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Ecuador (ĕkˈwədôr) [Span., = equator], officially Republic of Ecuador, republic (2021 est. pop. 18,026,241), 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, and an earthquake in 2016 caused destruction in many parts of W Ecuador, with the cities of Pedernales and Portoviejo on the NW coast severely affected. 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. Under a constitution amendment adopted in 2015, term limits were end in 2021, but a 2018 referendum restored term limits. The president is both the head of state and head of government.The legislature consists of the unicameral National Congress, whose 137 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 (AP), 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 the AP 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. An earthquake in Apr., 2016, caused severe destruction in NW Ecuador, and several hundred people were killed.

In the 2017 presidential election, Lenín Moreno, a Correa ally, and Guillermo Lasso, a conservative candidate, faced off in a runoff after Moreno fell short in the first round; Moreno subsequently (April) secured a narrow majority. Lasso accused the government of fraud and challenged the result, but a partial recount was consistent with the result.

Moreno proved to be politically independent and more moderate than Correa, who broke with his successor and derided him. In Aug., 2017, Vice President Jorge Glas was suspended; in December he was convicted of having received bribes from Brazil's Odebrecht company (now Novonor; see Odebrecht corruption scandal). Glas's successor also resigned (2018), after being accused of having taken kickbacks. By early 2018 the tensions between Moreno and Correa led to a split in the AP, and Correa and his allies left the party. Voters subsequently (Feb., 2018) reversed a 2015 constitutional amendment that ended term limits and would have allowed Correa to run again in 2021.

In 2018 a significant influx of Venezuelans fleeing their nation's economic collapse led to tighter border controls. Moreno's move in Oct., 2019, to end government fuel subsidies, in an attempt to reduce the government's large budget deficit, led to days of massive antigovernment demonstrations, and he was forced to restore the subsidies. In 2020, a drop in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic had additional significant negative economic consequences for Ecuador, and led the government to adopt austerity measures. In Feb. 2021, Pachakutik, the new indigenous people's party, won half of the seats in Congress, bringing issues of social equity to the fore. That April, conservative Guillermo Lasso defeated Corea's handpicked successor and was inaugurated as the country's president in late May. At first he enjoyed high approval ratings, but by fall he faced growing protests and in October he enacted emergency measures to combat increasing violence related to drug trafficking.


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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Republic of Ecuador (República del Ecuador), a state in northwestern South America, bounded on the north by Colombia, on the south and east by Peru, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean; includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Area (according to UN data), 283,560 sq km. Population, 7.3 million (1976). The capital is the city of Quito. Ecuador is divided into 20 provinces, which are in turn divided into cantons.

Constitution and government. Ecuador is a republic. The head of state and of the government is the president, who is popularly elected for a five-year term. The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces; he also forms the government and appoints provincial governors and other high state officials. Legislative power is vested in the National Chamber of Deputies, a unicameral body consisting of 69 members. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court, there are also superior courts, trial courts, and administrative tribunals. All citizens who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote.

Natural features. The natural features of Ecuador, most of which lies near the equator, are quite varied. The country is divided into three clearly demarcated regions: the Oriente in the northeast, the Sierra in the center, and the Costa in the west. The Oriente consists of piedmont plains with elevations of 180–700 m; some massifs in the west reach an elevation of 3,800 m. The climate is equatorial, with an annual precipitation of 3,000–4,000 mm. The region’s dense river network includes various tributaries of the Amazon, notably the Putumayo, Napo, and Tigre. Vegetation is represented by evergreen tropical rain forests.

The Sierra, or Andes Highlands, is made up of the Cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera Occidental, between which lie intermontane basins at elevations of 2,500–2,800 m. On the inner slopes of the cordilleras are the cones of extinct volcanoes— notably Mount Chimborazo, the highest point in Ecuador (6,267 m)—and active volcanoes, such as Mount Cotopaxi. The Sierra has an equatorial mountain climate, which becomes subtropical in the south. Annual precipitation is 400–1,200 mm in the basins and approximately 6,000 mm on the eastern slopes. The mean monthly temperature in Quito, which lies at an elevation of 2,812 m, is 12.8°–13.2°C, but wide daily fluctuations are typical.

On the outer slopes of the Sierra tropical rain forests with a clearly marked altitudinal zonation are found up to an elevation of 3,000 m. There are many valuable wood species, including cinchona, balsa, and rubber trees. At higher elevations are equatorial mountain forests, called páramos. There is a permanent snow cover beginning at 4,500–4,700 m. The intermontarte basins that contain fertile volcanic soil are cultivated or used as pastureland.

The Costa consists of lowlands near the mountain foothills and along the system of the Guayas River, which empties into the Gulf of Guayaquil, and a coastal plateau at an elevation of 300–700 m. The climate is subequatorial and hot. The mean monthly temperature is 23°–27°C; annual precipitation is 900–1,400 mm in the north and about 100 mm in the south. Evergreen forests in the north give way to summer green forests and thin forests in the center and to semideserts in the southwest.

