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Ecuador History - History

Ecuador History - History


Under the rule of the Incan empire until the coming of the Spanish in 1532, Ecuador came to serve as an important administrative center for the viceroyalty of Peru. Independence came centuries later in 1822. For the next eight years, Ecuador was part of the Gran Colombia federation. Eventually, the Catholic Church achieved special prominence in the country such that citizenship was linked to the religion, Jesuits were brought in to oversee education, among other actions. But in 1895, the anti-church party, the Radical Liberals, seized power and held it for the next half-century. Politically, the country has been essentially stable with the economy generally secure, particularly as oil was discovered in the 1960s.


A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Ecuador

The United States recognized the independence from Spain of Colombia, of which present-day Ecuador then formed a part, on June 19, 1822, when President James Monroe received Manuel Torres as the Colombian Chargé d’Affaires. Ecuador withdrew from the Colombian federation in 1830 and received U.S. recognition as a separate state in 1832. The two countries concluded a treaty of peace, friendship, navigation, and commerce in 1839, and the United States sent its first resident diplomatic agent to Quito in 1848. Diplomatic relations have continued since that time, with the United States and Ecuador participating together in inter-American institutions.


Ecuador straddles part of the Andes Mountains and occupies part of the Amazon basin. Situated on the Equator, from which its name derives, it borders Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It includes the Pacific archipelago of the Galapagos Islands (Archipiélago de Colón).

The Ecuadoran mainland is divided into three main physical regions: the Costa (coastal region), the Sierra (highland region), and the Oriente (eastern region).

The Costa is composed of lowlands that extend eastward from the Pacific Ocean to the western edge of the Andes and rise from sea level to an elevation of 1,650 feet (500 metres). Running north-south, small coastal mountain ranges—the Colonche, Chindul, and Mache mountains—rise to 2,600 feet (800 metres). Between these coastal ranges and the Andes, interior valleys are mantled with silt deposits left by rivers that largely drain into the Gulf of Guayaquil. Puná, in the gulf, is the major island.

The Sierra includes two high mountain chains and their western and eastern foothills. The western and central ranges of the Andes bordering the Sierra constitute the country’s highest and most continuous mountain chains. Many peaks are volcanic or snow-covered these include Cayambe (18,996 feet [5,790 metres]), Antisana (18,714 feet [5,704 metres]), Cotopaxi, which is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes (19,347 feet [5,897 metres]), Chimborazo (20,702 feet [6,310 metres]), Altar (17,451 feet [5,319 metres]), and Sangay (17,158 feet [5,230 metres]). These are included in two ranges connected at intervals by transversal mountain chains, between which are large isolated valleys or basins, called hoyas.

To the east of the main ranges are peaks Reventador (11,434 feet [3,485 metres]) and Sumaco (12,759 feet [3,889 metres]) the Cordillera de Cutucú, which borders the Upano valley and includes the central peaks and the Cordillera del Cóndor to the south, which borders the Zamora valley. Beyond this eastern cordillera, to the east, is the Amazon basin, extending below 900 feet (300 metres).

The volcanic Galapagos Islands consist of 19 rugged islands and scores of islets and rocks situated about 600 miles (900 km) west of the mainland. The largest island, Isabela (Albemarle), rises to 5,541 feet (1,689 metres) at Mount Azul, the archipelago’s highest point. The second largest island is Santa Cruz.

Because Ecuador is situated on the Ring of Fire—the long horseshoe-shaped seismically active belt of earthquake epicentres, volcanoes, and tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin—it has experienced several significant and deadly earthquakes.


Independence did not bring a revolutionary liberation of the masses of Ecuadorian peasants. On the contrary, as bad as the peasants' situation had been, it probably worsened with the loss of the Spanish royal officials who had protected the indigenous population against the abuses of the local criollo elite. These criollos, who had spearheaded the struggle for independence, were to be its principal beneficiaries.

