. The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, although the Quichua language (an Amerindian dialect) is spoken by many people. About 95 percent of the country's citizens are Roman Catholic.

Approximately 55 percent of Ecuador's population lives in urban areas. Estimates suggest that as many as 70 percent of the people in the country live below the poverty level; in 2001 the unemployment rate was 13 percent. The largest part of the national workforce is represented by agricultural jobs in seafood, fruit, coffee, and various other crops. The literacy rate is around 90 percent, and as many as two-thirds of children drop out of school by the sixth grade, even though education is compulsory until age 14. However, government programs designed to improve early childhood education are believed to have increased enrollment in primary schools steadily over the last 20 years.

Daily newspaper circulation in Ecuador is 70 per 1,000 people; daily readership is estimated to be between 5 and 10 percent of the total population. This relatively low figure is due mostly to poverty. There are 29 daily newspapers, most of which are located in the two largest metropolitan areas: the country's capital, Quito, where El Comercial and Hoy are published, and the nation's largest city, Guayaquil, the home of El Universo and El Expresso.El Universo alone has a daily readership of over half a million people.

The press in Ecuador has always been greatly influenced by religion and politics. Under the rule of conservative Gabriel Garcia Moreno (1860-1895), standards of expression were governed by the clergy of the Catholic Church, which had the power to censor the public's reading material. When the revolution led by Eloy Alfaro in 1895 overthrew Moreno's reign, the Radical Liberal rule broke official ties with the church, secularized education, and reformed conditions related to free speech and press.

Journalism is often a dangerous profession in Ecuador, as violence toward the press there has escalated over the past few years. In 2000 TV news director Rafael Cuesta Caputti was wounded by a mail bomb, one of several that were mailed to various journalists following the quick overthrow of President Jamil Mahuad. Also in that year, journalist David Montalvo was attacked while covering an influx of Colombian refugees and Ecuadorians at the border, and there were attacks on buildings housing newspapers and the news offices of Reuters and CNN.

Other acts of violence against media agents have been staged by individuals and groups in reaction to coverage of political events in the country. In 1998, 22 journalists at the Hoy were assaulted by demonstrators reacting to a printed scandal regarding misappropriation of aid for El Niño victims. There are other examples of journalists who have been threatened, attacked, injured, or even killed while covering politically and socially sensitive stories.

Journalists in Ecuador face a number of other obstacles as well, such as government limited access to public information, conflicts of interest among media owners, and heavy workloads. Most journalists make relatively low salaries, often requiring them to take second jobs to support themselves and their families. Added to the sometimes volatile political and legal environments that reporters must confront, producing high quality articles on Ecuador is not an easy job.

Economic Framework

Like many other South American countries, Ecuador has experienced often harsh economic conditions over the last two decades. Although the performance of country's fruit and seafood industries have been generally good, the nation succumbed to a number of problems in the 1990s that caused its economy to falter almost to the point of bankruptcy in 1999. In the years prior to that, damages caused by El Niño, the collapse of the banking industry, the Asian financial crisis, and a slump in the petroleum industry all contributed to stifling inflation, high unemployment, and dramatic currency devaluation. These events, as well as other economic factors, affected journalism in Ecuador in a number of ways.

For example, the banking crisis in 1999 led to media criticism of the president's handling of economic policy, causing increased tension between the government and the press. President Noboa was critical of the media's coverage and exhorted them to observe more objectivity in their reporting. In that same year, Congress had also established a 10 percent tax on newspaper and magazine distribution, an act that was met with outrage by the journalism community. Because of this reaction, and in an effort to help boost the country's economic crisis, the government repealed this tax later in the year.

During 2001 President Noboa made a number of economic reforms, including the privatization of several government industries, which created political and civic opposition and added to the potential dangers to journalists reporting related events. (Noboa, formerly the vice president, had moved into the executive position after a military coup removed his predecessor, Mahuad, two days earlier). Also during that year, protests over fuel prices by Indians contributed to the dangers faced by reporters. The administration later cut those prices, reducing much of the tension. However, because of the resulting social unrest, the government declared a national state of emergency and assumed the power to censure the media; it later prevailed upon media not to sensationalize events and to avoid creating public panic.

Press Laws

Ecuador has many laws that govern the practice of journalism. The Constitution of 1998 guarantees freedom of expression to all citizens, including members of the press. Moreover, The Law of Practice of Professional Journalism, passed in 1975, grants journalists access to official information and other data in the interest of the public, and to receive assistance from state or private agencies in obtaining this information. The Law also protects journalists from revealing sources, unless cases of national security are involved.

All journalists must hold a communication degree from a university and register with the Federación Nacional de Periodistas (National Federation of Journalists), although this law is not always enforced. Journalists having extensive experience but no degree may be given a certificado de profesionalización (professional certification) by the Ministry of Education, allowing them the same full status as degreed journalists. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared these licensing requirements to be unconstitutional, but as of June 2002, they are still in effect.

Slander and defamation laws in Ecuador are very strict. These laws carry criminal penalties of up to two years as well as fines, and many press agents have been punished for infractions. One of the provisions of the current Constitution holds that all citizens have the right to a good name, a good reputation, and personal and family privacy; this right places journalists in jeopardy when they report findings that can compromise any of these attributes. The law also provides the means by which offended parties can require retractions for publicized untrue statements.

Media law in Ecuador is civic oriented. For example, the National Council of Radio Broadcasting and Television regulates artistic, cultural, and moral standards, including control of content before 9:00 p.m. A strict Code of Ethics is maintained by the Ecuadorian Association of Radio and Television and the Association of Television Channels of Ecuador, which enforce the government's mandate in Article 81 of the Constitution requiring media to promote educational, cultural, and ethical values. Any publications that promote "violence, racism, sexism, religious or political intolerance, or that offends human dignity" are forbidden, according to The Code of Penal Procedure of 1983, which prohibits the distribution of writing that is "immoral" or which deal with "obscene or dishonorable subjects," or when such writing may instigate criminal activity.

Most recently, The Children's and Teenagers' Code is before the Congress, a bill that would ensure educational, informational, and socially responsible programming for the country's young people. In addition, it would establish the requirement to accommodate children with communication disabilities and to include programming in indigenous languages in areas where those languages are predominant. Article 200 of the Code of Minors forbids media to publish any information that harms the privacy or good reputation of children.

Various other state laws provide that the government can require all radio and television stations to broadcast official programs, news, and announcements. There are also laws that restrict the amount of space newspapers can use for political advertising per day (Electoral Law of 1987) and laws that require newspapers to reveal the amount of money spent on political advertising. Failure to comply with these laws can result in closure of a news organization. There are also many laws to protect copyright, to guard against threats to the government, and to limit the distribution of information that compromises national security. La Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciónes (Superintendent of Telecommunications) oversees regulations pertaining to broadcast media.


Although the Constitution of Ecuador guarantees media agents freedom of press, there is considerable self-censorship among journalists who write about sensitive political, social, or military issues, and for good reason: any published material that is deemed immoral, obscene, or otherwise in conflict with cultural values or "human decency" may subject a journalist to various sanctions one of several ways the government regulates the content of news and programming.

Several instances of censorship occurred during the last decade, such as the case of Navy Captain Rogelio Viteri, who was arrested after publicly discussing details of an alleged overcharge of insurance on aircraft. In 2001 the news programs of four radio stations were suspended in Orellana Province following an Indian uprising that caused the government to declare a national state of emergency, during which the Noboa administration asked journalists to keep "balance" in the news and to avoid sensationalism. And in 2001 Malena Cardona Batallas was sentenced to a 30-day prison term and fined for slandering a government official whom she questioned about fraud allegations. Other such cases of censorship can be found in recent Ecuadorian history.

Although the Constitution requires that the state release information to the public, this law is often ignored. In cases involving the protection of national security, the government may classify certain information and, with the threat of criminal penalties, restrict journalists from releasing it. According to Article 35 of the Law of Professional Practice of Journalism, journalists who commit "offenses against the security of the state" can be prosecuted under the National Security Law and the Penal Code.

State-Press Relations

Even though cases like the ones stated above exist, in most other matters the press in Ecuador enjoys limited interference from government. To a great extent, professional journalism organizations self-regulate the conduct of the press. The National Federation of Journalists' Code of Ethics (1978) provides penalties, including temporary license suspension, for ethics violations. The National Council of Radio Broadcasting and Television is charged with the responsibility of regulating broadcast programming that upholds moral and cultural standards, and can issue sanctions against stations that transmit programs contrary to these standards.

One area in which government does assert itself into the press is political advertising. The Electoral Supreme Court has the ability to sanction any news organization that fails to disclose the amount of money politicians have spent on advertising; other government bodies also limit the amount of space a newspaper can devote to political advertising per day.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Many foreign press agencies maintain offices in Ecuador, including CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and the Italy-based Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata. These organizations enjoy the same basic freedoms as Ecuador-based news groups, although foreign reporters may be required to register at the National Secretariat of Public Information in order to practice in the country. If they hold journalism or related degrees from universities in their home countries, they are fully entitled to be professionally active in Ecuador.

There are government policies, however, that limit the extent to which non-nationals participate in the ownership and administration of Ecuadorian media. Foreign investors can own only up to 25 percent of the country's broadcasting stations and companies. Managerial staff must be Ecuadorian citizens, and high-ranking media personnel must be born in Ecuador, according to the 1975 La Ley de Radiofusión y Televisión (the Law of Radio Broadcasting and Television.).

News Agencies

Several news agencies are based in Ecuador, including Diario El Mercurio, Diario El Telegrafo, and the Interpress Service.