The fauna of Ecuador is extremely varied: nearly all the fauna of the Brazilian Subregion of the Neotropical Region is represented.


Geological structure and mineral resources. Eastern Ecuador lies on the South American Craton. The sedimentary cover is represented by slightly folded Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic deposits. To the west of the craton extends the Iquitos fore-deep, which is filled with Paleogenic and Miocene molasse.

The Pacific coastal plain and the ranges of the Andes form part of the Andean Geosyncline, a folded belt that bounds the continent on the north, west, and south. The Cordillera Oriental is an anticlinorium whose axis has outcroppings of Precambrian and Lower Paleozoic metamorphic rocks overthrust by miogesynclinal complexes of the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic that are highly developed farther to the east.

The Cordillera Occidental and Cordillera Oriental are separated by the Quito graben, which is filled with Cenozoic volcanogenic-sedimentary rocks. The eugeosynclinal zone of the Cordillera Occidental is composed of folded Paleozoic deposits and Cretaceous basalts broken up by intrusions of Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene granite and partly covered by Neogene and Anthropogenic (Quaternary) andesite basalts.

Coastal Ecuador, which belongs to the miogeosynclinal zone, is composed of marine and continental rocks of the Cretaceous, Paleogene, and Neogene, which in the Guayaquil depression are covered by Anthropogenic deposits.

In 1975, Ecuador had proved petroleum reserves of more than 340 million tons and natural-gas reserves of about 142 billion cu m. In addition, reserves of brown coal totaled 30 million tons; reserves of copper, 500,000 tons, and reserves of molybdenum, 20,000 tons. Ecuador also has deposits of silver, gold, antimony, and sulfur. The principal petroleum and gas deposits, which include Lago Agrio, Bermejo, and Atacapi, are associated with Cretaceous deposits of the foredeep and with the Guayaquil coastal zone. The coal deposits, which include those of the Azogues-Biblián and Loja coalfields, are associated with Paleogene deposits of the inner Andean graben; deposits of copper and molybdenum, notably at Chaucha, and of such minerals as silver and gold, are associated with Cenozoic intrusions in the Andes.


Population. Indians constitute 39 percent of Ecuador’s population; primarily Quechua living mainly in the Sierra and Costa, they also include Jivaro and Saparo tribes of the Oriente. Mestizos, of mixed Spanish and Indian blood, make up 41 percent of the population, and Negroes and mulattoes, 10–12 percent; the remainder is made up of white descendants of the European settlers. The official language is Spanish, and the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Ecuador uses the Gregorian calendar.

Between 1970 and 1974 the average annual increase in population was 3.4 percent, nearly all of which was accounted for by natural increase. In 1974 the economically active population totaled about 2 million, 46 percent of whom worked in agriculture, 12 percent in manufacturing, and 17 percent in the service sector. The population is unevenly distributed, with the greater part concentrated in the Guayas River valley and along the coast of the Gulf of Guayaquil, as well as in the valleys and intermontane basins of the Sierra. The average population density is about 26 persons per sq km, ranging from a minimum of less than one person per sq km on the Galápagos Islands to a maximum of 86 persons per sq km in Tungurahua Province. In 1974, 41 percent of the population was urban. The principal cities, and their population according to the 1974 census, are Guayaquil, 814,000; Quito, 557,000; and Cuenca, 105,000.

Historical survey. TO THE EARLY 16TH CENTURY. In ancient times Ecuador was inhabited by numerous Indian tribes, notably the Shyri, Cañari, Tumbe, Cara, and Quitu; they engaged in hunting, fishing, and land cultivation. A tribal union known as the kingdom of Quito was formed at the end of the first millennium of the Common Era and subsequently developed into an early class state.

The conquest of the kingdom by the Incas in the late 15th century accelerated the development of Quito into a slaveholding despotism. The assimilation enforced by the Incas changed the ethnic character of the country; by the 17th century the Quechua language had become dominant.

SPANISH COLONIAL YOKE (SECOND QUARTER OF THE 16TH CENTURY TO THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY). In 1526 the Spanish conquistadores landed on the coast of Ecuador. They founded new cities—Guayaquil in 1531 and Quito in 1534—on the sites of Indian settlements they had destroyed. The new colony, founded in 1563, was called Quito Audiencia (later, Quito Province); it formed part of the viceroyalty of Peru until 1718 and again from 1723 to 1739 and part of the viceroyalty of New Granada from 1718 to 1723 and again after 1739.

The conquistadores introduced various forms of feudal exploitation, such as the repartimiento, encomienda, and mita. The Indians were forced to convert to Catholicism. In the interests of the mother country, the production of manufactured goods and the cultivation of numerous agricultural crops were prohibited.

The colonial period was marked by continual disturbances among the indigenous population, as well as uprisings. During the alcabala revolution in 1592, it was demanded that Ecuador be made independent of Spain. An uprising of the poorest elements of the population in the city of Quito in 1765 was supported by the Creole elite. Indian revolts occurred in Tungurahua Province in 1770, Chimborazo Province in 1778–79, and the mountains of Ecuador in 1783. In August 1809, patriots led by J. Pio Montúfar overthrew the Spanish and created a ruling junta; they were unable, however, to hold out against the colonialists, and in October the power of the viceroy was restored.

THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF ECUADOR. During the War of Independence of the Spanish-American Colonies of 1810–26, juntas were repeatedly established in Quito, all of which proclaimed Ecuador’s independence. The uprising of 1820 in Guayaquil was supported by S. Bolivar’s liberation army. In May 1822, General A. J. de Sucre, an ally of Bolivar’s, won a victory, at the battle of Pichincha, that spelled the end of Spanish colonial rule: the territory that is now Ecuador, known as Quito Province, became part of Gran Colombia. In May 1830, the province seceded from Gran Colombia, and the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish, “equator”) was proclaimed.

RISE AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF ECUADOR. Beginning in the 1830’s, members of two opposing parties alternately held power: the Conservatives, who represented the interests of the rich landowners and the higher clergy, and the Liberals, who represented the interests of the nascent bourgeoisie and enjoyed the support of the popular masses.

Under the presidency of the General J. J. Flores (1830–35 and 1839–45), a Conservative, the Creole aristocracy and the clergy increased their wealth at the expense of property belonging to the Spanish. Under the Liberal presidents V. Rocafuerte (1835–39) and J. M. Urbina (1851–56), laws promoting the country’s economic and cultural development were passed, the Jesuits were expelled, slavery was abolished, and the development of industry and trade was encouraged. The fanatic Catholic G. Garcia Moreno, who came to power in 1861, established a dictatorship that lasted until 1875; under his rule only Catholics had the right of citizenship. In 1873 he proclaimed Ecuador a “republic of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” The church interfered in all areas of the government and public life.

In the last decades of the 19th century increasing amounts of foreign capital entered Ecuador: the British invested in the petroleum industry, and the Americans in the plantations and transportation. The influx of foreign capital greatly influenced the struggle of the country’s main parties. In 1895 the Liberals, headed by E. Alfaro, were swept into power by a popular uprising. Under Alfaro (1895–1901 and 1906–11) the church and state were made separate, some of the church latifundia were confiscated by the state, secular education was introduced, numerous primary, secondary, and higher educational institutions were founded, the Guayaquil-Quito railroad was built, and several laws promoting the development of industry and limiting the penetration of foreign capital were passed.

In the first decade of the 20th century the working-class movement developed, mutual aid societies were founded, and the first workers’ congress was held. The Liberal Party abandoned its progressive program of bourgeois liberal reforms and became the spokesman of the commercial and banking bourgeoisie, which had ties with the feudal oligarchy. New petroleum and gas deposits discovered in 1912 fell into the hands of American and British companies during World War I.

RECENT HISTORY. The working-class movement in Ecuador developed under the influence of the Great October Revolution in Russia. Between 1918 and 1922 there were numerous strikes, the largest of which was the general strike of 1922 in Guayaquil. Peasant revolts broke out in several provinces between 1923 and 1925. In 1926 the Lenin Communist Propaganda and Action Section (founded 1925) united with several other socialist and communist groups to form the Socialist Party, renamed the Communist Party of Ecuador in 1931.

During the world economic crisis of 1929–33 the economic situation of Ecuador deteriorated. The struggle between the political parties intensified, and the revolutionary movement of the masses gained strength. Ecuador was ruled by 11 presidents between 1931 and 1939. J. M. Velasca Ibarra (1934–35) enjoyed considerable influence among various social groups but was overthrown when he tried to establish personal rule. In 1936 the dictator F. Páez (1935–37), on the pretext of fighting Communism, issued a decree entitled On National Security. He compensated the church for the latifundia that had been expropriated under President Alfaro and allowed it again to acquire landed property. The strike movement of workers and peasants, which had assumed a wide scope, forced the government of General A. Henriquez (1937–38) to introduce a code of labor legislation.

The influence of the USA in Ecuador increased during World War II, especially when the leader of the Liberal Party, C. A. Arroyo del Rio, came to power in 1940. In January 1942, Ecuador broke off diplomatic relations with Italy, Germany, and Japan and granted the USA use of the Galápagos Islands as a military base for the duration of the war; the Americans evacuated the base in 1946. In a war with Peru (1941–42) provoked by the USA, Ecuador lost 278,000 sq km of territory along the upper course of the Amazon.

The successes of the Soviet Union and other countries of the anti-Nazi coalition in the struggle against fascism helped strengthen the democratic movement in Ecuador against the landholding and bourgeois dictatorship of Arroyo del Rio and the power of the foreign monopolies. In May 1944 an armed uprising broke out in Guayaquil that put an end to the reactionary dictatorship. Velasco Ibarra formed a coalition government that included Communists. The Confederation of Ecuadorian Workers and other organizations were founded in 1944. In 1945 a new constitution—the “constitution of democracy”—was adopted, and diplomatic relations with the USSR were established; as early as March 1946, however, Velasco Ibarra suspended the constitution and dissolved Congress.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s Ecuador increasingly came under the sway of US monopolies, the country’s economic situation deteriorated, and the strike movement continued to grow. The military junta that seized power in 1963 outlawed all progressive organizations, including the Communist Party. The autonomy of the universities was abolished, and those who took part in the student movement were persecuted.