The early battle for control of the new state was fought, to a great extent, among the various factions—Ecuadorian and foreign, military and civilian—of this elite. General Juan José Flores, the "Founder of the Republic" and first President of Ecuador, was of the foreign military variety. Born in Venezuela, he had fought in the wars for independence with Bolívar, who had appointed him governor of Ecuador during its association with Gran Colombia. Although of humble origins with little formal education, Flores married into the Quiteño elite, gaining acceptance, initially at least, within the local criollo upper class. As a leader, however, he appeared primarily interested in maintaining his power. Military expenditures, from the wars of independence and from an unsuccessful campaign to wrest Cauca Province from Colombia in 1832, kept the state treasury empty while other matters were left unattended.

In 1833, four intellectuals who had begun publishing the newspaper El Quiteño Libre to denounce the "pillaging of the national treasury by foreigners" were killed by the authorities at a time when Flores was absent from Quito. Although not directly responsible for the killings, Flores inevitably became associated with them, and criticism of his regime grew. In 1834, opponents staged a rebellion in an effort to place José Vicente Rocafuerte y Rodríguez de Bejarano, a member of the Guayaquil aristocracy who had recently returned from fourteen years abroad, in the presidency. The effort failed Flores then co-opted his opponent and sponsored Rocafuerte as a presidential candidate. For four years following this Machiavellian political move, in effect the nation's first coup d'état, Flores continued to wield considerable power behind the scenes as commander of the military.

President Rocafuerte's most lasting contribution was to begin development of a public school system. Although he had previously condemned Flores's violations of civil liberties, Rocafuerte argued that "the backwardness of Ecuador makes enlightened despotism necessary." At the end of his term in 1839, Rocafuerte returned to his native Guayaquil as provincial governor, while in Quito Flores was again inaugurated as president. After four years in office, Flores summoned a constitutional convention that wrote a new constitution, dubbed "the Charter of Slavery" by his opponents, and elected him to a new eight-year term of office.

After 1843, opposition to Flores often manifested itself in unpleasant ways: in reference to the dark skin of Flores and his fellow Venezuelan and Colombian soldiers, Rocafuerte (by now exiled in Lima) wrote that "the white oppressors of the peninsula were less oppressive than the Negro vandals who have replaced them." A young student named Gabriel García Moreno—later to become the most infamous of all of Ecuador's nineteenth century dictators—tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Flores.

Discontent had become nationwide by 1845, when an insurrection in Guayaquil forced Flores from the country. Because their movement triumphed in March (marzo), the anti-Flores coalition members became known as marcistas. They were an extremely diverse lot that included liberal intellectuals, conservative clergymen, and representatives from Guayaquil's successful business community.

On March 6, 1845, the people of Guayaquil revolted against the government of the General Flores under the leadership of General António Elizalde and Lieutenant Colonel Fernándo Ayarza. The people took over the artillery barracks of Guayaquil along with other military and civilian supporters, including the guard on duty. Flores surrendered on his plantation, La Elvira, near Babahoyo and agreed to terms that included his leaving power and rendering all his decrees, laws, and acts void and null, ending fifteen years of foreign domination of Ecuador. Flores received 20,000 pesos for his property and immediately left the country for Spain. The country was then governed by the triumvirate composed of José Joaquín de Olmedo, Vicente Ramón Roca and Diego Noboa.

In 1846 the child Agustín Muñoz de Borbón, the half-brother of queen Isabella II of Spain, became a candidate for the throne of Ecuador. [1] [2] The proposal was made by Flores, former President of Ecuador, and consisted of two parts: the first one was declare Agustín as King of Ecuador, with his mother and Flores as Regents, and then as Restorer of the monarchy in Perú and Bolivia, converting him in the monarch of the tentative United Kingdom of Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia. [3] [4] While at first the proposal received some support from the Spanish and British governments, it collapsed.

The next fifteen years constituted one of the most turbulent periods in Ecuador's century and a half as a nation. The marcistas fought among themselves almost ceaselessly and also had to combat Flores' repeated attempts from exile to overthrow the government. The first marcista president was businessman Vicente Ramón Roca, who served a full four-year term. The most significant figure of the era, however, was General José María Urbina, who first came to power in 1851 through a coup d'état, remained in the presidency until 1856, and then continued to dominate the political scene until 1860. During this decade and the one that followed, Urbina and his archrival, García Moreno, would define the rivalry between liberals from Guayaquil and conservatives from Quito that remained the major sphere of political struggle in Ecuador into the 1980s.