Broadcast Media

Radio and television permeate Ecuadorian society, especially in the larger metropolitan areas of Quito and Guayaquil. The country has approximately 324 AM and 49 FM radio stations that broadcast to 4.15 million radios, and some 300 television stations that carry signals to 1.5 million televisions in the country. All stations are privately owned except for one government-controlled station. Seven networks operate in Ecuador, including five national channelsEcuavisa, Gamavision, Teleamazonas, TC-Telecentro, and Telesistema. The U.S.-based Univision, a Spanish language network, is also available on major cable systems in the country.

The broadcast industry in Ecuador is regulated by the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciónes (Superintendent of Telecommunications), an office comparable to the Federal Communications Commission in the United States.

Electronic News Media

Most of Ecuador's major newspapers maintain Web sites. There are also numerous other Ecuadorian-based online sources of journalism, including (with links to Reuters and Newsweek), EcuaNet, and Quito News, the latter of which is in English. These sites contain sections on local and international news, business, sports, culture, and other topics.

Education & TRAINING

Several universities in Ecuador offer degrees in mass communication, including the largest programs at Pontifica Universidad Católica, Univerisdad Andina Simon Bolivar, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and Universidad Nacional de Loja. Many programs are often called Comunicación Sociales, which is a degree that combines journalism classes with course work in public relations, web programming, culture and linguistics, and the social sciences.

Besides training in conventional university settings, other opportunities exist for the professional development of journalists in Ecuador. One workshop, sponsored by the Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research Center and held in Quito in 2001, provided a forum for journalists and scientists to discuss ways to disseminate information about the ecology. Another example of educational resources is the Quito-based El Centro Internacional de Estudios Superiores de Comunicación para America Latina (The International Center for Advanced Study in Communication in Latin America), a nonprofit, autonomous organization that conducts research and provides training for communication professionals from all over the region.

These, and many other opportunities, speak of Ecuador's commitment to the internationalization of media and to the cultural diversity of the people whom that media serves.


Ecuador is a nation of people whose passion for civic issues provides journalists with great potentialand great riskfor doing their jobs. Battling against often formidable economic and political barriers, the men and women in Ecuador use their material and technical resources to report news that is accurate and in the public interest. The country also appears to recognize the importance of free and uncensored media, although its commitment to enforcing free journalistic practice is not always as obvious. As Ecuador continues to be a news-conscious partner with its neighbors in the region and in the world, its prominence as a leader in journalism will be realized.

Significant Dates

  • 1998: Current Constitution enacted. Also, twenty-two journalists at the Hoy were assaulted by demon strators.
  • 1999: Economic crisis hits Ecuador, causing tensions that lead to attacks on journalists.
  • 2001: Navy Captain Rogelio Viteri was arrested after publicly discussing details of an alleged over-charge of insurance on aircraft. Malena Cardona Batallas was sentenced to a 30-day prison term and fined for slandering a government official. Four radio stations were temporarily suspended in Orel-lana following their coverage of an Indian uprising in that province.


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William Wardrope

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Ecuador (ĕk´wədôr) [Span., = equator], officially Republic of Ecuador, republic (2005 est. pop. 13,364,000), 109,483 sq mi (283,561 sq km), W South America. Ecuador is bounded on the north by Colombia, on the south and east by Peru, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The capital is Quito; the largest city and chief port is Guayaquil.

Land and People

The Andes, dominating the country, cut across Ecuador in two ranges and reach their greatest altitude in the snowcapped volcanic peaks of Chimborazo (20,577 ft/6,272 m) and Cotopaxi (19,347 ft/5,897 m). Within the mountains are high, often fertile valleys, where grains are cultivated, and the major urban centers, such as Quito, Cuenca, and Riobamba, are located. Earthquakes are frequent and often disastrous; in 1949 the city of Ambato was leveled. East of the Andes is a region of tropical jungle, through which run the tributaries of the Amazon River. The Pacific coast region, with hot, humid valleys north of the Gulf of Guayaquil, is the source of Ecuador's chief exports, including oil and coffee. Large deposits of oil are also located in the northeast. Guayaquil and Esmeraldas are the chief ports.

Most of the population live in the highlands. About 65% of the people are mestizo, and a quarter are indigenous. Spanish is the official language, but many natives speak Quechua or Jarvo. European-descended residents, who account for about 7% of the population, are mostly landholders and historically have played a dominant role in Equador's unstable political life. Some 3% of the country's inhabitants are of African descent. Roman Catholicism is the main religion.


In recent years Ecuador's economy has become service-based, although a small percentage of the workforce still engages in agriculture. Rice, potatoes, manioc, and plaintains are grown for subsistence; bananas, coffee, and cacao are the main cash crops. Cattle, sheep, and pigs are raised, and there is fishing and lumbering. Petroleum is the country's largest industry; others include food processing, tourism, and the manufacture of textiles, wood products, and chemicals.

Oil is Ecuador's leading export, followed by bananas, cut flowers, shrimp, fish products, coffee, and cocoa; other exports include forest products (notably balsawood), sugar, and rice. Vehicles, medicines, telecommunications equipment, and electricity are the main imports. The United States, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil are its chief trading partners. During the 1980s and 90s, Ecuador's leaders imposed austerity budgets on the government in an attempt to stimulate economic growth. The country experienced an economic crisis in the late 1990s, but began recovery early in the 21st cent. Ecuador is a member of the Andean Community, an economic organization of South American countries.


Ecuador is governed under the constitution of 2008. The executive branch is headed by the president, who is elected for a four-year term; the president may serve two consecutive terms. The president is both the head of state and head of government.The legislature consists of the unicameral National Congress, whose 124 members are elected for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 22 provinces.


Through the Nineteenth Century

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Ecuador was controlled by the Inca empire. Francisco Pizarro's subordinate, Benalcázar, entered the area in 1533. Not finding the wealth of the mythical El Dorado, he and other conquistadors, notably Gonzalo Pizarro and Orellana, moved restlessly on and the region became a colonial backwater. Given an audiencia in 1563 and established politically as the presidency of Quito, it was at various times subject to Peru and to New Granada. After an abortive independence movement in 1809, the region remained under Spanish control. It was liberated by Antonio José de Sucre in the battle of Pichincha (1822) and was joined by Simón Bolívar to Greater Colombia.

With the dissolution of that union in 1830, Ecuador, geographically isolated, became a separate state (four times its present size) under a constitution promulgated by its first president, Juan José Flores. Ecuador unsuccessfully attempted to annex Popayán prov. from Colombia by war in 1832 and occupied the Galápagos Islands that year. Boundary disputes led to frequent invasions by Peruvians in the 19th and 20th cent. The entire eastern frontier, known as Oriente, was in dispute. (In 1942, Ecuador signed a treaty ceding a large area to Peru, but in 1960 it renounced the treaty.)

Bitter internecine struggles between Conservatives and Liberals marked the political history of Ecuador in the 19th cent. The Conservatives, led by Flores and García Moreno (1821–75), supported entrenched privileges and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church; the Liberals, led by Rocafuerte (1783–1847) and Alfaro (1867–1912) and championed by the writer Montalvo (1832–89), sought social reforms.

The Twentieth Century

There have been a bewildering number of changes in government during the 20th cent. In 1925 the army replaced the coastal banking interests, dominant since 1916, as the ultimate source of power. Military juntas supported various rival factions, and between 1931 and 1940, 12 presidents were in office. José María Velasco Ibarra became president (for the second time) by a coup in 1944. He was ousted in 1947, and the next year Galo Plaza Lasso was chosen in free elections. During Plaza's regime there was unprecedented political reform. Velasco Ibarra was elected again in 1952 and sponsored improvements in roads and schools.

The first Conservative to rule in 60 years, Camilo Ponce Enríquez, followed (1956–60), but Velasco Ibarra was elected again in 1960. He was forced to resign the following year. His legal successor, Julio Arosemena Monroy, was deposed by a junta in 1963. Agitation for a return to civilian government led the military to remove the junta in 1966. A constitutional assembly installed Otto Arosemena Gómez as provisional president and drafted the country's 17th constitution. Velasco Ibarra was elected for the fifth time in 1968. Two years later, faced with economic problems and protests by leftist students, he assumed absolute power. Velasco promised to hold elections in June, 1972. However, the military deposed him in Feb., 1972, and canceled the elections.

Relations with the United States deteriorated in the early 1970s after Ecuador claimed that its territorial waters extended 200 mi (322 km) out to sea. Several U.S. fishing boats were seized by Ecuadorians, and U.S. aid to the country was suspended. In the same period Ecuador became Latin America's second largest oil producer. After Velasco's ouster, the military governed Ecuador until 1979, when a new constitution came into force and Jaime Roldós Aguilera was elected president. Following his death in 1981, he was succeeded by Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea. Hurtado faced many economic and political problems, including inflation, a large international debt, and a troubled oil industry, but his austerity programs failed to revive the economy.

Contemporary Ecuador

León Febres Cordero Rivadeneira, who replaced Hurtado in 1984, was kidnapped in 1987 by a guerrilla group but was released in exchange for a former coup leader. Rodrigo Borja Cevallos was elected president in 1988, and in 1992 he was replaced by Sixto Durán Ballén. In 1990 the indigenous peoples organized a series of boycotts and demonstrations, known as "the Uprising," and in 1992 they were given title to a large area of rain forest in the eastern part of the country. That same year Ballén privatized many state-owned enterprises. In 1994 Ecuador reached agreement with creditor banks on a landmark foreign-debt rescheduling plan. Ecuador again clashed with Peru in a border war in 1995; in 1998 the countries signed an agreement finalizing their borders and giving Ecuador access to the Amazon River.