The terrorist policy of the junta led to the formation of a broad front dedicated to the restoration of democratic government. The military regime fell in March 1966. Under presidents O. Arosemena Gómez (1966–68) and Velasco Ibarra (1968–72) the situation of the popular masses did not change; there were about 600,000 unemployed in 1969. From 1966 to 1972, American and other foreign companies were granted the use of over 9.2 million hectares (ha) of land, most of which contained petroleum deposits.

In February 1972 a group of military officers led by General G. Rodriguez Lara, the commander of the ground forces, deposed Velasco Ibarra in a coup. The new government announced the remtroduction of the Constitution of 1945 and its intention of implementing a “revolutionary and nationalist” program to defend the country’s interests. It took steps to restrict the activity of foreign oil monopolies in Ecuador. Under a law on agrarian reform passed in 1963, many peasants received plots of land, and cooperatives were established. In foreign policy, the Ecuadorian government sought to widen relations with the socialist countries.

Reactionary circles attempted revolts and coups. In November 1975 the country’s three largest trade unions led a general strike, demanding that resolute measures be taken to halt the machinations of the reactionaries. In January 1976, unable to contend with increasing reactionary subversion and with the discord among the military, Lara resigned. Power passed to the Supreme Council of Government, composed of the commanders of the three armed services and headed by Vice Admiral A. Povedo Burbano. In 1977 the council announced that a transition to constitutional government would begin. The draft of a new constitution was approved in a referendum held in January 1978. In August 1979, J. Roidós Aguilera was constitutionally elected president. He announced that Ecuador would follow a foreign policy upholding the principles of equality and the right of selfdetermination for all nations.


Political parties and trade unions. The Conservative Party (Partido Conservador), founded in the mid-19th century, represents the interests of the latifundists, the reactionary clergy, and the big bourgeoisie, which has ties with foreign monopolies. The Liberal Radical Party (Partido Liberal Radical), founded in the second half of the 19th century, represents the interests of the commercial and financial bourgeoisie and enjoys the support of the petite and middle bourgeoisie. The Democratic Institutional Coalition (Coalición Institucionalista Democrática), founded in 1965, represents the interests of large banking houses and the commercial bourgeoisie, both of which have ties with US monopolies. The Revolutionary Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Revolucionario), founded in 1968, unites members of the petite and middle bourgeoisie, the middle classes, and the students; its left wing works with the Communists on a number of issues. The Communist Party of Ecuador (Partido Comunista del Ecuador) was founded in 1926; until 1931 it was the Socialist Party.

The Confederation of Ecuadorian Workers, founded in 1944, belongs to the World Federation of Trade Unions; it had about 300,000 members in 1980. The Ecuadorian Confederation of Class Organizations, founded in 1938 as the Ecuadorian Confederation of Catholic Workers, unites 18 trade unions with 100,000 members (1980); it belongs to the World Confederation of Labor. The Ecuadorian Confederation of Free Trade-Union Organizations, founded in 1962, is a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and of the Inter-American Regional Labor Organization.


Economic geography. GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS. In the international division of labor, Ecuador is a supplier on the world market of petroleum and agricultural products: bananas, coffee, and cocoa. The economy is dependent on foreign capital (mainly from the USA), which is invested in extraction and manufacturing industries, trade, and finance. In 1975 the gross domestic product was $3.4 billion in prices of that year ($1.6 billion in constant 1970 prices), or $503 per capita. In that year, agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for 22.1 percent of the gross domestic product, manufacturing industry for 21.6 percent, the extraction industry for 7.5 percent, construction for 5 percent, transportation and communications for 7.5 percent, trade for 15.8 percent, and other branches of the economy for 18.8 percent.

AGRICULTURE Agriculture is characterized by vestiges of a precapitalist economy; a seminatural economy is widespread in this sector. In 1968, farms of less than 5 ha, or 74.6 percent of all farms, occupied 9.2 percent of the land; farms of more than 500 ha, or 0.2 percent of all farms, occupied 23.6 percent of the land. In 1964 and 1973, laws were adopted on land reform and the reclamation of wastelands. Between 1964 and 1977 the government distributed more than 1.5 million ha of farmland; land reform is proceeding very slowly. About 21 percent of Ecuador’s territory is used for agriculture, of which about 46 percent is plowland and about 36 percent is pastures and meadows.

The principal branch of agriculture is crop cultivation. Export crops—bananas, coffee, cocoa, and sugarcane—account for about 25 percent of the land under cultivation; they are grown in the coastal region. The main banana-growing regions are the Esmeraldas and Guayas river valleys and the coast of the Gulf of Guayaquil; coffee is grown primarily in Manabi and Los Ríos provinces, and cocoa in Guayas, Manabí, and Los Ríos provinces. The export of bananas is controlled mainly by foreign companies, although Ecuadorian capital is playing an increasing role. Other crops are cotton, rice, oil-bearing plants, tobacco, wheat, potatoes, maize, and legumes. Ecuador is the world’s third largest producer, after Tanzania and Kenya, of pyrethrum, which is cultivated mainly in the mountainous region of the country, in Cañar and Carchi provinces. Figures on the area and yield of major crops are given in Table 1.