Liberalism under Urbina took on anticlerical, ethnic, and regional dimensions. In 1852 he accused a group of Jesuit priests—admitted by his predecessor, Diego Noboa, only a year earlier—of political meddling and expelled them. Urbina freed the nation's slaves exactly one week after his coup of 1851, and six years later, his successor and lifelong friend, General Francisco Robles, finally put an end to three centuries of annual payments of tribute by the native peoples. Henceforth, liberalism associated itself with bettering the position of Ecuador's non-white population. Urbina and Robles also favored Guayaquil businessmen over Quito landowners.

The early years of the Republic of Ecuador were spent under debt moratorium on the international financial market. The debts had been incurred during the Gran Colombia era, and had been assumed by President Flores in 1837. [5] The debt owed to Great Britain, known as the Deuda inglesa ("English debt") exceeded 6.6 million pounds sterling, of which Ecuador owed 21.5 percent, or 1.4 million pounds. [ citation needed ] As the Ecuadorian government had done at least twice previously, President Francisco Robles attempted to settle this debt by transferring title over part of its territory [5] the lands would go to the creditors represented by the Ecuador Land Company, Ltd.

Relations between Ecuador and neighboring Peru had been cut off since 1855, but were reestablished by August 1857. In November, Peru formally claimed its right to the lands that were to be sold to the British creditors. Attempts at diplomatic resolution resulted in another breakdown of relations, and in October 1858, the Peruvian government authorized President Ramón Castilla to go to war with Ecuador if necessary to resolve the matter. A blockade of Ecuador's ports began in November.

1859: the Terrible Year Edit

By 1859, known in Ecuadorian history books as the "Terrible Year", the country was poised on the brink of a leadership crisis. President Robles, faced with the threat of the Peruvian blockade, moved the national capital to Guayaquil, and charged General José María Urbina with defending it. [6] In the wake of this unpopular move, a series of opposition movements championed by regional caudillos were formed. [7] On May 1, a conservative triumvirate, initiated by Dr. Gabriel García Moreno, Pacífico Chiriboga and Jerónimo Carrión (Robles' vice president), formed the Provisional Government of Quito. [6] [8] On May 6, Carrión separated himself from the triumvirate, and formed a short-lived government in the city of Cuenca he was deposed the next day by forces loyal to Robles. [6]

General Urbina promptly set out for Quito to subdue García Moreno and his movement. The Provisional Government was no match for Urbina, and fell in June. García Moreno fled to Peru, where he requested the support of President Castilla the Peruvian leader supplied him with weapons and ammunition to subvert the Robles regime. Believing that he had the support of the Peruvians, in July, García Moreno published a manifesto in a July edition of the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, calling on his countrymen to accept Peru as their ally against Robles, despite the territorial dispute and blockade. Shortly afterwards, García Moreno traveled to Guayaquil, where he met with General Guillermo Franco, General Commander of the District of Guayas and third in the Urvinista caudillo hierarchy, after Urbina and Robles. García Moreno proposed that they disavow Robles' government and declare free elections. While Franco accepted, [6] he also aspired to the presidency of the republic, and would prove to be willing to betray his country to satisfy his desire for power. [9]

As García Moreno was trying to resurrect his movement, the mediation efforts of the Granadine Confederation (a short-lived federal republic) and Chile had fallen through, with both countries blaming Peru for the failure. The Peruvians were playing to all sides in the civil dispute on August 31, 1859, Castilla betrayed his commitment to García Moreno, and came to an agreement with Franco that resulted in the end of the blockade of Guayaquil. [10] Several weeks later, the Mosquera-Zelaya Protocol, the result of the secret agreement between Peru and Cauca to take control of Ecuador, was signed in Popayán. [6]

