Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador, which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator"; Quechua: Ikwadur Ripuwlika), is a representative democratic republic in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland.
What is now Ecuador was home to a variety of Amerindian groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the 15th century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the 16th century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of Gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador's ethnically diverse population, with most of its 15.2 million people being mestizos, followed by large minorities of European, Amerindian, and African descendants.
Spanish is the official language and is spoken by a majority of the population, though 13 Amerindian languages are also recognized, including Quichua and Shuar. The capital city is Quito, while the largest city is Guayaquil. In reflection of the country's rich cultural heritage, the historical center of Quito was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Cuenca, the third-largest city, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 as an outstanding example of a planned, inland Spanish-style colonial city in the Americas.
Ecuador has a developing economy that is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. The country is classified as a medium-income country. Ecuador is a democratic presidential republic. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights. Ecuador is also known for its rich ecology, hosting many endemic plants and animals, such as those of the Galápagos Islands. It is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world.
The "Republic of the Ecuador" was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Venezuela). Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999.
Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by its Hispanic Mestizo majority and like their ancestry, it is traditionally Spanish heritage, influenced by different degrees of Amerindian traditions with African elements.
Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands
Ecuador has a total area of 283,520 km2 and is bisected by the Equator, for which it is named.
Ecuador is a major exporter of bananas and petroleum and is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Ecuador has a total area of 283,520 km2 (109,468 sq mi), including the Galápagos Islands. Of this, 283,520 km2(109,468 sq mi) is land and 6,720 km2 (2,595 sq mi) water. Ecuador is bigger than Uruguay, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana in South America.
Ecuador lies between latitudes 2°N and 5°S, bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and has 2,337 km (1,452 mi) of coastline. It has 2,010 km (1,250 mi) of land boundaries, with Colombia in the north 590 km (367 mi) border and Peru in the east and south 1,420 km (882 mi) border. It is the westernmost country that lies on the equator.
The country has four main geographic regions:
- La Costa, or "the coast": The coastal region consists of the provinces to the West of the Andean range – Esmeraldas, Guayas, Los Ríos, Manabí, El Oro, Santa Elena. It is the country's most fertile and productive land, and is the seat of the large banana exportation plantations of the companies Dole and Chiquita. This region is also where most of Ecuador's rice crop is grown. The truly coastal provinces have active fisheries. The largest coastal city is Guayaquil.
- La Sierra, or "the highlands": The sierra consists of the Andean and Interandean highland provinces – Azuay, Cañar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Imbabura, Loja, Pichincha, and Tungurahua. This land contains most of Ecuador's volcanoes and all of its snow-capped peaks. Agriculture is focused on the traditional crops of potato, maize, and quinua and the population is predominantly Amerindian Kichua. The largest Sierran city is Quito.
- La Amazonía, also known as El Oriente, or "the east": The oriente consists of the Amazon jungle provinces – Morona Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Sucumbíos, and Zamora-Chinchipe. This region is primarily made up of the huge Amazon national parks and Amerindian untouchable zones, which are vast stretches of land set aside for the Amazon Amerindian tribes to continue living traditionally. It is also the area with the largest reserves of petroleum in Ecuador, and parts of the upper Amazon here have been extensively exploited by petroleum companies. The population is primarily mixed Amerindian Shuar, Huaorani and Kichua, although there are numerous tribes in the deep jungle which are little-contacted. The largest city in the Oriente is probably Lago Agrio in Sucumbíos, although Macas in Morona Santiago runs a close second.
- La Región Insular is the region comprising the Galápagos Islands, some 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland in the Pacific Ocean.
Ecuador's capital is Quito, which is in the province of Pichincha in the Sierra region. Its largest city is Guayaquil, in the Guayas Province. Cotopaxi, which is just south of Quito, features one of the world's highest active volcanoes. The top of Mount Chimborazo (6,268 m, or 20,560 ft, above sea level) is considered to be the most distant point of the Earth's surface from the center of the Earth, given the approximately ellipsoid shape of the planet.
There is great variety in the climate, largely determined by altitude. It is mild year-round in the mountain valleys, with a humid subtropical climate in coastal areas and rainforest in lowlands. The Pacific coastal area has a tropical climate with a severe rainy season. The climate in the Andean highlands is temperate and relatively dry, and the Amazon basin on the eastern side of the mountains shares the climate of other rainforest zones.
Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year. Both sunrise and sunset occur each day at the two six o'clock hours.