Animal husbandry is insufficiently developed in Ecuador. In 1976 there were 2,725,000 head of cattle, 2,150,000 sheep, 2,700,000 swine, 200,000 goats, 265,000 horses, and 7,610,000 poultry. Fish, shrimp, and lobster are caught in the territorial waters of Ecuador; in 1975 the catch of fish and other ocean products totaled 223,400 tons.

Table 1. Area yield of principal agricultural crops
 Area (ha)Yield (tons)
1 Annual average
2 1975
Bananas ...............30,000145,000150.0002360,0002,661,0002,873,000
Coffee ...............67,000158,000230,00021,00055,00078,000
Cocoa ...............104,000191,000237,00027,00043,00064,000
Sugar cane ...............31,00078,000100,0001,900,0006,742,0006,500,000
Rice ...............76,000106,000134,000135,000164,000367,000
Maize ...............110,000259,000260,00079,000159,000250,000

Forests, which cover about 80 percent of Ecuador, are exploited mainly in the coastal provinces. Roundwood removals amounted to 3.4 million cu m in 1975. Tagua nuts, kapok, caoutchouc, and the leaves of the jipijapa are gathered for commercial purposes.

INDUSTRY. Ecuador’s industry is dominated by the extraction industry, principally petroleum extraction. In 1975 the country produced 9.5 million tons of petroleum, which is extracted mainly at the Lago Agrio deposit in eastern Ecuador (Napo Province) and on the Santa Elena Peninsula (Guayas Province). Since 1971, extraction and exploration have been controlled by the state petroleum corporation, the Corporación Estatal Petrolera Ecuatoriana (CEPE). In the east, extraction and exploration are carried out by the Texaco-CEPE consortium, in which CEPE obtained a controlling interest of 62.5 percent in December 1976. Gold, silver, copper, manganese ore, lead, and coal are also extracted.

The installed capacity of Ecuador’s electric power plants is 407,000 kilowatts; in 1975, 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electric power were produced, 35 percent of which was generated by hydroelectric power plants.

Manufacturing industry is represented mainly by small, usually cottage, enterprises. The most highly developed of the manufacturing industries are the food-processing industry (especially the sugar industry), which accounted for 36 percent of the value of the entire output of manufacturing industry in 1968, and the textile industry, which accounted for 11 percent. There are food-processing plants in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca and textile mills in Quito, Cuenca, and Ambato.

Ecuador has enterprises of the leather and footwear, pulp and paper, and chemical industries. There are petroleum refineries in La Libertad, Santa Elena, Cautivo, and Balao, near Esmeraldas. Cement factories are located in Guayaquil and Riobamba. Ecuador’s handicrafts include the making of panama hats in Cañar, Azuay, and Manabí provinces and wool weaving.

In 1975, Ecuador produced 1,977,000 tons of petroleum products, 604,000 tons of cement, and 305,000 tons of raw sugar; 50 million sq m of fabrics were produced in 1974.

TRANSPORTATION. Motor-vehicle transportation accounts for 77 percent of domestic freight hauled, railroad transportation for 15 percent, and river and air transportation for 8 percent. There are 22,300 km of roads, of which 7,100 km are paved. The railroad network has a total length of 1,200 km. Foreign trade is handled by ships of other countries. In 1977, Ecuador’s merchant fleet totaled 197,000 gross registered tons.

The principal ports are Balao, which handled 10 million tons of petroleum and cargoes in 1974, Guayaquil (1.7 million tons), Salinas (1.7 million tons), and Puerto Bolívar (700,000 tons). Quito and Guayaquil are served by international airlines. The Lago Agrio–Balao petroleum pipeline, about 500 km long, went into operation in 1972.

FOREIGN TRADE. In 1976 the value of Ecuador’s exports was $1.122 billion; imports totaled $1.010 billion. Petroleum made up 50 percent of the value of exports, bananas 12 percent, coffee 18 percent, cocoa 3 percent, and fish and marine products 3 percent. The chief imports are industrial raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, paper and paperboard, and foodstuffs. In 1976, Ecuador’s principal trading partners were the USA, which accounted for 35 percent of the total value of exports and 38 percent of imports, the countries of the Latin American Free Trade Association (26 percent and 14 percent), the countries of the European Economic Community (10 percent and 19 percent), and Japan (1.2 percent and 14 percent).

The monetary unit is the sucre.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. The Oriente, with an area of 143,000 sq km and a population of 1.1 million (1975), is a little-developed region that produces 98 percent of Ecuador’s petroleum.

In the Sierra, which has an area of more than 71,000 sq km and a population of 2 million, food crops are cultivated, and livestock is raised. Nonferrous metals are mined in the region, which also has manufacturing industry. The principal city is Quito.