When he received word of Franco's allegiance with Castilla, Robles disavowed their treaty, and moved the capital once again, this time to Riobamba, where he handed over leadership of the government to Jerónimo Carrión. He and Urbina would leave the country for good within a fortnight. Meanwhile, Rafael Carvajal, a member of the defeated Provisional Government, invaded Ecuador from the border to the north within the month, Carvajal had reestablished the Provisional Government in Quito. [6] Finally, on September 17, Guillermo Franco declared himself Supreme Chief of Guayas [11] however, Babahoyo, Vinces and Daule sided with the Provisional Government. On September 18, an assembly in Loja named Manuel Carrión Pinzano military and civil chief of the province the following day, Carrión Pinzano called a new assembly that established a federal government presiding over Loja, El Oro and Zamora. [6] [12] On September 26, Cuenca affirmed its allegiance to the Provisional Government.

With the domestic situation at its most tumultuous, and the Peruvian blockade of the rest of the Ecuadorian coast nearing the end of its first year, Castilla sought to take advantage of the circumstances to impose a favorable border settlement. [13] On September 20, Castilla wrote to Quito to declare his support for the Provisional Government ten days later, he sailed from Callao with an invasion force. [6] While stopped over in the port of Paita, in Peru, Castilla proposed to the Ecuadorians that they form a single government which could negotiate an agreement to end the blockade and the territorial dispute. [6]

October 1859 Edit

Castilla and his forces arrived in Guayaquil on October 4 the next day, he met with Franco aboard the Peruvian steamer Tumbes. [10] Castilla simultaneously sent word to García Moreno that he wished to meet with him as well. [6] García Moreno set out for Guayaquil days later on October 14, he arrived in Paita aboard the Peruvian ship Sachaca. When García Moreno became aware that an agent of Franco's was also traveling aboard the ship, he became furious, ending the possibility of discussions, writing to Castilla, "You have broken your promises, and I declare our alliance finished." [6] Castilla responded, "You sir, are nothing but a village diplomat, who does not understand the duties of a president, obligated by the demands of the position he occupies to give audience to all those who request it." [6]

Treaty of Mapasingue Edit

Castilla reverted to negotiations solely with Franco's regime in Guayaquil after several meetings, an initial deal was struck on November 8, 1859. [10] Castilla ordered his troops, 5,000 strong, [13] to disembark on Ecuadorian territory the Peruvians set up camp at the hacienda of Mapasingue, near Guayaquil. Castilla did this to guarantee that Ecuador would fulfill its promises. [14]

In Loja, Manuel Carrión Pinzano proposed that the four governments vying for control of Ecuador select a representative to negotiate a settlement with Castilla. On November 13, Cuenca was forced to recognize Guillermo Franco's government in Guayaquil [ why? ] Franco thus became Supreme Chief of Guayaquil and Cuenca. The next day, Franco and Castilla met once again, aboard the Peruvian ship Amazonas, and made arrangements for a definitive peace treaty. [10] Carrión Pinzano's suggestion was not acted upon until November 19, when the governments of Quito, Guayas-Azuay and Loja began discussions they agreed to delegate to Franco the task of negotiating with Peru, except on the matter of territorial sovereignty. According to the agreement signed between the governments, "the government of Guayaquil and Cuenca may not pledge to annex, cede or assign to any government any part of the Ecuadorian territory under any pretext or name." [6] Franco, however, had been negotiating just such matters with Castilla they signed a preliminary convention regarding the territorial situation on December 4 for the purpose of lifting the occupation of Guayaquil and re-establishing peace. [15]

García Moreno soon became aware of the unauthorized pact between Franco and Castilla. In an unsuccessful attempt to seek a powerful ally, García Moreno sent a series of secret [16] letters to the chargé d'affaires of France, Emile Trinité, on December 7, 15 and 21 in them, he proposed that Ecuador become a French protectorate. Fortunately for his cause, the agreement between Franco and Castilla had the effect of uniting the disparate governments of Ecuador against their new common enemy: El Traidor (the traitor) Franco. [6]