Ecuador's population is ethnically diverse and the 2011 estimates put Ecuador's population at 15,007,343. The largest ethnic group (as of 2010) is the Mestizos, who are the descendants of Spanish colonists that interbred with Amerindian peoples, and constitute about 71% of the population. The White Ecuadorians (White Latin American) account for 6.1% of the population of Ecuador and can be found throughout all of Ecuador primarily around the urban areas. Even though Ecuador's white population during its colonial era were mainly descendants from Spain, today Ecuador's white population is a result of a mixture of European immigrants, predominantly from Spain with people from Italy, France, Germany, and Switzerland who have settled in the early 20th century. Ecuador also has people of middle eastern extraction that have also joined the ranks of the white minority. These include economically well off immigrants of Lebanese and Palestinian descent, who are either Christian or Muslim (Islam in Ecuador). In addition, there is a small European Jewish (Ecuadorian Jews) population, which is based mainly in Quito and to a lesser extent in Guayaquil.Amerindians account for 7% of the current population. The mostly rural Montubio population of the coastal provinces of Ecuador, who might be classified as Pardo account for 7.4% of the population. The Afro-Ecuadorians is a minority population (7%) in Ecuador, that includes the Mulattos and zambos, and are largely based in the Esmeraldas province and to a lesser degree in the predominantly Mestizo provinces of Coastal Ecuador - Guayas and Manabi. In the Highland Andes where a predominantly Mestizo, white and Amerindian population exist, the African presence is almost non-existent except for a small community in the province of Imbabura called Chota Valley.
According to the Ecuadorian National Institute of Statistics and Census, 91.95% of the country's population have a religion, 7.94% are atheists and 0.11% are agnostics. Among the people that have a religion, 80.44% are Roman Catholic Latin Rite , 11.30% are EvangelicalProtestants, 1.29% are Jehovah's Witnesses and 6.97% other (mainly Jewish, Buddhists and Latter-day Saints).
In the rural parts of Ecuador, Amerindian beliefs and Catholicism are sometimes syncretized. Most festivals and annual parades are based on religious celebrations, many incorporating a mixture of rites and icons.
There is a small number of Eastern Orthodox Christians, Amerindian religions, Muslims (see Islam in Ecuador), Buddhists and Bahá'í. According to their own estimates, the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accounts for about 1.4% of the population, or 211,165 members at the end of 2012. According to their own sources, in 2012 there were 77,323 Jehovah's Witnesses in the country.
The first Jews arrived in Ecuador in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most of them are SephardicAnusim (Crypto-Jews) and many still speak Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino) language. Today the Jewish Community of Ecuador (Comunidad Judía del Ecuador) has its seat in Quito and has approximately 200 members. Nevertheless, this number is declining because young people leave the country for the United States or Israel. The Community has a Jewish Center with a synagogue, a country club, and a cemetery. It supports the "Albert Einstein School", where Jewish history, religion, and Hebrew classes are offered. There are very small communities in Cuenca. The "Comunidad de Culto Israelita" reunites the Jews of Guayaquil. This community works independently from the "Jewish Community of Ecuador" and is composed of only 30 people.
The Ecuadorian constitution recognizes the "pluri-nationality" of those who want to exercise their affiliation with their native ethnic groups. Thus, in addition to criollos, mestizos, and Afro-Ecuadorians, some people belong to the Amerindian nations scattered in a few places in the coast, Quechua Andean villages, and the Amazonian jungle.
According to a 2015 genealogical DNA testing, the average Ecuadorian is estimated to be 52.96% Native American, 41.77% European, and 5.26% Sub-Saharan African overall.
The majority of Ecuadorians live in the central provinces, the Andes mountains, or along the Pacific coast. The tropical forest region to the east of the mountains (El Oriente) remains sparsely populated and contains only about 3% of the population. Birth rate is 2-1 for each death. Marriages are usually from 14 and above using parental consent. About 12.4% of the population is married in the ages 15–19. Divorce rates are moderate.
Immigration and emigration
A small east Asian Latino community, estimated at 2,500, mainly consists of those of Japanese and Chinese descent, whose ancestors arrived as miners, farmhands and fishermen in the late 19th century.
In the early years of World War II, Ecuador still admitted a certain number of immigrants, and in 1939, when several South American countries refused to accept 165 Jewish refugees from Germany aboard the ship Koenigstein, Ecuador granted them entry permits.
In recent years, Ecuador has grown in popularity among North American expatriates. They're drawn there by the authentic cultural experience and beautiful natural surroundings. Also, Ecuador's favorable residency options make for an easy transition for those who decide to settle there indefinitely.
Another perk that draws many expats to Ecuador is its low cost of living. Since everything from gas to groceries costs far less than in North America, it's a popular choice for those who are looking to make the most of their retirement budget.
Even real estate in Ecuador is much less than its tropical counterparts. However, as more and more North Americans are discovering Ecuador's potential, property prices are beginning to rise from where they were a decade ago, particularly in the areas that are popular among expats and tourists.
