Republic of Ecuador
Ecuador is a country in western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, for which the country is named. Ecuador encompasses a wide range of natural formations and climates, from the desert-like southern coast to the snowcapped peaks of the Andes mountain range to the plains of the Amazon Basin. Cotopaxi in Ecuador is one of the world’s highest active volcanos. It also has a large series of cliffs that follow the southern border and spill into the northwest area of Peru.
Ecuador is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and has 2,337 km of coastline. It has 2010 km of land boundaries, with Colombia in the north (590 km border) and Peru in the east and south (1,420 km border).
Ecuador has a total area is 109,483 sq mi, including the Galápagos Islands. Of this, 106,889 sq mi is land and 2,595 sq mi water. Ecuador is one of the smaller countries in South America. The capital and second most-populous city is Quito, with a population of 1.4 million. The most-populous city is Guayaquil (2 million). Other important cities include Cuenca (0.41 million), Ambato (0.28 million), Portoviejo (0.23 million), Machala (0.21 million), and Loja (0.14 million).
|Area||109,483 square miles|
|Religions||Roman Catholic 95%|
Ecuador’s first inhabitants settled along the coast and central highlands. Human presence in Ecuador existed as far back as 20,000 BC, with hunter-gatherer populations living along the Pacific around 10,000 BC. Permanent agrarian cultures established fixed settlements, developed metallurgy and navigation, as well as distinct art and religion, and relied on maritime trade, which reached as far north as Central America.
The Inca arrived in Ecuador in the mid-15th century and imposed their culture. In 1460, Inca ruler Tupac Yupanqui, based in Peru, attacked. The Inca met with resistance from indigenous tribes, and it was several years before the Inca, led by Huayna Capac, defeated them. The Inca introduced their language, Quechua. They also introduced new crops, agriculturual methods.They built cities and a network of roads.
The Spanish fought and defeated the Inca, taking control of Ecuadorian territory. In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and his men came to Ecuador, seeking to conquer the territory. Atahualpa was captured by the Spanish and was held for ransom. He was executed in 1533. Fighting between the Inca and Spanish continued. In 1534, The Inca, led by Rumiñahui, destroyed Quito rather than let it fall to the Spanish. The Spanish capture and killed Rumiñahui, and Quito was refounded. The Spanish based themselves in Lima, Peru, and later, Colombia, governing from Cali, Colombia to Paita, Peru. In 1563, the Spanish named their conquered territory the Audencia de Quito and it was governed by Pizarro’s brother.
The Spanish influence was both positive and negative. The Spanish introduced their language, cattle, crops and Roman Catholicism; architecture became a blend of colonial and indigenous artistic influences. The indigenous people were subjected into a forced labor system, and illnesses brought by the Spanish ravaged the population. African slaves were brought to Ecuador to work on cocoa and sugar plantations in the coastal province of Esmeraldas.
The Spanish were eventually deposed. On May 24,1822, Antonio José de Sucre defeated Spanish royalists on the flanks of Pichincha Volcano, in the Battle of Pichincha. Ecuador briefly joined Simón Bolívar’s Gran Colombia with Colombia and Venezuela before achieving complete independence in 1830, when it became the Republic of Ecuador, with Quito as the capital.
Since independence, Ecuador has experienced a great deal of political conflict. Apart from territorial disputes with Peru, Ecuador has been free of international conflict. Politically, Ecuador has been marked by political instability and violence. Ecuador was governed by provisional governments and military juntas throughout the 20th century; democratic rule was restored in 1979. Ecuador’s current leader, Rafael Correa, re-elected in 2009, is the 12th president to serve since democratic rule was restored in 1979.
Links of interest
Ecuador’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Quito, Cuenca, Galapagos Islands and Sangay volcano national parks
For a country that is relatively small, Ecuador has many UNESCO World Heritage sites. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, has recognized the necessity to preserve certain places in Ecuador due to their cultural and natural significances. Once a place has been declared a World Heritage cultural or natural site, it effectively becomes a possession of humanity, rather than belonging to a particular country or cultural group, and it is protected by an international committee. Quito’s Centro Histórico, or Old Town, has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978, making it the first city declared a World Heritage site. The Old Town of Quito is considered the most well-preserved historical center in all of Latin America. More than 300 blocks of colonial houses, parks, churches, monasteries and heritage buildings are inside the downtown. The UNESCO committee points out that some of the Old Town’s churches, like La Compañia, and the monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, are standing examples of the ¨Baroque architecture in Quito.¨This baroque architechural style is a blend of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous influences.
Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city, has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999. The colonial city has maintained the same rigid urban plan, which was ordered by the Spanish King Charles V, for over 400 years. This unaltered city organization, coupled with its plentiful historical buildings and its importance as an agricultural, economic and administrative center for the region, made it an accepted World Heritage site.
UNESCO has recognized the necessity to preserve certain places in Ecuador due to their cultural and natural significances.
Steeped in incredible biodiversity and astonishing beauty, the Galápagos Islands have been recognized worldwide by researchers, scientists, scuba divers and vacationers. Set about 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador, the 19 volcanic islands are part of both a national park and a biological marine reserve. Beyond containing an impressive array of animal and plant species, the Galápagos islands are also an important representation of the process of evolution. After all, this is the place that inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The Galápagos Islands have been a World Heritage natural site since 1978 and they were added to the list of World Heritage sites in danger in 2007.
As of 1983, Sangay National Park has been an official UNESCO World Heritage natural site. Sangay National Park is home to many rare Andean species like mountain tapirs, condors, spectacled bears, margays and giant otters, who have been able to survive here due to the park’s isolated location. In addition to being a haven for indigenous plants and animals, Sangay National Park also contains two active volcanoes, Sangay and Tungurahua, and a wide mix of ecosystems, which range from tropical rainforest to glaciers. This makes for exceptional natural beauty and contrast. Although it was considered an endangered site in1992, it was been removed from that status in 2005.