On January 7, 1860, the Peruvian army made preparations to return home [10] eighteen days later, on January 25, Castilla and Franco signed the Treaty of 1860, better known as the Treaty of Mapasingue after the hacienda where the Peruvian troops were quartered. [17] The treaty had as its object the resolution of the territorial debate. In its first article, it affirmed that relations were to be re-established between the two countries. The matter of the borders was dealt with in articles 5, 6 and 7, where the Icaza-Pritchett treaty was declared null, Peru's position of uti possidetis was accepted, and Ecuador was allowed two years to substantiate its ownership of Quijos and Canelos, after which time Peru's rights over the territories would become absolute if no evidence was presented. [18] The treaty additionally nullified all prior treaties between Peru and Ecuador, whether with the latter as a division of Gran Colombia or as an independent republic. This constituted acknowledgement of the Real Cédula of 1802, which Ecuador had previously rejected. [19]

The pivotal Battle of Guayaquil was fought between September 22–24, 1860. García Moreno's forces, led by General Flores, defeated those of Franco. The Provisional Government of Quito assumed power, ushering in a Conservative era of Ecuadorian history.



Ecuador, about equal in area to Nevada, is in the northwest part of South America fronting on the Pacific. To the north is Colombia and to the east and south is Peru. Two high and parallel ranges of the Andes, traversing the country from north to south, are topped by tall volcanic peaks. The highest is Chimborazo at 20,577 ft (6,272 m). The Galpagos Islands (or Coln Archipelago: 3,029 sq mi 7,845 sq km), in the Pacific Ocean about 600 mi (966 km) west of the South American mainland, became part of Ecuador in 1832.


The tribes in the northern highlands of Ecuador formed the Kingdom of Quito around 1000. It was absorbed, by conquest and marriage, into the Inca Empire. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro conquered the land in 1532, and throughout the 17th century a Spanish colony thrived by exploitation of the Indians. The first revolt against Spain occurred in 1809. In 1819, Ecuador joined Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama in a confederacy known as Greater Colombia.

When Greater Colombia collapsed in 1830, Ecuador became independent. Revolts and dictatorships followed it had 48 presidents during the first 131 years of the republic. Conservatives ruled until the revolution of 1895 ushered in nearly a half century of Radical Liberal rule, during which the church was disestablished and freedom of worship, speech, and press was introduced. Although it was under military rule in the 1970s, the country did not experience the violence and repression characteristic of other Latin American military regimes. Its last 30 years of democracy, however, have been largely ineffectual because of a weak executive branch and a strong, fractious Congress.

Peru invaded Ecuador in 1941 and seized a large tract of Ecuadoran territory in the disputed Amazon region. In 1981 and 1995 war broke out again. In May 1999, Ecuador and Peru signed a treaty ending the nearly 60-year border dispute.

The Arrival of El Nino Ushers in a Period of Economic Instability

In 1998, Ecuador experienced one of its worst economic crises. El Nio caused $3 billion in damage the price of its principal export, oil, plunged and its inflation rate?43%?was the highest in Latin America. In 1999, the government was near bankruptcy, the currency lost 40% of its value against the dollar, and the poverty rate soared to 70%, doubling in five years. The president's economic austerity plan was protested with massive strikes in March 1999.

President Jamil Mahuad was overthrown in Jan. 2000, in the first military coup in Latin America in a decade. The junta gave power to the vice president, Gustavo Noboa. Faced with the worst economic crisis in Ecuador's history, Noboa restructured Ecuador's foreign debt, adopted the U.S. dollar as the national currency, and continued privatization of state-owned industries, generating enormous opposition. In Feb. 2001, the government cut fuel prices after violent protests by Indians, who are among Ecuador's most disadvantaged people. Within two years, Ecuador's economy had rebounded from the brink of collapse. The economy grew by 5.4% for 2001, the highest rate in Latin America. Inflation was 22%, down from 91% in 2000, and the budget was balanced. But chronic corruption among senior government officials, as well as among the courts and the judiciary, has continued.