Ecuador has a developing economy that is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. The country is classified as a medium-income country. Ecuador's economy is the eighth largest in Latin America and experienced an average growth of 4.6% between 2000 and 2006. From 2007 to 2012 Ecuador's GDP grew at an annual average of 4.3 percent, above the average for Latin America and the Caribbean, which was 3.5%, according to the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Ecuador was able to maintain relatively superior growth during the crisis. In January 2009 the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE) put the 2010 growth forecast at 6.88%. In 2011 its GDP grew at 8% and ranked 3rd highest in Latin America, behind Argentina (2nd) and Panama (1st). Between 1999 and 2007, GDP doubled, reaching $65,490 million according to BCE. Inflation rate up to January 2008 was located about 1.14%, the highest recorded in the last year, according to the government. The monthly unemployment rate remained at about 6 and 8 percent from December 2007 until September 2008; however, it went up to about 9 percent in October and dropped again in November 2008 to 8 percent. Unemployment mean annual rate for 2009 in Ecuador was 8.5% because the global economic crisis continued to affect the Latin American economies. From this point unemployment rates started a downward trend: 7.6% in 2010, 6.0% in 2011, and 4.8% in 2012.
The extreme poverty rate has declined significantly between 1999 and 2010. In 2001 it was estimated at 40% of the population, while by 2011 the figure dropped to 17.4% of the total population. This is explained to an extent by emigration and the economic stability achieved after adopting the U.S. dollar as official means of transaction. However, starting in 2008 with the bad economic performance of the nations where most Ecuadorian emigrants work, the reduction of poverty has been realized through social spending mainly in education and health.
Oil accounts for 40% of exports and contributes to maintaining a positive trade balance. Since the late 1960s, the exploitation of oil increased production, and proven reserves are estimated at 6.51 billion barrels as of 2011.
The overall trade balance for August 2012 was a surplus of almost $390 million for the first six months of 2012, a huge figure compared with that of 2007, which reached only $5.7 million; the surplus had risen by about $425 million compared to 2006. The oil trade balance positive had revenues of $3.295 million in 2008, while non-oil was negative, amounting to $2.842 million. The trade balance with the United States, Chile, the European Union, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, and Mexico is positive. The trade balance with Argentina, Colombia, and Asia is negative.
In the agricultural sector, Ecuador is a major exporter of bananas (first place worldwide in production and export), flowers, and the seventh largest producer of cocoa. The shrimp, sugar cane, rice, cotton, corn, palm, and coffee productions are also significant. The country's vast resources include large amounts of timber across the country, like eucalyptus and mangroves. Pines and cedars are planted in the region of La Sierra and walnuts, rosemary, and balsa wood in the Guayas River Basin. The industry is concentrated mainly in Guayaquil, the largest industrial center, and in Quito, where in recent years the industry has grown considerably. This city is also the largest business center of the country. Industrial production is directed primarily to the domestic market. Despite this, there is limited export of products produced or processed industrially. These include canned foods, liquor, jewelry, furniture, and more. A minor industrial activity is also concentrated in Cuenca.The incomes due to the tourism have been increasing during the last years because of the efforts of the Government of showing the variety of climates and the biodiversity in Ecuador.
Ecuador has negotiated bilateral treaties with other countries, besides belonging to the Andean Community of Nations, and an associate member of Mercosur. It also serves on the World Trade Organization (WTO), in addition to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) and other multilateral agencies. In April 2007, Ecuador paid off its debt to the IMF, thus ending an era of interventionism of the Agency in the country. The public finance of Ecuador consists of the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE), the National Development Bank (BNF), the State Bank, the National Finance Corporation, the Ecuadorian Housing Bank (BEV) and the Ecuadorian Educational Loans and Grants.
Between 2006 and 2009, the government increased social spending on social welfare and education from 2.6% to 5.2% of its GDP. Starting in 2007, with an economy surpassed by the economic crisis, Ecuador was subject to a number of economic policy reforms by the government that have helped steer the Ecuadorian economy to a sustained, substantial, and focused financial stability and social policy. Such policies were expansionary fiscal policies, of access to housing finance, stimulus packs, and limiting the amount of money reserves banks could keep abroad. The Ecuadorian Government has made huge investments in education and infrastructure throughout the nation, which have improved the lives of the poor.
In 2000, Ecuador changed its currency from the sucre to the U.S. dollar following a banking crisis.
On December 12, 2008, president Correa announced that Ecuador would not pay $30.6 million in interest to lenders of a $510-million loan, claiming that they were illegitimate. In addition, it claimed that $3.8 billion in foreign debt negotiated by previous administrations was illegitimate because it was authorized without executive decree. At the time of the announcement, the country had $5.65 billion in cash reserves. worlddiplomacy.org states that "Since Ecuador's President Rafael Correa won a third term in 2013, this should provide further stability and a good rate of growth for Ecuador's economy."
Ecuador, as part of the Mercosur, have signed a free trade agreement with Lebanon on December 18, 2014.