Despite some achievements, Ballén's government was compromised by several developments, including a severe energy crisis and criminal corruption charges against the vice president. New presidential elections, held in mid-1996, resulted in a victory for Abdalá Bucaram, an often flamboyant populist. After only six months in office, he was dismissed for mental incapacity by the congress, which chose its leader, Fábian Alarcón, as interim president, but Vice President Rosalía Arteaga declared herself Bucaram's legitimate successor. An agreement was reached granting Arteaga the position, but she abruptly resigned and Alarcón succeeded her as interim president for 18 months.

Jamil Mahuad Witt, the mayor of Quito, was elected in a presidential runoff in 1998, as the country went into an economic crisis stemming from a drop in oil prices, high inflation, and nearly $3 billion in damages from El Niño. The sucre, the national currency, plunged in 1999, bringing strikes and more economic turmoil, and Mahuad declared a series of states of emergency. In Jan., 2000, dissident military officers and thousands of Ecuadorans of indigenous descent attempted to oust Mahuad and establish a junta, Armed forces chief of staff Gen. Carlos Mendoza intervened and engineered the accession of Vice President Gustavo Noboa Bejarano to the presidency. In Mar., 2000, the congress approved legislation that made the U.S. dollar the national currency beginning in 2001, a move intended to stabilize the economy; it originally had been proposed by Mahuad.

In 2002 the presidential election campaign ended with a runoff victory by Lucio Gutiérrez Borbúa of the leftist January 21st Partriotic Society party. Gutiérrez, a former army colonel, was a leader of the dissident military forces that sparked Mahuad's removal from the presidency in 2000. The government, which had been elected on a promise of increasing social spending, adopted austerity measures to win a new loan from the International Monetary Fund. The move alienated many who had backed Gutiérrez, and made his government dependent on uncertain coalitions in the congress.

A bid to impeach the president (Nov., 2004) failed, and he subsequently won enactment of a reorganization of the supreme court, which he accused of favoring the opposition. That move, however, sparked protests and demonstrations (and counterdemonstrations) and led to a political crisis in early 2005. In April increasing street protests and the president's endorsement of the use of force to quell them led the congress to remove the president. Vice President Alfredo Palacio was sworn in as his successor, and Gutiérrez, who denounced his removal as unconstitutional, went into exile.

In Aug., 2005, protesters in NE Ecuador sparked a national crisis by disrupting the nation's oil industry. They called for more of the revenues to be invested in the Amazonian regions that produce the oil, and won concessions from the government and oil companies. Gutiérrez returned to Ecuador in Oct., 2005, in a bid to retake office, but he was arrested; he was released only in Mar., 2006, after the charges of endangering national security were dismissed.

Palacio, who lacked allies in congress and headed a government suffering from scandal and defections, also was frustrated with his inability to push political reforms through Ecuador's congress. In Oct., 2005, he proposed asking voters to approve holding a constitutional assembly instead, but abandoned the idea (Dec., 2005) after it was rejected by the nation's electoral tribunal. Meanwhile, in November, a new supreme court was finally sworn in. In Feb.–Mar., 2006, the country experienced a new series of demonstrations, by various groups calling for local investment of oil revenues, full-time jobs for oil contract workers, and an end to negotiations on a free-trade pact with the United States. The protests, which disrupted the economy and were sometimes violent, led the government to declare a state of emergency several times during the two months. In the first round of the presidential election in Oct., 2006, no candidate won a majority, forcing a runoff in November. Álvaro Noboa, the country's wealthiest person and a conservative, placed first with 27% of the vote; the runner-up, Rafael Correa, a leftist economist, secured 23%. In the runoff, however, Correa won 57% of the vote.

Correa sought a referendum to establish a national assembly for constitutional reform, which the congress approved in Feb., 2007. The question of the powers of the assembly set off a power struggle between the president (supported by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal), who favored unlimited powers, and the congress, which had approved the assembly with limited powers. A narrow congressional majority voted to remove the tribunal judges aligned with the president, and those judges then voted to remove 57 members of the congress; both moves were of uncertain constitutionality. Correa, buoyed by his popularity and supported by sometimes violent demonstrators, managed to retain the upper hand; the congress lacked a quorum until March, when sufficient substitute members were appointed.

In April, voters approved electing a national assembly to rewrite the constitution, and it was elected in September. Also in April, the consitutional tribunal first refused to hear the congress members' challenge concerning their dismissal and then called for them to be reinstated, but the congress then dismissed the members of the tribunal, and Correa ordered the police to prevent the dismissed members from returning to the congress. In Nov., 2007, the national assembly, dominated by Correa allies, suspended the congress, but a majority of that body subsequently defied that action and met outside the legislature. In July, 2008, the assembly adopted a new constitution that increased the president's powers, permitted a president to serve two consecutive terms, and strengthened the government's control over the economy. It was approved in a Sept., 2008, referendum.

A Colombian raid on rebels encamped in Ecuador in Mar., 2008, led to several days of tensions between Colombia and Ecuador, which mobilized troops to the Colombia border and broke diplomatic relations. Colombia said computer files seized in the raid had evidence of monetary support for Correa from the rebels. Colombia subsequently apologized for the raid, which the Organization of American states called a violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty and the OAS charter. Relations between Ecuador and Colombia, however, continued to be strained, and in Apr., 2010, Ecuador issued an arrest warrant in connection with the raid for Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian defense minister at the time; Santos was elected Colombia's president in June, 2010. The raid also led to the resignation of the leaders of Ecuador's armed forces after it was learned that Ecuadoran intelligence services had shared information about the rebels with Colombia but not alerted the presidency to it. Full relations with Colombia were finally reestablished in Dec., 2010.

In Nov., 2008, a government audit of Ecuador's debt said that roughly 40% had been illegally contracted and recommended not paying it. In December Ecuador stopped paying interest on much of that debt; by June, 2009, however, the government had repurchased 90% of the $3.2 billion in contested bonds for about a third of its face value. The government's actions subsequently made it difficult for it to borrow internationally. In elections (Apr., 2009) held under the new constitution, Correa was reelected, and the PAIS Alliance, his party, and its allies won 73 seats in the National Assembly.

Correa promised increased socialism in his second term, and in July, 2010, legislation ended oil and gas production contracts with private companies, forcing them to manage wells on a fee basis. In Oct., 2010, members of the police and military staged protests against the loss of bonuses and other benefits as part of austerity measures (required in part because of the government's limited ability to borrow), occupying barracks and blocking roads and runways. When Correa confronted police at the Quito barracks, he was teargassed and had to be hospitalized; he later was rescued from the hospital, which had been surrounded by police, by a special forces raid.

In May, 2011, Correa won voter approval for a number of political changes, including increased presidential power over the media and judiciary, but his margin of victory was narrower than had been expected. In 2011 and 2012 Correa won two libel cases against journalist critics; the nature of the cases and how they were prosecuted, the size of the judgments, and the prison sentences imposed in one of the cases led to international criticism by free-press advocates. He subsequently abandoned the cases and issued pardons to those involved.

In Feb., 2013, Correa was easily elected to a third term, and his party won a majority in the assembly. In June, the National Assembly passed legislation that restricted press freedoms in an attempt to end coverage that the government regarded as unfair. Former president Mahuad was convicted in absentia in 2014 of embezzlement for having declared a bank holiday in 1999 and freezing bank accounts; he was accused of having done so to protect the interests of bankers.


See C. R. Gibson, Foreign Trade in the Economic Development of Small Nations: The Case of Ecuador (1971); L. Linke, Ecuador: Country of Contrasts (repr. 1976); N. E. Whitten, Jr., ed., Cultural Transformations and Ethnicity in Modern Ecuador (1981); O. Hurtado, Political Power in Ecuador (1985); J. D. Martz, Politics and Petroleum in Ecuador (1987); F. M. Spindler, Nineteenth Century Ecuador: A Historical Introduction (1987); D. Corkill, ed., Ecuador (1989).

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Official name : Republic of Ecuador

Area: 283,560 square kilometers (109,483 square miles), including the Galápagos Islands

Highest point on mainland: Chimborazo (6,267 meters/20,681 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern, Southern, and Western

Time zones: Mainland: 7 a.m. = noon GMT; Galápagos Islands: 6 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 714 kilometers (444 miles) from north to south; 658 kilometers (409 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 2,010 kilometers (1,158 miles) total boundary length; Colombia 590 kilometers (366 miles); Peru 1,420 kilometers (880 miles)

Coastline: 2,237 kilometers (1,398 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 363 kilometers (200 nautical miles)


Ecuador is a small country on the western coast of South America. Its name comes from its location on the equator. It is bordered by Colombia to the northeast, and by Peru to the east and southeast. To the west lies the Pacific Ocean. The Galápagos Islands, which are located far off the western shore of the country, form one of the twenty-two provinces of Ecuador. With a total land area of about 283,560 square kilometers (109,483 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Nevada.


Ecuador has no territories or dependencies.


Ecuador has a generally tropical climate, but there are slight variations between regions. The cold Peruvian Current in the Pacific Ocean keeps the coastal region cool, with temperatures ranging from 25° to 31°C (76° to 90°F). In the Sierra region, temperatures depend on altitude, with cooler temperatures at higher altitudes; the temperature can vary greatly over the course of the day. The highest mountains are snow-covered year-round. The Eastern Region normally has a warm, humid, and rainy climate. The average temperature there varies from 23°C to 26°C (72°F to 80°F). The Galápagos Islands enjoy warm and dry weather, with an average temperature of 28°C (85°F).

The southern part of the Sierra generally has heavy rainfall, with precipitation decreasing with altitude. Both the Sierra and the Costa get most of their rain between December and June. The Eastern Region is rainy year-round, however, with some areas receiving nearly 500 centimeters (200 inches) of rain annually. The Galápagos receive very little rainfall, but most of it occurs between January and April.

Rainfall can vary greatly in Ecuador. The country sometimes has periods of drought; at other times, heavy rainfall can result in flooding.