Lucio Gutirrez, a leftist colonel best known for orchestrating the 2000 coup against President Jamil Mahuad, was elected to the presidency in 2003 on an anticorruption platform. He became Ecuador's sixth president in seven years. His attempts to introduce austere fiscal reforms, however, quickly alienated his political base, and numerous national strikes took place throughout 2003. In April 2005, Gutirrez was ousted by the Ecuadoran Congress, after replacing much of the supreme court with his allies. Polls at the time indicated that just 5% of the people supported him. His estranged deputy, Alfredo Palacio, took over as president. In 2006, huge nationwide protests took place concerning a potential free-trade agreement with the U.S. In the Nov. 2006 presidential runoff elections, Rafael Correa, a left-wing economist, won with 56.7% of the vote, defeating conservative businessman Alvaro Noboa. Correa took office in Jan. 2007.

President Rafael Correa Wins New Constitution and Seeks to Establish Internal Stability

Correa immediately set out to boost economic growth and root out corruption in the country's political system. In an April 2007 referendum, voters overwhelmingly approved his call to rewrite the constitution. He hoped the new constitution would weaken Congress, which has been called inept and corrupt. Correa's critics accused him of trying to consolidate power, with moves reminiscent of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. In September 2008, 64% of voters approved the new constitution that increased presidential powers and allowed Correa to run for two more consecutive terms.

In March 2008, Colombian forces crossed into Ecuadorean territory and killed FARC rebel leader Ral Reyes and 20 other rebels. In response, Venezuela and Ecuador broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia and sent troops to the Colombian borders, although both countries denied any ties to FARC. In an attempt to help cool the diplomatic tension between the three countries, the Organization of American States approved a resolution, which declared that the Colombian raid into Ecuador was a violation of sovereignty. On March 6, Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia to demonstrate unity with President Rafael Correa of Ecuador. On March 7, 2008, during a summit meeting in the Dominican Republic, the leaders of Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Nicaragua ended their diplomatic dispute over Colombia's raid into Ecuador.

In September 2010, police protesting Correa's plan to end bonuses and reduce other benefits for the force fired tear gas at the president and then held him captive in a hospital for more than 12 hours. He was rescued by special forces, but five people were killed in the operation and nearly 40 were injured. Correa accused the officers of attempting a coup and declared a state of emergency.

A package of ten constitutional amendments tackling judicial and media reforms went to vote on May 7, 2011. President Rafael Correa's "Yes" campaign won all the questions with an average just over 47%. Correa claimed the referendums were needed to support the police and eliminate corrupt and inept judges opponents say the reforms were a presidential power-seeking move.

Correa Pardons Four in Libel Case

In late February 2012, President Correa pardoned three newspaper executives and one columnist in a libel case. The pardon wiped out a three year prison sentence and $42 million in fines for the men and El Universo, the country's leading opposition newspaper. Correa said in a statement after the pardon, "The abusive press has been defeated." The pardon came months after Correa sued El Universo. The lawsuit was over a columnist accusing him of ordering troops to fire on a hospital during an uprising in September 2011. Correa denied giving the order. The courts ruled in his favor.

Correa, who has battled the media since he took office, maintains that he is fighting a media that favors businesses and people who own the media companies. Meanwhile human-rights groups say that Correa uses his position to silence criticism of his government.

Ecuador Grants Asylum to Julian Assange

On August 16, 2012, Ecuador announced that it was granting political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange had been seeking refuge at the country's Embassy in London while waiting for the decision. The decision further strained relations between Ecuador and Britain. The night before the announcement, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patio reported that British officials had threatened to invade Ecuador's embassy. In response to the threat, Patio said, "We are not a British colony." On the morning of the asylum announcement, President Correa tweeted this message on his personal Twitter account: "No one is going to terrorize us!"

Patio announced the asylum at a news conference, where he said, "The government of Ecuador, faithful to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or in its diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange." Patio added that Assange could face the death penalty if tried in the United States. Britain continued to reject the request for Assange to be moved to Ecuador from the embassy in London. Britain maintained its legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden. In Sweden, Assange was still wanted for questioning over accusations of sexual assault.

President Correa Begins His Third Term

On May 24, 2013, President Rafael Correa began his third term. Correa's third term started with his popularity extremely high and with more than a two-thirds majority in Congress. Correa also had a stable economy to work with as well as a weak and divided opposition.

Correa was re-elected in February 2013, when he received three times more votes than his closest competitor. According to Ecuador's current constitution, he would not be able to run for another term.