The Costa has an area of 69,000 sq km and a population of 3.4 million. It produces export crops and has petroleum-extraction and manufacturing enterprises. The largest city is Guayaquil.

Armed forces. Ecuador’s armed forces comprise ground forces, an air force, and a navy, which are under the direct command of the minister of national defense and the commanders of the armed services. Recruits are called up in accordance with the law on compulsory military service for a period of up to one year. Officers are trained at military schools and academies in Ecuador and abroad. In 1977 the armed forces numbered more than 23,900 men.

The ground forces of 17,500 men comprise six infantry brigades, one armored tank brigade, one special brigade, and two frontier brigades. The air force of 2,600 men is equipped with 48 combat planes, 25 training planes, and several helicopters. The navy of 3,800 men has two destroyers, eight escort vessels and 11 artillery, torpedo, and patrol boats. Ecuador’s naval bases include Galápagos and Guayaquil. Weapons and materiel are produced, for the most part, by the USA.

Medicine and public health. According to data of the World Health Organization, in 1973, Ecuador’s birth rate was 35.1 per 1,000 inhabitants, and infant mortality was 75.8 per 1,000 live births. Infectious diseases are the predominant form of illness. Common diseases include malaria, typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, tetanus, syphilis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and children’s diseases. Cases of smallpox, plague, yellow fever, and typhus have been recorded. Endemic goiter is common in the mountain regions.

Medical service is provided by state medical institutions and by institutions of the social welfare system, which covers 5 percent of the population, primarily industrial workers; private medical practice is common. In 1973 there were 217 hospitals, with a total of 13,600 beds (2.1 beds per 1,000 population); 108 of the hospitals, with 11,500 beds, were state run. In 1972 there were 2,292 physicians (one physician per 2,840 inhabitants), 531 assistant physicians, 271 dentists, and about 5,500 secondary medical personnel. Medical personnel are trained at the departments of medicine of five universities. Expenditures on public health constituted 2.4 percent of the state budget in 1972.


Veterinary services. Diseases that are widespread in Ecuador include anthrax, blackleg, pasteurellosis of cattle, foot-and-mouth disease, rabies, brucellosis of cattle, hog cholera, leptospirosis, paratuberculosis, mycoplasmosis, and trichomoniasis. Cases have been recorded of tuberculosis, infection from beef tapeworm, botulism, contagious ecthyma, infectious anemia of horses, fevers caused by mites, vibriosis, trypanosomiasis, and theileriasis, as well as of diseases associated with insufficient trace elements in fodder.

Veterinarians are trained at the veterinary departments of universities of Guayaquil, Loja, Portoviejo, and Quito. In 1974 there were 520 veterinarians in Ecuador.


Education and cultural affairs. According to data for 1975, 30 percent of Ecuador’s population is illiterate. In that year 23,800 children attended preschool institutions for children aged 5–6. In the 1975–76 academic year 1.3 million pupils were enrolled in the country’s six-year elementary schools, which are compulsory for children aged 6–12. About half of those who finish elementary school go on to secondary school.

The secondary schools offer a six-year course of instruction divided into two three-year cycles: a basic cycle and a higher cycle, which is weighted toward courses in either the humanities or the natural sciences. Graduates of the six-year elementary schools may enter six-year vocational schools and six-year pedagogical schools. In the 1975–76 academic year 290,300 students attended secondary educational institutions.

The system of higher education comprises 13 universities, three of which are private, and polytechnic schools, colleges, institutes, and schools of music and art. About 100,000 students were enrolled in higher educational institutions in the 1976–77 academic year. The largest universities are the Central University of Ecuador (founded 1769) and the Catholic University of Ecuador (founded 1946), both located in Quito.

The largest of Ecuador’s 18 libraries are in Quito: the National Library (55,000 volumes in 1977), the Central University Library (110,000 volumes), and the Municipal Library (12,500 volumes). In 1977 the country had 13 museums, including the Museum of Colonial Art, the Civic Museum of Art and History, the Pablo Traversari Museum of Musical Instruments, the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and the Antonio Santiana Museum of Anthropology at the Central University; all are located in Quito.


Scientific institutions. Most of Ecuador’s scientific institutions are located in Quito and Guayaquil. More than two-thirds of all scientific organizations are at the universities and other higher educational institutions; in the mid-1970’s scientific organizations received appropriations totaling about 80 million sucres for research.

The majority of the state research institutes and other similar institutions are under the jurisdiction of three ministries. The Ministry of Education is responsible for the Institute of Nuclear Science (1957), which is part of the National Polytechnic School, and the Astronomical Observatory at Quito (1873). The National Fishery Institute (1960) in Guayaquil and the General Directorate of Geology and Mines (1964) are under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and the National Institute of Hygiene (1941) in Guayaquil is under the Ministry of Public Health.

The government oversees the work of the Atomic Energy Commission of Ecuador (1958) and the National Institute of Agricultural Research (1959). The National Institute of Nutrition was founded in 1950 pursuant to an agreement between the World Health Organization and the Kellogg Foundation.