The country's mainland divides naturally into three regions: a coastal lowland, known as the Costa; a central mass made up of the Andean highlands, called the Sierra; and an interior lowland that forms part of the Amazon Basin, called the Eastern Region (Oriente). A fourth region is made up of the Galápagos Islands. Ecuador is geologically active, with many volcanic eruptions and frequent earthquakes. It is situated on the South American Tectonic Plate, with the Nazca Plate off the coast to the west.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Ecuador's western boundary is the Pacific Ocean, but the continental shelf of South America extends westward to the Galápagos Islands. The cold Peruvian Current moderates the climate of the Ecuador coast and the Galápagos Islands.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Gulf of Guayaquil (Golfo de Guayaquil) is an indentation at the southwestern end of Ecuador's coast, separated from the open ocean by the Santa Elena Peninsula. The large inhabited Puná Island lies in the Gulf.

Islands and Archipelagos

The Galápagos Islands, a province of Ecuador, lie far off the western coast of the country and are situated directly on the equator. The largest islands are Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santiago Island, Fernandina Island, Santa María Island, Pinta Island, San Cristóbal Island, Marchena Island, and Española Island. Only five of the islands have permanent populations and over half of the inhabitants live on San Cristóbal Island. The highest elevation on the Galápagos is Mount Azul, a 1,689-meter-high (5,540-feet-high) volcanic peak found on Isabela, the largest island.

Coastal Features

The land along the coast offers beautiful man-grove forests and several popular beaches.


There are more than 275 lakes in the Sierra region, including many volcanic crater lakes. Among the most famous is the Cuicocha Crater Lake, in the Cotachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve. Situated in a collapsed volcanic crater, the lake is 200 meters (600 feet) deep and almost 3 kilometers (2 miles) in diameter.


All of Ecuador's major rivers have their sources in the Andes. The most important river system of the coastal region is that of the Guayas River and its tributaries, especially the Daule. These waterways flow south and west into the Gulf of Guayaquil.

Many rivers flow east out of the Andes into the Eastern Region. Among the most significant rivers are the Pastaza, Napo, Santiago (or Zamora), Paute, Curaray, Tigre, Morona (Macuma), and Aguarico. These rivers have carved deep trenches that interfere with land transportation and limit the amount of land suitable for cultivation.

The longest river in Ecuador is the Putu-mayo (1,575 kilometers/980 miles), which flows east along the border with Colombia. All Eastern Region rivers eventually find their way to the Atlantic Ocean through the Amazon River.


There are no desert regions in Ecuador.


The western coast, called the Costa, is sometimes identified in English as the Coastal Lowlands and in Spanish as the Litoral or Littoral. The coastal region includes the basin surrounding the Guayas River drainage system; it is the country's richest agricultural zone. Since the Costa stretches through a variety of climate zones, the vegetation varies throughout the area. The Costa extends eastward into the country to be replaced by the abrupt rise of the Andean Sierra region.

Ecuador's Eastern Region is part of the greater geographical region known as the Amazon River Basin. The region is watered by a multitude of rivers and streams, several of which serve as tributaries of the Amazon River. The Eastern Region covers about 50 percent of the country and alternates between flatland and gently undulating tropical rainforest terrain.

The trench between the Cordillera Occidental and Cordillera Central was named the Avenue of the Volcanoes by the nineteenth-century naturalist Baron Alexander von Humboldt, and is now often referred to as the Inter-Andean Lane (Callejón Interandino). Hill systems run between the mountain ranges, breaking the lane into a series of basins, calle hoyos, in which most of the region's population live.


Two parallel ranges of the Andes Mountains create the Sierra highland region. In the west, the Cordillera Occidental is a high range extending the full length of the country from north to south. To the east, the Cordillera Central is a series of lofty peaks. Both ranges are of volcanic origin.

Still further east is a chain of lower mountains called the Cordillera Oriental.

In all, the Sierra has at least twenty-two peaks with elevations over 4,267 meters (14,000 feet). Many are active or dormant volcanoes. The highest summit, Chimborazo (6,267 meters/20,681 feet), is a snow-capped volcano located in the central portion of the country. Cotopaxi, (5,896 meters/19,344 feet) is the highest active volcano in the world.


There are a number of caves scattered throughout Napo Province. The most popular, however, are the Caves of Jumandi, three caverns that were formed by an underground river.


There are no significant plateau regions in Ecuador.


The Amaluza Dam is located on the Paute River in the province of Azuay. This public works project, completed in 1982, produces most of the country's electricity.


Galápagos is an ancient Spanish word for "Tortoise." The Galápagos Islands were discovered in 1535 by the Spanish navigator Tomás de Bertanga, who named the islands for the gigantic land tortoises found there. The islands became famous throughout the world after the 1835 visit by Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle. Darwin gathered evidence on plant and wildlife species on the islands, data which he later used to formulate his theory of evolution based on natural selection. His revolutionary ideas were published in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Besides the tortoises, the Galápagos Islands are also home to a variety of land and marine animals and dozens of unique birds, such as the flightless cormorant, which exists nowhere else in the world. About 90 percent of the islands are now set aside as protected wildlife reserves, some with access strictly limited to biologists and other researchers.



Dyott, George Miller. On the Trail of the Unknown in the Wilds of Ecuador and the Amazon. London: Butterworth, 1926.

Morrison, Marion. Ecuador. New York: Children's Press, 2000.


Plage, Dieter, and Mary Plage. "Galápagos Wildlife." National Geographic, January 1988, 122-145.

Web Sites

Ecuador Explorer. (accessed February 2003).

InterknowledgeEcuador. (accessed February 2003).

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283,560sq km (109,483sq mi)



capital (population):

Quito (1,648,100)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Mestizo 40%, Amerindian 40%, White 15%, Black 5%


Spanish (official)


Christianity (Roman Catholic 92%)


US dollar = 100 cents

Republic in nw South America. Ecuador straddles the Equator. Three ranges of the high Andes mountains form its backbone. The snowcapped Andean peaks include Mount Chimborazo and the world's highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, at 5896m (19,344ft). Earthquakes are frequent and often devastating. Ecuador's capital, Quito, lies in the high Andean plateaux, which are home to nearly half of the nation's population. West of the Andes lie flat coastal lowlands, which include Ecuador's largest city and port, Guayaquil. The e lowlands (Oriente) are drained by headwaters of the River Amazon. The Galápagos Islands, a province of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, lie c.1050km (650mi) off the w coast.


Ecuador's climate varies greatly according to altitude. Although the Peruvian current cools the coast, temperatures remain between 23° and 25°C (73°F and 77°F) throughout the year. Quito, just s of the Equator at 2500m (8200ft), experiences temperatures of 14°C to 15°C (57°F to 59°F). Rainfall is low in the sw, but the Oriente region is hot and wet.


Vegetation in the Andes varies from high snowfields to grassy meadows in the foothills. Beans, maize and wheat are grown in the highlands; citrus fruits, rice and sugar cane on the coastal lowlands. These lowlands also include deciduous woodland and large tropical forests in n coastal areas. Palm trees are common. Balsa trees grow in the Guayas valley. The s border with Peru is desert. Dense rainforest covers the Oriente.

History and Politics

The Inca conquered the kingdom of Quito in the late 15th century, and their language, Quechua, remains widely spoken. In 1532, Spanish forces, under Francisco Pizarro, defeated the Incas at Cajamarca and established the Spanish viceroyalty of Quito. A revolutionary war culminated in Antonio José de Sucre's defeat of the Spanish at the battle of Mount Pichincha (1822). Simón Bolívar negotiated the admittance of Quito to the federation of Gran Colombia, with Colombia and Venezuela. Ecuador seceded in 1830.

For the first half of the 20th century, the army dominated the political scene. In the Treaty of Rio (1942), Ecuador was forced to cede more than 50% of its Amazonian territory to Peru. José María Velasco Ibarro dominated politics in the post-1945 politics. During the 1950s, his authoritarian regime improved Ecuador's infrastructure. In 1970, faced with student riots and economic recession, Velasco established a dictatorship. In 1972, an army coup deposed him. Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979. Failure to implement land reforms and lack of recognition for minorities saw continual unrest during the 1980s. Durán Ballen's presidency (1992–96) saw the start of privatization. Austerity measures provoked civil unrest. A border war with Peru (1995) led to the establishment of a demilitarized zone. Abdala Bucaram defeated Ballen in 1996 elections. In 1997, Bucaram was declared mentally incompetent and removed from office. Jamil Mahaud won the 1998 elections. Recession and soaring inflation saw Vice-President Gustavo Noboa succeed Mahaud after a coup in June 2000.


Ecuador is a lower-middle income developing nation (2000 GDP per capita, US$2900). It suffered from recession at the end of the 20th century. Agriculture employs 33% of the workforce. It is the world's third largest producer of bananas. The discovery (1972) of oil in the Oriente transformed the economy. Other important crops and industries are cocoa, coffee, forestry, and mining. Fishing is important, but periodically disrupted by El Niño. In 2000, the US dollar became the national currency in an attempt to stabilise the economy and curtail inflation.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name

Ecuadorian; ecuatoriano (masc.), ecuatoriana (fem.)

Alternative Names

Republic of Ecuador, República del Ecuador (official name, in Spanish), El Ecuador


Identification. In 1830, Ecuador took its name from the Spanish word for the equator, which crosses the entire northern sector. The three mainland regions are referred to as the Coast, the Sierra, and Amazonia, or the Oriente ("east"). A constitutional democracy, Ecuador is a multicultural, multiethnic nationstate that many consider multinational. It has one of the highest representations of indigenous cultures in South America and two distinct AfroEcuadorian cultures. The dominant populace is descended primarily from Spanish colonists and settlers and to a lesser extent from German, Italian, Lebanese, and Asian immigrants. Spanish is the national language; thirteen indigenous languages are spoken, of which the principal ones are Quichua in the Sierra and the Oriente and Jivaroan in the Oriente.