2008 Renovation and Modernization

Like Eloy Alfaro, President Rafael Correa had a vision of a railway connecting Quito and Guayaquil. Since 2008, the Ecuadorian government has invested millions of dollars in renovating the rail system. The stations have been modernized, the tracks repaired, the coaches refurbished, the engines maintained. The change is astounding. Hundreds of miles of unused tracks are back in service, and visitors and Ecuadorians alike are marveling at the train's renaissance.

  • OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Ecuador
  • CAPITAL: Quito
  • POPULATION: 16,498,502
  • AREA: 109,483 square miles (283,560 square kilometers)
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Spanish, Quechua
  • MONEY: U.S. dollar


Ecuador is located in the western corner at the top of the South American continent. Ecuador is named after the Equator, the imaginary line around the Earth that splits the country in two. Most of the country is in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ecuador is roughly the size of Colorado and is bordered by Colombia and Peru. The high Andes Mountains form the backbone of the country. Cotopaxi in the Andes is the highest active volcano in the world.

The Galápagos Islands, 596 miles (960 kilometers) west of the mainland of Ecuador are part of Ecuador and are home to unique reptiles, birds, and plants. The Costa, or coastal plain region is where many of the world’s bananas are grown. The Sierra is also made up of farmland. The Oriente is east of the Andes and is rich in oil.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


About 10 percent of the population is of European descent. Another 25 percent belong to indigenous or native cultures and the remainder are of mostly mixed ethnicity. Many of the native people are subsistence farmers and only grow enough food for their family.

Ecuador on the map

11. Ecuador is divided into four main and unique geographic regions that have their own diets and contribute to the country’s economy in different ways, according to the natural resources found there. These are the coastal lowlands (La Costa), the mountain highlands (La Sierra) the eastern jungle lowlands (La Amazonia or El Oriente “the east”) and the Galápagos Islands (La Región Insular).

12. Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas, exporting 2.7 billion worth of them annually (23.3% of total banana exports, 2016).

13. Oil accounts for 40 percent of all Ecuador’s exports and 33 percent of the country’s revenues.

14. Ecuador provides the majority of the world’s balsa wood. The country also exports coffee and flowers.

15. Ecuador has used the American Dollar as its national currency since 2000.

16. Cuy, or guinea pig, is considered a delicacy in the country. It is roasted whole and its consumption is an ancient tradition. It is said to taste like rabbit.

17. There is no national food as cuisine varies from region to region. Costeños who live in the La Costa region, favor fish, plantains, and beans. Serranos (from La Sierra region) prefer meat, white hominy, and rice.

18. Ecuador is the 9th most biodiverse country in the world and offers much for visitors to see and do.

Quick Facts

Official Name: Republic of Ecuador/República del Ecuador

Capital: Quito

Largest City: Guayaquil

Official Languages: Spanish, Quichua (Kichwa), Shuar

Land Area: 276,841 km 2 (106,889 mi 2 )

Church Area: South America Northwest

Missions: 5 (Guayaquil North, Guayaquil South, Guayaquil West, Quito, and Quito North)

Contemporary History

Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979 when a combined ticket of Jaime Roldós, presidential candidate of the populist party, and Oswaldo Hurtado, vice presidential candidate and leader of the Christian Democratic Party, won an staggering 68.5 percent of the popular vote. Many doubted whether the military would permit Roldós and Hurtado to assume power, but the margin of victory and pressure from the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter made it difficult for the military to stop the democratization process they had initiated.

Roldós’ tenure as Ecuador’s president was short, he was killed in 1981 in an airplane accident in the southern province of Loja. Hurtado succeeded him and held the Presidency until 1984. Facing a grave external debt and various other financial problems, Hurtado lost the 1984 presidential elections to Leon Febres-Cordero of the Social Christian Party.

Febres Cordero is best known for his introduction of free-market policies during the beginning of his term. As was often the case with economic reforms in Ecuador, Cordero’s policies were largely precluded by the collapse of world oil prices in 1986 and an earthquake in March 1987 that destroyed a large stretch of Ecuador’s sole oil pipeline.