Private scientific institutions include the laboratories of large industrial firms, the Academy of Ecuador (1875), the Ecuadorian Academy of Medicine (1958), and various research institutes, notably the Ecuadorian Institute of Natural Sciences (1940) and the Ecuadorian Institute of Anthropology and Geography (1950). The Charles Darwin Research Station, an international facility for the study of the flora and fauna of the Galápagos Islands, was founded in 1960.


Press, radio, and television. As of 1980, the most influential daily newspapers in Ecuador (all published in Guayaquil except where noted) are El comercio (since 1906; circulation 115,000), which is published in Quito, El universo (since 1921; circulation 90,000), the reactionary El telégrafo (since 1884; circulation 55,000), and Expreso (since 1973; circulation 35,000).

The weekly El pueblo (since 1946; circulation 7,000) is an organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ecuador. Vistazo (since 1957; circulation 80,000) is a sociopolitical monthly journal. The progressive monthly journal Nueva (since 1971; circulation 5,000) is published in Quito.

In 1977, Ecuador had 300 radio stations, the largest of which were Radio Quito, Colon, Presidente, and Noticias. Guayaquil has had television since 1960, and Quito since 1961.


Literature. The literature of Ecuador has developed, for the most part, in Spanish; no works from the precolonial period have survived. The early Spanish colonial period (mid-16th to late 17th centuries) is reflected in an anonymous Quechua elegy devoted to Atahualpa, the last Inca ruler; the historical work The Peruvian Chronicle (1553), by the Spanish-Peruvian chronicler P. Cieza de León (1522–54); the religious works of J. de Villaroel (1587–1665); and the poems of J. de Evia (1620–?).

Ecuadorian literature proper began in the 18th century with the poetry of J. B. Aguirre (1725–86) and the patriotic History of the Kingdom of Quito (1789) by J. de Velasco (1727–92), which is based on local legends. The educative work of E. Santacruz y Espejo (1747–95), who published the first Ecuadorian newspaper, Primicias de la cultura de Quito (founded 1792), played a major role in awakening a national consciousness among Ecuadorians. The neoclassical poet J. J. de Olmedo (1780–1847), who embarked on his literary career during the anti-Spanish war of 1810–26, wrote the heroic ode The Victory at Junín: Song to Bolívar (1825), which contains lyric elements.

From the early 1830’s to the late 19th century, literature was dominated by romanticism, beginning with the lyric poetry of the female poet D. Veintimilla de Galindo (1829–57). The prominent writer J. Montalvo (1832–89) actively opposed the dictatorship of G. Garcia Moreno. In essays and philosophic works he castigated despotism, corruption, and obscurantism and sounded a call for the defense of the oppressed Indians. J. L. Mera (1832–94) was the author of the Ecuadorian national anthem and the first Ecuadorian novel, Cumandá (1879), a romantic idealization of the colonial past.

The poetry of the early 20th century developed, as in other Latin American countries, along modernist lines. Such poets as A. Borja (1882–1912), H. Fierro (1890–1928), E. Noboa y Camaño (1891–1927), and M. A. Silva (1898–1919) reflected, in their individualism and aestheticism, a rejection of social reality. Prose literature was dominated by the depiction of everyday life. The first realistic work, which also contained pronounced elements of naturalism and costumbrismo, was the novel Toward the Shore (1904) by L. A. Martinez (1868–1909).

The social contradictions of the late 1920’s and the 1930’s, in conjunction with Ecuador’s economic dependence on foreign powers, contributed to the dissemination of socialist ideas and to the consolidation of the broad social and political movement known as Indigenismo, whose adherents called for the liberation of the Indians from the semifeudal yoke and for’ a revival of the Indian cultural heritage. The ideas of the movement were first expressed by F. Chávez (born 1898), the author of the novel Silver and Bronze (1927). J. Icaza (born 1906), whose works became widely known, wrote the novel Huasipungo (1934), which exposed the ruthless exploitation of the Indians and their spontaneous protest against the oppressors. H. Salvador (born 1907) has produced politically incisive novels that dealt with the life of the workers and intelligentsia, notably Comrade (1933) and The Working People (1935). In the novel November (1939) he presented a composite portrait of a Latin American dictator.

In 1930 the writers of the Guayaquil group, which played a major role in the development of Ecuadorian literature, published the collection of short stories Those Who Leave. The members of the group, which included J. Gallegos Lara (1911–47), D. Aguilera Malta (born 1909), and E. Gil Gilbert (1912–73), depicted the life of the working people and their struggle against capitalist exploitation and foreign monopolies.

Gallegos Lara’s novel Crosses Over the Water (1946) described the shootings at the first workers’ demonstration in Guayaquil in 1922. Gil Gilbert’s novel Our Bread (1941) exposed the capitalist exploitation of the rice farmers. Aguilera Malta, the author of the anti-imperialist novel The Canal Zone (1935), in 1939 published Madrid, an eyewitness account of the revolutionary events in Spain from 1936 to 1939. The Guayaquil group was later joined by J. de la Cuadra (1903—41), a master of the realistic short story, and A. Pareja Diezcanseco (born 1908), the author of the novels The Warning (1958) and Air and Recollections (1959), a record of Ecuadorian society since 1925.