The citizens take great pride in being Ecuadorian and refer to themselves as ecuatorianos(-as) and gente (people). Despite continuing discrimination, indigenous and black citizens identify themselves as Ecuadorians as well as native people or black people.

The elites and those in the uppermiddle classes are oriented toward education, personal achievement, and the modern consumerism of EuroNorth America. People in these classes regard themselves as muy culto ("very cultured"), and while they may learn English, French, or German as part of their formal education, most disavow knowledge of any indigenous language.

People in the upper and uppermiddle classes generally identify by skin color as blanco ("white"), to distinguish themselves from those whom they regard as "below" them. The prevalent concept of mestizaje is an elitist ideology of racial miscegenation, implying "whitening." Those who selfidentify as "white" may use the term "mestizo" for themselves, as in blancomestizo , to show how much lighter they are than other "mestizos."

Black people, represented by their leaders as AfroEcuadorians, (afroecuatorianos) , speak Spanish and range through the middle to lower classes. They are concentrated in the northwest coastal province of Esmeraldas, the ChotaMira River Valley of the northern Andes, and the city of Guayaquil. A sizable black population lives in sectors of the Quito metropolitan area, and there is a concentration in the oil-rich Amazonian region.

The cultures of the indigenous people are rich and varied, but there are commonalities across languages and societies. The Quichua (pronounced Kéechua) speakers of the Andes and Amazonia are differentiated from one another, but come together when common causes arise. Quichua includes the northern dialects of Quechua, the language of the imperial Inca. In Quichua and Quechua people identify as Runa ("fully human"), and their language as runa shimi ("human speech").

All of the nationalities identify in their own languages as both fully human beings and as Ecuadorians. There is no word resembling indio ("indian") in indigenous languages, and the use of that term is deeply resented. In Spanish, the term for indigenous person ( indígena ) is preferred, though gente (person, human being) is the most appropriate designation for any Ecuadorian. People throughout Ecuador make it very clear that identification as Ecuadorian is for all people, and is not only for the elite and uppermiddle classes.

Location and Geography. Ecuador, which is 109,493 square miles (283,600 square kilometers; about the size of Oregon), is located in western South America, the second smallest South American nation. Its topography is dramatic. Two cordilleras split the nation into coastal, Andean, and Amazonian regions. The Galápagos Islands lie 600 miles (965 kilometers) off the Pacific coast. The nation is flanked on the north by Colombia and on the east and south by Peru. The coastal region ranges from a tropical rain forest in the north to a mixed wetdry monsoon region for the rest of the region. A third fairly low cordillera runs intermittently along the coastal strip. The Andes region has a number of snowcapped volcanic mountains, dominated by Chimborazo (20,596 feet; 6,278 meters) and Cotopaxi (19,613 feet; 5,978 meters). Rich, fertile valleys, or basins, lie in the interAndean region known as the Corridor of the Volcanoes. The Amazonian topography is highly varied, ranging from mountainous regions that tower well over 6,000 feet (1,829 meters) to Amazonian biotopes.

Demography. The population of Ecuador is estimated as approaching fourteen million and is underenumerated. It is divided almost evenly between the Coast and the Sierra. The Amazonian region consists of only about 6 percent of the nation's population. Guayaquil, the major coastal city with nearly four million people, and the Andean capital, Quito, with its two million people, constitute the powerful polarities of a politicaleconomic coastalsierran divide. Both metropolitan areas vie for control of the nation's wealth and power. Indigenous people may comprise as much as 25 percent to 35 percent of the republic, and black people about 7 percent. When those descended from indigenous or AfroEcuadorian parents or ancestors are added to these statistics, people who from an elite and uppermiddleclass perspective carry the "taint" of ethnicity become the majority. The Quichua speaking people constitute the largest indigenous population of about two million, followed by the Jivaroans who number between 50,000 and 70,000. The smallest group, the Zaparoans, number only a handful of actual speakers. The other indigenous groups range between 500 and 1300.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish, called castellano , is the official Ecuadorian language. According to the 1998 constitution, the state guarantees the system of bilingual, intercultural education that uses the principal language of a particular culture and Spanish as the idiom of intercultural relations.

The indigenous nationalities speak various languages that belong to different linguistic families. Quichua is spoken by most indigenous people in the Sierra and by the largest indigenous group in Amazonia. Wellknown cultural clusters in the Sierra include the Otavalo of ImbaburaCarchi, the TiguaZumbagua of Cotopaxi, the Colta of Chimborazo, the Cañari of Cañar and Azuay, and the Saraguro of Loja. The Awa, Chachi, and Tscháchila of the northern coastal region speak mutually intelligible dialects of Barbacoan. In the Amazonian region, Shuar, Achuar, and Shiwiar are Jivaroan languages, though those identifying with the latter may speak Achuar, Shuar, Quichua, or Záparo. The Waorani, Záparo, and Cofán (A'i) speak languages unrelated to other language families of South America, and the Siona and Secoya speak Western Tukanoan.

Quechua, subsuming Quichua, has twelve million speakers ranging from southern Colombia to Argentina in the Andes, and Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru in Amazonia. It is the largest Native American language. The Jivaroan languages (Shuar, Huambisa, Achuar, and Aguaruna) are spoken in northeastern Peru; Cofán is spoken in Colombia; Siona and Secoya are spoken in Colombia and Peru. All indigenous languages are native to South America; they are not derived from pidgin or creole. Black people speak their own dialects of Spanish and generally do not learn indigenous languages. Bilingualism and multilingualism are common in Amazonia, where the Achuar and Canelos Quichua intermarry, and there is increasing intermarriage among people in diverse language families. Spanish is common as a second or third language among indigenous people, and English, French, and German are used by those who have been educated abroad or who have traveled extensively in Europe or the United States.

Symbolism. Identity as Ecuadorian has many key symbols. La patria ("the motherland") is complemented by el país, "the fatherland" (country). The former is the more powerful evocative referent of collective identity. While el país may be in chaos, la patria endures. The government, el gobierno ,is closely related to the fatherland. It expresses itself through el estado ("the state"). The people look to the government for sustenance and protection, but also expect corruption. When the government cannot serve the people, they rise up as one. The common collective chant during such uprisings is el pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido ("the united people will never be defeated"). The feminine concept of la nación ("nation") is weaker than the other two, as is the collective idea of an estadonación ("nation state"). While scholars debate whether Ecuador is a true nation or nationstate, the people identify with la patria and look to el gobierno for salvation of individual and collective self, as citizens of el país . "Governability" is another key symbol in Ecuador, and every leader has stated that Ecuador is very difficult to govern, or that governability is impossible.

The national flag (the "tricolor") emerged in the union of Gran Colombia in 1820s. A broad horizontal yellow stripe represents the sun, fount of all natural abundance; a red stripe is for the blood of the heroes who fell in the making of a nation, specifically those who died in Quito; and the central blue strip is for the sky. The national coat of arms, which is also part of the national flag, features the union of Coast and Sierra. The condor, the national bird, is on top of the coat of arms. In the 1960s the Central Bank of Ecuador took as its emblem a golden sun mask from the La Tolita archaeological culture of Esmeraldas Province. In the 1990s the indigenous organization CONAIE appropriated this same mask as its own emblem of multinationality of el pueblo . One of Ecuador's most powerful collective symbols, which appears on some official stationery and in other places, is ¡el Ecuador es, ha sido, y será, país amazónico! (Ecuador has been, is, and will be, an Amazonian country!). This slogan arose after Peru attacked Ecuador in the war of 1941. After brief but costly wars in 1981 and 1995, the boundary dispute was resolved in October 1998. With the acceptance of the treaty, Ecuadorians everywhere reported feeling as though a limb had been amputated from the collective body of el país long after the Peruvian violation of la patria .On 12 May 1999, presidents Jamil Mahuad and Alberto Fujimori presented a new symbol of unitythe Spondylus shellevidence of ancient long-distance trade between the native peoples of Ecuador and Perurenewing their nations' cooperation in development and prosperity.

The national anthem reflects these themes. It is played and sung, often with all of its verses, at all public gatherings in every setting, including those involving nationalities that may be at odds with the government, the nation, and the nationstate. Every television station signs on with the national anthem, often accompanied by pictures of the national flag flying and the golden sun mask radiating. Also included are ethnic and geographic scapes that remind everyone of the topographical and cultural diversity of the country.

Two key symbols represent both cultural biological centralization and homogenization and diversification, human integrity, and dignity. The first is that of mestizaje , which is promulgated by the elite, who descend from Europeans. It refers to a body of blended Ecuadorians who occupy the middle to lower classes. It is confronted constantly by the second symbol of nacionalidad ("nationality") which refers to being culturally distinct in an oppressive nationalist state. The most prominent nationality in Ecuador is that of the Quichua speaking people. In the 1970s their slogan was a common greeting in the Inca Empire: ama shua, ama llulla, ama quilla ("don't steal, don't lie, don't be lazy"). The indigenousbased socialpolitical movement pachakutik ("return to the land"), formed in 1996, chose as its flag a rainbow spectrum, representing the anaconda, which emerges from the Amazonian lowlands to unite people from the Andes and Amazonia. This rainbow flag was combined with the golden sun and Inca greeting to build a master set of symbols of a diverse yet unified body. These symbols are now nationally recognized, defining an indigenous space of dynamic nationalities within the republic.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. PreInca indigenous existencewhich is important to the concept of national culture in Ecuadoris difficult to unravel, but it was rich in its diversity, complex in its multiplicity of polities, and left an archaeological record that differentiates its cultures from others in South America. The Incaic period, to which most Ecuadorians refer when discussing the indigenous past, began about 1480 and ended fifty years later with the Spanish conquest led by Francisco Pizarro and Diego Almagro. The Inca, whose northern leader in the 1530s was Atahualpa, probably introduced Quechua, as Quichua, into Andean Ecuador, and they certainly promoted its usage as a political lingua franca. The Spaniards introduced their language as they imposed colonial rule, but Quichua continued to spread.