In 1988 Rodrigo Borja of the Democratic Left (ID) party won the presidency. Throughout Rodrigo’s presidency, his government pursued a gradual stabilization policy, that while helped by increasing oil export prices, suffered from extreme inflation, at times reaching more than 50%.

Modernization and Economic Crisis

President Sixto Durán Ballén succeeded Borja in 1992. The Durán Ballén administration took further steps to stabilize and modernize Ecuador’s economy. In January 1995, several crises, including the military confrontation with Peru, known as the Cenepa Incident, hurt the nation’s economy and delayed further reform. Despite its lack of popularity, the Durán-Ballén Administration can be credited with pushing several unpopular yet important modernization initiatives through Congress, as well as beginning the negotiations that would end in a final settlement of the territorial dispute with Peru.

In 1996, Abdalá Bucaram, from the populist Ecuadorian Roldosista Party, won the presidency on a platform that promised populist economic and social reforms. Almost from the start, Bucaram’s administration languished amidst widespread allegations of corruption. Empowered by the Presidents unpopularity with organized labor, business, and professional organizations alike, Congress unseated Bucaram in February 1997 on grounds of mental incompetence. The Congress replaced Bucaram with Interim President Fabián Alarcón.

In May of 1997, following the demonstrations that led to the ousting of Bucaram and appointment of Alarcón, the people of Ecuador called for a National Assembly to reform the Constitution and the country’s political structure. After a little more than a year, the National Assembly produced a new Constitution.

Fall of Mahuad and Dollarization

In August 1998, on the same day Ecuador’s new Constitution took effect, former Quito Mayor Jamil Mahuad began his presidential term. In January 2000, the wretched state of Ecuador’s economy and the dollarization of the economy prompted widespread street protests. Under Mahuad, Ecuador’s recession-plagued economy shrunk significantly and inflation reached levels of up to 60%, which culminated in Mahuad being forced from office.

On January 22, 2000, the Ecuadorian National Congress rejected a break in the constitutional order and ratified the procedure of presidential succession and affirmed Noboa’s assumption of the office of Head of State. It was during this time that Noboa served as president for the remainder of the period for which Mahuad was to have remained elected, though the same Indian leaders and crowds that ousted Muhuad kept a close watch on Noboa’s activity in the interim.

The New Century & Political Controversy

The indigenous population (approximately 25%) gradually emerged as an active constituency, given its members have been constantly agitated by the government’s incompetence to make amends and improvements to their living, both socially and economically.

When Guiterrez was elected President in 2002 and until his ousting in 2005, it was his unpopularity throughout the indigenous population that served as a substantial component in his being thrown out of office by congress in 2005. Not to mention, Guiterrez’s presidency came to an abrupt end that year in great part due to the growing protests and political crisis within the city of Quito itself. On April 20, 2005, the Congress of Ecuador voted on the removal of Gutierrez from office. Then, in tandem with the results of the vote being against Gutierrez, the Ecuadorian Joint Chiefs of Staff withdrew their support from Gutierrez which left the now former president with no recourse but to leave the country.

What came next was one of the most fervent demonstrations to sweep the city in the past decade. As Gutierrez attempted to flee Ecuador via airplane, the angry crowds of protesters managed to breach airport security and block the entire airstrip to prevent him from leaving. From here, Gutierrez had no choice to but to flee from the airport itself (in helicopter) to the Brazilian Ambassador’s house in the northern part of the city to seek temporary asylum. Vice President Alfredo Palacio was appointed to serve as President until the next elections, which Rafael Correa won on January 15, 2007.

On September 30, 2010 a series of protests took place on behalf of the law enforcement and public service workers alike, an event that was a reaction to seeing their benefits cut by the government as part of a financial austerity package. The issue that struck the most distressing of chords in policemen was the fact that the enactment of the new law ended the practice of giving medals and bonuses to officers with each promotion not to mention, it extended the number of years necessary for promotions to occur from five to seven. During the revolt Correa was ambiguously taken hostage by police officers, an event which led to the deaths of several police officers as the army intervened to extract the president.

Watch the video: A Super Quick History of Ecuador (January 2022).