A. Ortiz (born 1914), the author of the novel Guyungo (1942), and N. Estupiñan Bass (born 1915), the author of the novels When the Guaiacums Were Blooming (1954) and Paradise (1958), turned to the Negro for their subject matter. P. J. Vera (born 1915), in the psychological novels The True Animals (1946), The Sterile Seed (1962), and The Epoch of the Dolls (1971), has posed political questions.

The work of J. Carrera Andrade (born 1903), the greatest Ecuadorian poet of the 20th century, reflects the main trend of modern Latin American literature: strong ties with national reality and a concern for contemporary universal human problems (The Steps of Poetry, 1958). The poems of J. E. Adoum (born 1926) are devoted to revolutionary subject matter and social criticism. B. Carrión (born 1898), a founder of the House of Ecuadorian Culture (1944) and the publisher of the journal Letras del Ecuador, has made an important contribution to the essay and literary criticism.


Architecture and art. Pre-Columbian Ecuadorian art is represented by pottery (statuettes and vases painted with a geometric design), sculpture (stone figures and stelae), and gold and silver articles; stone structures have been found in the eastern provinces. The construction of cities began in the 16th century; churches in the style of the Spanish Renaissance (architect F. Becerra) were enriched in the 17th century with magnificent Moorish ornamentation (architect A. Rodríguez). The 18th century was dominated by baroque forms, which often became flat and purely decorative. Great religious painters came to the fore, notably P. Bedón, N. J. Goríbar, and M. Samaniego, and such great sculptors as the Indian M. Chili, nicknamed Caspicara, and G. Zangurima appeared. In the 19th and early 20th centuries architects imitated traditional models. The painters J. Pinto and C. Egas turned to a national subject matter.

After 1930 such pioneers in the struggle for a national realistic art as O. Guayasamín, whose series The Day of Wrath sounds a call to struggle against exploitation and oppression, E. Kingman, and D. Parades produced socially incisive works, in the style of Ecuadorian folk art, that presented brilliantly expressive depictions of the life of the Indians and Negroes. Realism is represented by the painters L. Moscoso, M. Redón, and G. Pavón, the sculptor J. Andrade Moscoso, and the graphic artist G. Galecio.

Buildings of the 20th century have been dominated by traditional forms. Modern architecture, which did not begin to develop until the 1950’s, is represented by the architects S. Durán-Ballén, A. Léon, and M. Barragán. Ecuador’s rich folk art includes weaving (especially the weaving of ponchos), ceramics, silver working, wood and stone carving, and the making of masks.

Music. Folk music is represented by the music of the Creoles and Indians, which forms part of the music of Bolivia, Peru, and northwestern Argentina. The study of Ecuadorian folk music began in the 1920’s with the research of the French scholars R. D’Harcourt and M. D’Harcourt, but little work has been done in this field.

Ecuadorian classical music emerged in the 19th century. A major contribution to the development of classical music was made by the violinist and composer A. Baldeen, who wrote orchestral works; he helped found and served as director of the first Ecuadorian music society. The National Conservatory opened in Quito in 1870 (closed in 1877 and reopened in 1900); its first director was A. Neumann, the composer of Ecuador’s national anthem.

Prominent musical figures of the second half of the 19th century included the composer and musicologist P. Traversari, who wrote symphonies and music for the theater, and the composer and folklorist S. L. Moreno, who made use of Ecuadorian folk music in such works as the Ecuadorian Suite, the Symphonic Prelude, and overtures. Important composers of the second half of the 20th century are S. M. Duran and L. Salgado. Music education is offered at the National Conservatory in Quito and the José Maria Rodríguez Conservatory in Cuenca.


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Official name: Republic of Ecuador

Capital city: Quito

Internet country code: .ec

Flag description: Three horizontal bands of yellow (top, double width), blue, and red with the coat of arms super­imposed at the center of the flag

National anthem: info in Spanish at

Geographical description: Western South America, border­ing the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru

Total area: 106,888 sq. mi. (276,840 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands

Nationality: noun: Ecuadorian(s); adjective: Ecuadorian

Population: 13,755,680 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian) 65%, Amerindian 25%, Spanish and other European 7%, African 3%

Languages spoken: Spanish (official), Quechua and other indigenous languages

Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%

Legal Holidays:

All Souls' DayNov 2
Battle of Pichincha DayMay 24
Christmas DayDec 25
Cuenca Independence DayNov 3
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Guayaquil Independence DayOct 9
Labor DayMay 1
National DayAug 10
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in South America, on the Pacific: under the Incas when Spanish colonization began in 1532; gained independence in 1822; declared a republic in 1830. It consists chiefly of a coastal plain in the west, separated from the densely forested upper Amazon basin (Oriente) by ranges and plateaus of the Andes. Official language: Spanish; Quechua is also widely spoken. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: US dollar. Capital: Quito. Pop.: 13 193 000 (2004 est.). Area: 283 560 sq. km (109 483 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005