As the Spanish took over Quito, began the exploration of Amazonia, and sought to establish a viable Pacific port, African-American people began their own conquest of the northwest rain-forest region of what is now Esmeraldas. By the mid sixteenth century, self-liberated Africans and their offspring controlled what was known as the Zambo Republic ( zambo refers to intermixture of African and Native peoples). As Quito became a royal court system of the Spanish crown in 1563, it extended bureaucratic control westward to the northwest coast and eastward to the Upper Amazon. In both areas full-scale revolts occurred, with the "Zambos" of the northwest coast and the Quijos and Jivaroans of the Amazonian region resisting all attempts of Spanish incursion. The Spanish were forced to make alliances with the representatives of the Zambo Republic to the west; they managed to subdue the Quijos in the north Amazonian territory, but not the Jivaroans in the center and south Amazonian regions.

The colonial era lasted for three hundred years and caused largescale depopulation due to disease and the emergence of a system of "racial hybridity" that denied nationality to all those classed as indio and negro . Through it all there were uprisings, revolts, revolutions, movements of selfassertion, and relationships that promoted subsistence, trade, commerce, and cultural coherence beyond colonial bureaucratic control.

National holidays that proclaim the sequence of events leading to the one hundred fifty years of republican history are 10 August (1809), "shout for Independence," and 24 May (1822), "Battle of Pichincha." After that battle Ecuador broke from Spain, which also governed Peru, and joined the Confederation of Gran Colombia, which also included presentday Colombia and Venezuela. In 1830 Ecuador became an independent republic, gained its name, and began a tumultuous history racked with ethnic clashes and dominated by a white, Europeanoriented oligarchy.

A unifying force between about 1860 and 1875 was a conservativeCatholic alliance aimed at infrastructural development and consolidation of the blanco elite's position against that of the army, which was filled with blacks and mestizos. As conservatism reigned in the Sierra, liberalism grew on the Coast. Political conflicts between liberal and conservative, Coast and Sierra played heavily in national governing throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s led to a series of civil wars, including the assassinations of conservative President Gabriel García Moreno and liberal President Eloy Alfaro Delgado.

The decline of dependency on the world market that accompanied World War I calmed the violence and civil disorder and ushered in an era of internal development. As dependency on world trade returned, violence again became common until the army of the Sierra rebelled against coastal dominance and initiated a new era of Quitodominated bureaucratic controls that included a central bank (inaugurated 10 August 1927). Between 1925 and 1979, Ecuador's political history, which has a powerful hold on its cultural history, was characterized by democraticmilitary dictatorship oscillations, with the democratic regimes being run by great caudillos (people who arise in a crisis and rally people of opposing parties to their cause).

Since 1979, after nine years of military dictatorship, Ecuador has had a series of democratic governments, each one strengthening the role of the white elite and increasing the poverty of the rest of the nation. Three elected presidents have failed to fill their terms. In 1981, Jaime Roldós Aguilera perished in a plane crash; in 1997, Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz was ousted by an act of congress and by grassroots movements for "mental incapacity"; and in 2000, Jamil Mahuad Witt was ousted by a conjuncture of an indigenous and grassroots uprising and a military coup. Although a growing middle class has been increasingly apparent in the last quarter century, poverty has grown exponentially as an economy of capital dependence has overridden subsistence pursuits. The most recent manifestation of these processes is that of "dollarization" of the national currency in 2000.

National Identity. In all walks of life, people identify as ecuatorianos(-as) . National identity emerged historically in several sectors. The elites and the upperclass, along with ideologues in the military and the press, use the concept of " blanco mestizo " to both identify with the masses (through the concept mestizo ), and to affirm their distance from the masses (through the concept blanco ). The elites have a concept of gente de bién ,or gente bién ("good people"; "people of good or proper background"). They are complemented by a new elite that sometimes is known as gente de bienes ("rich people"). The concept of sociedad ("society") refers to the old elite, both internally and among the new rich.

Among the elite and the newer wealthy, identity as Ecuadorian is paralleled by identity as good, righteous, Catholic, civilized, white people, who share a European and United States orientation. Colonial wealth is important, as is the maintenance of high status with great power and substantial wealth. Among the middle classes, the elite focus on whiteness is conjoined with the elitist ambivalent stigma of mestizaje . Middleclass commercial people tend to identify with their families, their jobs, and a general sense of the republic without worrying about their ethnicity.

Over half the nation is poor, and poverty is a selfidentity referent. Here national identity is with a state system that owes the poor a livelihood. Those who self identify as "fully human" in one of seven or eight language families also identify as being Ecuadorian, but look to themselves and to their own social movements for critical livelihood, and for the political capital by which to construct a nation of indigenous people. Where the elites and middle classes are dominated by capitalist thought and activity, the indigenous people, who are at the forefront of movements of self-affirmation, favor socialist reforms. Black people are caught between the dominant elite, the prejudices of the middle classes, and a tenuous and tentative rapproachment with indigenous people.

Ethnic Relations. Black and indigenous people identify with cultural counterparts in other nations. For example, Quichuaspeaking people identify with other such speakers in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Jivaroan speakers do the same with Peruvians. Cofán, Secoya, and Siona make little differentiation between themselves and those speaking the same languages who live in adjacent countries. At another level, the very fact of being indigenous, of being "original people," serves as a binding reference not only in South America, but across the Americas and beyond. Black people identify more tenuously with those who would seem to be phenotypically similar, and the processes of identity are stronger within their own regions than they are internationally. In the last decade, movements for black ethnic unity have taken place. Black leaders suffer from a lack of funding while indigenous leaders have considerable resources for international ethnic nationalist movements of selfaffirmation.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Urbanism permeates the world view of the whitemestizo sectors of Ecuador and is denied by other Ecuadorians. To be urbane in the Sierra is to be a social part of a major cityQuito, Ambato, Riobamba, Cuencawhere whiteness, Catholic Christianity, economic wealth, and ties to political power define the dignidad ("dignity") and gentileza ("gentility") of those who set themselves off from the majority. In the large coastal citiesGuayaquil and Mantasimilar concepts prevail, but the phenomena of being listo ("ready to respond") and vivo ("ready to seize an opportunity") are more salient than they are in the Sierra. The cultural and political differences between the Coast and the Sierra are great, and each region may constitute a political economic bloc that severely impedes a national consensus on matters of critical collective concern.

Both urbanoriented serranos , as the highlanders are called, and costeños , the people from the Coast, draw a primary contrast between that which is urban and that which is wilderness. The wilderness includes rain forest and dryforest areas, high mountainous regions ("páramos"), and riverine systems. These are the systems which, in other contexts, define the beauty and romance of the country, that which the tourism industry seeks to "develop" for the benefit of the rich, mobile, and powerful.

Those with wealth and power long ago established what they regard as civilized spaces through the haciendas, which are extensive land holdings surrounding large rural homes. Those in control of their haciendas, called hacendados , treated people on their lands by a system known in the Sierra as the huasipungo (described by western scholars as "landed slavery"). On the Coast the concept of concertaje was very similar, and carried the same meaning. Agrarian reform, which began in the early 1960s and continued through the 1970s, has rectified this system to a large extent, but many large hacendados retain their landed power bases.

For indigenous and AfroEcuadorian people, together with their various cultural "mixtures," urban areas and rural areas blend; each depends on the other, and the ability to move between the sites of the "government" and the "home" and the "land" is critically important. Many such people are familiar with one or more of the urban centers of Ecuador, having spent time there in one or another capacity. Most such rural people have relatives and friends in the cities. People in the poor sector are able to move in and out of urban centers because of kinship ties, ties of ritual kinship ( compadrazgo ), and ties of patronage. Social movements usually originate in a rural sector and move toward the governing center.

Architecture can be thought of as a cultural complement to the nation's beautiful, varied scenery. It runs the gamut from humble wattleanddaub houses with thatched roofs in the northern countryside to the magnificent La Companía Church in Quito with its goldleaf interior; from thickwalled colonial monasteries to glasswalled, angular skyscrapers. The pace of urbanism has steadily increased since the beginning of petroleum production in the early 1970s, but it has not erased regional architectural styles that rely on natural materials such as palm, mangrove, bamboo, and thatch on the Coast; eucalyptus, maguey stems, earth, pampas grass, and thatch in the Sierra; and palm, bamboo, and thatch in the Oriente. Increasingly, these natural materials are being supplemented or replaced by cut planks, cinderblock, cement, brick, ceramic and asbestos tile, and corrugated metal.

Urban sprawl is visible around the major cities and towns and along the Panamerican highway that runs northsouth through the center of the country, but there are vast open spaces in the more rural areas. In the less populous coastal and Amazonian sectors, open spaces abound despite colonization and urbanization. Population density in urban areas, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, is greatly underreported.

The use of personal household space is extremely varied. In general terms, there tends to be a female portion and a male portion of a domicile. Visitors enter through the male side and are received in a sala ("living room"). To be polite as a guest is to be seated; hosts move to serve guests. Within this framework there are innumerable variations. For example, among the indigenous Canelos Quichua native peoples of the Bobonaza River region, and radiating out of urban Puyo, the head of the house sits on a round carved wood stool, the seat of power of the water spiritmaster Sungui. Guests sit on a long bench that symbolizes the anaconda. The Achuar native people carry this further, insisting that male and female guests be separated: women enter through the female door and sit with the women on small stools, while the men enter through the male side and sit on the anacondabench.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The most basic, ubiquitous prepared food is soup, with many variations according to region and ingredients. Coastal fish and coconut milk chowders, sierran potatobased soups, and Amazonian pepperpot dishes are joined by chicken consommé, cream of avocado, and cow's foot and tripe soup. The mildly fermented chicha made from manioc by indigenous people of Amazonia could be regarded as a soup in its daily, nonceremonial consumption. Other common nonfermented food drinks are made with barley and oatmeal.

The middle and upper classes follow a European model of diet and dining: the primary meal, dinner, features several courses, is served at 2:00 p.m., and may last for two hours. First comes the soup, and then the segundo ("second") or seco ("dry") courses. It is a time to gather with family at home, or to meet friends or business acquaintances at a restaurant. Workers who travel far from home may take along lunch in a vertically compartmentalized lunch bucket, or buy inexpensive hot food from kiosks or street vendors. These foods include potato and meat soups or stews, choclos (corn on the cob), small sausages fried with onions and potatoes, and eggs. Other national favorites from the street to restaurants include empanadas , small meat, vegetable, or corn pies; shrimp, bivalves, fish, pork, or beef specialties; and "typical" dishes such as locro , a potato and cheese soup, and llapingachos , potato cheese fritters. In urban Quito and Guayaquil one may choose food from Arby's, Domino's Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, or TGI Friday's. A small number of caterers specialize in homedelivered prepared meals to accommodate employed women. Abundant fresh fruits and fruit juices are extremely popular.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. A variety of special dishes are prepared from fresh ingredients for ceremonial occasions by the woman of the house and her female maids. In the Sierra and parts of the Coast fanesca , a hearty soup that combines numerous beans, grains, and other vegetables cooked in fish broth, is served during Holy Week. Native people of Amazonia and the Sierra prepare chicha , a brew made from manioc and maize, respectively. This drink is served on all ceremonial occasions, but in Amazonia it also provides daily caloric intake. For the elite, alcoholic drinks, particularly imported scotch whisky (called wisky ), and imported beer and wine are served on special occasions. As one descends the class hierarchy, whisky is replaced by bonded rums and raw cane alcohol ( trago ), and domestic beer. In some places, inexpensive Chilean wines supplemented or replaced chicha and domestic beer.

Basic Economy. The lush Andean valleys and coastal farms produce vegetables and fruits in great variety and abundance, and there is active interregional marketing. Stable starches are rice, bananas, plantains, and taro, grown on the coast; potatoes, corn, barley, quinoa, and wheat from the Sierra; and, in Amazonia, plantains, bananas, and particularly the root crops manioc and taro. Coffee, sugar, cacao, and coconuts from the coast are widely distributed. Chickens are raised everywhere for meat and for eggs, which are a major source of protein. Other meats are provided by hogs, cattle, and sheep; fish and some game are important in the Oriente. A wide variety of sausages, processed meats, and canned tuna and sardines is available in markets. The dairy industry is strong in the Sierra and the Coast, providing milk and numerous types of cheeses. Supermarkets carry an increasingly wide variety of imported canned and dehydrated soups, as well as nationally produced canned cow's foot and tripe soups.

Until recently, Ecuadorians depended entirely on domestic produce. Probably 50 percent or more of Ecuador's people produced their own food. Such production took place on coastal and sierran haciendas, where the elite controlled the land. Peasants (often indigenous) eked out an existence bordering on abject poverty, often in systems of sharecropping or landed slavery. Since the petroleum boom and the land reforms of the 1970s, more people depend on meager cash incomes to purchase food grown by fewer people. Commercial agriculture and floriculture have increased dramatically with the use of plastic greenhousesthe plastic sheeting is a product of the petrochemical industries. Fish farming (primarily trout and tilapia) and shrimp farming are important sources of food and income.

Land Tenure and Property. Black people of the northwest coast and indigenous people in the Amazonian region have long been excluded from any land tenureship of the property on which they have dwelled, since the mid16th century in the former, and from time immemorial in the latter. The lands of indigenous and black people in these lowland regions are declared tierras baldías ("uninhabited lands") even though they are teeming with Afro Ecuadorian or indigenous people. During the time of sierran land reforms, they were opened for colonization by poor Andean people. The resulting clashes and conflicts continue.

Commercial Activities. Petroleum, bananas, shrimp and other seafood, timber and wood products, fruits, and flowers constitute Ecuador's primary legal exports. Its major industry is petroleum processing, which takes place in Balao, just outside of the city of Esmeraldas. Most of the oil comes from the Amazonian region, where companies such as Texaco have caused one of the worst oil disasters in the world. Indigenous organizations have tried to sue Texaco in the United States, but the white mestizo judges and lawyers of Ecuador support Texaco as a major source of national and institutional wealth.

Division of Labor. In the upper and middle classes, family connections and higher education are extremely important for significant participation in many professional and commercial ventures, as are payments to powerful political figures. Manual labor opportunities are often controlled by labor bosses who recruit among poor people and illegally take a portion of the workers' wages. This system, known as enganche , exploits especially black and indigenous people by setting them against low class and usually unionized mestizo workers. People have multiple means of labor mobilization including the communitybased minga, in which everyone pitches in to accomplish a task.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Ecuador is a highly stratified society with strong symbolic as well as socioeconomic and political ordering. The social structure constitutes a class pyramid. The allwhite oligarchies represent the pinnacle of political power, economic control, and social esteem. There is a significant middle class of professional, commercial, and service workers who generally self identify ethnically as blancos . Their representations of other people depend on many political and socioeconomic situations and contexts. Power and control are associated with being blanco , and upward mobility often involves a process known as blanqueamiento (whitening). In vulgar discourse blanqueamiento means moving away from any mancha (taint, or stain) of the hybrid categories, as well as denying the sources of indio and negro . Despite quasi-racial categorization and vast differences of wealth, there is a great deal of mobility and fluidity in all social and cultural sectors.

Well over half the nation is composed of those stigmatized as black or "Indian" people and those with ancestry falling into such categories; they are excluded from access to wealth, power, or social esteem. These are the people who must be mobilized in a national election or for collective action, and to whom a caudillo must appeal, usually through the assertion of the commonality of all Ecuadorians as el pueblo . Ecuadorians whose forefathers came from other lands, especially Lebanon, have been particularly successful in such mobilization and some of them have also been quickly deposed by those mobilized. Recent expresidents Bucaram Ortiz and Witt Mahuad illustrate these dual processes of caudillismo .

People throughout Ecuador are thoroughly familiar with the economic machinations at the pinnacle of power and argue against aggressive self serving capitalism and corporate privatization while at the same time looking to patrons in the government for relief from poverty and opportunities to advance socially and economically. The symbolic structure of stratification permeates all dimensions of the republic. Even Amazonian shamans, when in trance, travel to spirit governments to gain the power to cure. In their festivals, black people in Esmeraldas may dramatize diverse relationships with distant central governments.

Political Life

Government. Ecuador is a constitutional democracy. Political life is focused on caudillos within a contemporary system of coalitions that features from seven to twenty political parties. Parties constantly coalesce and fragment, but a few, such as the Social Christians, the Leftist Democrats, and various populist parties, endure. The judicial system is based on the Napoleonic code, wherein a person is treated as guilty until proven innocent. The military is the most powerful force within the country, and the police force is substantial. Poor people have little recourse to police help, and the idea and practice of justicia por propia mano ("justice by one's own hand") is increasingly prevalent. The military system of socioeconomic mobility stresses the doctrine of mestizaje . During social movements, including uprisings, the military takes control but more often than not serves as a forceful mediator rather than as an oppressor.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

National welfare programs, including a social security system with extensive healthcare components, exist. It is common for a program to be established with inadequate funding. The concept of a "program without money" is a ubiquitous cultural image that reflects economic reality. The failure of the social security system has provoked numerous protests for reform. Successful efforts for social change usually come from the poor sectors, of which the most powerful are the many indigenous organizations and the national unions representing labor, transportation, and education.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Ecuadorians have created some very important nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Fundación Natura is well known internationally for its efforts at ecological preservation. Since the 1970s, indigenous people have developed, with substantial help from European sources, many organizations, most notably the Confederation of Indigenous People of Ecuador (CONAIE), Ecuador's Indigenous Awakening (ECUARUNANI), the Shuar Federation, and the Confederation of Indigenous People of Amazonian Ecuador (CONFENIAE). The Association of Ecuadorian Blacks (ASONE) is growing in strength. In recent years there has been an explosion of NGOs serving the interests of numerous groups, mainly grassroots ethnic, gender, and laborbased. Active NGOs number over two hundred and are largely sponsored by foreign capital. While many NGOs are real forces in the transformation of institutional dysfunctions, it is often claimed that they contribute to corruption within institutions.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women make up a considerable portion of the workforce and are particularly visible in banking and finance, university teaching and research, and NGOs. They play a prominent role in indigenous and AfroEcuadorian mobilizations and movements. They hold high government positions in the national and regional judicial system, the national congress, and the executive branch.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Gender roles vary greatly across classes and ethnicities, ranging from equal to maledominated. Context specificity alters gender roles and statuses so that women may control sectors of activity even when ideological maleness is said to prevail. The ideology of machismo refers to masculine dominance and sexual conquest. It is said by people in some sectors to be complemented by marianismo , which, in reference to the Virgin Mary, designates an ideal of female purity and fidelity. How this somewhat vague ideology, which is not universal in Ecuador and varies enormously by gender, class, and ethnic perspectives, articulates to actual gender roles is not clear, and deserves serious research attention.

Women have gained legal rights over their children and their own property. A woman, even with a stable and enduring marriage, may elect to omit her husband's name from her child's birth certificate to protect that child from possible future bad fatherhood or separation or divorce, in which the father could claim the child.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage varies greatly, with its expressions ranging from those characteristic of middleclass United States or Europe to a variety of systems that include "trial marriage" and "serial polygyny."

Domestic Unit. The family is a key feature in the social structural and mobility systems of Ecuador. The basic domestic unit focuses on the mother and children with the father as provider. The mother nurtures the children and manages the household; the father legally provides for the family and the home. This system operates at all class levels and across different cultural systems. Overall, strong men try to keep their nuclear and expanded families around them, while bringing inlaws in. Where this succeeds, a kindred politicaleconomic base develops; where it does not, people become attached to relatively more successful kin. Children are cherished, and socialization focuses on the granting of respect to parents, siblings, other relatives, the community, the nation, God, and those who lend a helping hand.


Respeto (respect) is the key to etiquette across all of the class and ethnic divisions and between the genders. To be granted respect is to have dignidad (dignity) which is a social cognate of the legal status of derechos ("rights"). The granting and receivingor withholding and denyingof respect governs much of interpersonal relationships. The opposite of respect is desprecio (disrespect). One counters disrespect to one's dignity by claiming "rights," and such rights come to one as an ecuatoriano , Ecuadorian. All Ecuadorians demand respect in their interactions, and conflict on interpersonal, aggregate, or group bases occurs when disrespect is repeatedly observed or inferred. One of the fundamental features of the black social movement is found in the phrase el rescate de la dignidad national ("the rescue of national dignity"). Black leaders say that Ecuador will lack dignity until the ideology of mestizaje , with its builtin premise of blanqueamiento and subtext of mejorar la raza ("improve the race" of indigenous and AfroEcuadorian people) is abandoned. The indigenous and black social movements, and movements by women and poor people, are oriented toward achieving the status of dignity through the allocation and/or appropriation of respect.


Religious Beliefs. Whitemestizo religiosity is predominantly Roman Catholic and varies considerably according to social class. Conservative Catholicism is infused with patriotism. Protestantism with many dimensions and sects is common and growing, though with smaller congregations. Overall, a fatalistic world view prevails wherein, ultimately, God's will is seen to dominate events. Phrases such as "if God permits," "if God helps me," and "thanks to God," are ubiquitous. Natural disasters, which are common in Ecuador, are said to be God's punishment for collective sin. The government, though secular, is thought of as a powerful but unconcerned father who cares little for his "children" (citizens), thereby provoking God's wrath.

Rituals and Holy Places. A root metaphor for many Catholics is that of the Passion of Christ. His life symbolizes the value of suffering. Virgins and saints are second to Christ's imagery in wide spread Ecuadorian Catholicism. People make pilgrimages to the virgins and saints from great distances, primarily to become healed of physical or mental afflictions. It is believed some saints can heal and inflict harm and that at least one, San Gonzalo, can kill. Syncretisms between Catholic Christianity and locallevel beliefs and practices are ubiquitous and permeate every sector of Ecuadorian culture. Indigenous people have a rich spiritual universe, which shamans tap for curing and for sending harm.

Death and the Afterlife. Death occurs, it is said everywhere, "when one's time comes," and this is accompanied by the assertion that "no one knows when my time is to come; when my time is up I die." This knowledge is restricted, according to some, to God ("when God calls me"), but others say even he doesn't know when one's time will be up on this earth. On or near death, saints from heaven and demons from hell come to claim the soul. Conceptions of the afterlife also vary greatly, from pious assertions that the good go to heaven and the bad go to hell, to the AfroEcuadorian coastal idea that most souls go to purgatory. Souls are thought to return to earth to seek their households where the living still exist, and this is something that is not wanted. Indigenous people have many concepts of soul movement after death, and the heavenhell dichotomy, mediated by purgatory, is usually a superficial overlay on indigenous cosmologies and cosmogonies. In the Sierra and the Coast during the Day of the DeadAll Souls Daywhich occurs at the end of October or early November, people congregate in cemeteries, socialize with souls of the deceased, and honor death itself through the imagery embodied in special breaddough figurines and colada morada , a drink made with blueblack corn meal, blueberries, blackberries, other fruits, and spices.

Medicine and Health Care

Religion, shamanism, and home remedies are important resources. Traditional and alternative medicines were recognized in the constitutional reform of 1998. Amazonian Quichua shamans and coastal Tscháchila healers are considered to be the most powerful healers and minister to people speaking other languages, including those who come from many classes and backgrounds from the Sierra and the Coast. The use of Banisteriopsis caapi , called ayahuasca ("soul vine") in Quichua, is widespread and has attracted attention from medicalcare personnel, international pharmaceutical companies, and foreign tourists.

Western health-care delivery exists mainly in the large cities, with outlying clinics rarely functioning in anything resembling western designs. While there are exceptions, hospitals are places where people in dire straits go, after trying many possible cures for illness. Pharmacists do a big business in diagnosis and prescription, and almost any drug or medication can be purchased over the counter.

Secular Celebrations

Soccer (futbol ) is the national passion for the majority of men in every walk of life. As one encounters poverty and ethnic marginality, one finds women playing with men. Futbol reflects regional and economic differences. When the national team plays in international matches, a united Ecuadorian presence emerges throughout the country. When not united, Ecuadorians become divided in terms of the racial features of its national team. Some argue that powerful sports figures seek to "lighten" the phenotype of the teams. Attempts at such blanqueamiento are vigorously protested by the most prominent black organization, ASONE. The celebrity soccer players can achieve quasi-sainthood, particularly when they die under unforeseen and tragic circumstances. Heroes of other individual sports (e.g. track and field) are also idolized and may become quite prosperous.

The most prominent national secular celebrations are 24 May and 10 August, the two dates of national liberation. The assumption of presidential office always takes place on the latter. Other celebrations are 12 October, Columbus Day, known as the dia de la raza ("day of the race"). The elite take this to mean the day of the European (white), Spanish race from which they descend. Other Ecuadorians take this day as a symbol of racial blending, of mestizaje . It is a day of infamy for indigenous and black leaders, who are excluded by its symbolism, as they are excluded in everyday life. New Year's Eve features a huge secular festival where prominent figures, called muñecos or años viejos effigies or "old years"are created on platforms on public streets, lampooned, and burned at midnight. Epiphany (6-11 January) is the Three Kings' Day, which is celebrated by indigenous people of the Sierra as a secular festival. PreLenten Carnival is celebrated throughout the country as a big water fight. In June and July, Sierran festivals of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint John fuse with those of Corpus Christi and the Incaic Inti Raymi solstice celebration, attracting national and international tourists. The founding days of cities and towns are celebrated throughout the nation, while the alleged EuropeanAndean "discovery" of the Amazon on 12 February is acknowledged primarily in the Oriente.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Quito proclaims itself to be the Patrimonio de Humanidad, "the Heritage of Humanity," and in 1999, Cuenca was designated by UNESCO as an international Heritage of Humanity. Two major organizations that support the arts and the humanities are the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (the House of Ecuadorian Culture), and the Banco Central del Ecuador. These organizations are funded by the federal government. Archaeological and colonial arts are considered national treasures.The Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (the National Institute of Ecuadorian Heritage) is involved in the restoration of colonial edifices and some archaeological sites and in preventing national treasures from leaving the country. Excellent newspapers, television documentaries, and ethnographic and historic video productions all feature a wide spectrum of writers, analysts, and commentators, including intellectuals in various sectors of cultural life, as well as in the academies.

Literature. Literature is rich in Ecuador, and includes writings not only by those highly educated and by journalists, but also by self-taught people who have produced works of value. Best known authors include Juan Montalvo, Juan León Mera, Luis A. Martínez, Jorge Icaza, Jorge Enrique Adoum, and Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco. Artists such as Benjamín Carrión, Oswaldo Guayasamín, Edwardo Kingman, Camilo Egas, and Oswaldo Viteri are internationally known. Julio Jaramillo is the best known national composer.

An internationally significant corpus of literature is produced by black scholars such as Nelson Estupiñán Bass, Argentina Chiriboga, Aldalberto Ortiz, and Preciado Bedoya, among others. Indigenous authors write in Spanish and in Quichua.

Performance Arts. There is a national symphony and national folkloristic ballet in Quito, but Ecuador is probably best known internationally for indigenous bands that combine and recombine various genres of Andean "folk" music. Many come from Otavalo and Salasaca, but groups exist throughout the Andes and the Amazonian region. Black marimba groups from Esmeraldas are becoming internationally known.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Major universities in Quito and Guayaquil, and smaller ones in other cities, all have curricula in physical and social sciences. Private and public universities vary greatly in their emphases, but offer a respectable array of liberal arts and sciences, medical, legal, and engineering training. Funding comes from the government, from tuition, from foreign aid, and from gifts and private donations. Many Ecuadorians, from all classes and walks of life, earn master's and doctoral degrees in Latin America, the United States, and Europe.


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The people of Ecuador are called Ecuadorans. The population includes about 40 percent mestizo (mixed native or Amerindian and white), about 40 percent native people (Amerindians), about 10 percent white, and 5 percent black. The Jívaro are one of the Amerindian tribes that live in the Amazon River region the runs through both Ecuador and Peru.

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SeeLatin America

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"Ecuador." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . 9 Jul. 2018 <>.

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Ecuador •jackdaw • battledore •landau, Landor •chador • vendor • humidor • lobster thermidor • cuspidor • corridor •stevedore • Isidore • condor •stormdoor • Sodor • Theodore •toreador • troubadour • picador •commodore • parador • Labrador •matador • conquistador • Salvador •Ecuador

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"Ecuador." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 9 Jul. 2018 <>.

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