Ecuador has four main geographic regions: La Coasta - the coastal region; La Sierra - the highlands where the capital Quito and one of the world’s highest volcano Mount Chimborazo is located; La Amazonia/El Oriente - the large eastern area and Amazon rainforest; Region Insular – comprised of the Galapagos Islands. Due to the large range of geographies and altitudes across the country, the climate is hugely variable according to location: ranging from the temperate to the tropical. Ecuador is endowed with rich, fertile regions and plentiful agricultural crop harvests. The majority of the population lives in the central provinces or along the coast. The forest region remains sparsely populated (approx. 3% of the population).
Ecuador is situated between Perú and Colombia on the equator line, from which is derives its name. It has 24 provinces, each with their own administrative capitals. The country is renowned for its endemic ecological diversity, which is found both inland within the Amazon Rainforest and on the Galapagos Islands, situated 1,000 km from the shore (making it one out of only 17 mega-diverse countries in the world). Ecuador is also well known for its impressively preserved, historical town centers as found in Quito and Cuenca, both world heritage sites.
Ecuador received independence in 1830 from the Spanish Empire and now operates as a presidential republich. The current president is Rafael Correa. It has seen several decades (between 1940 until 1999) of unstable relations with its neighbor Perú, which deteriorated into military conflict during the 40’s and 50’s. Perú’s modern history has also been demarked by both political and economic instability.
Ecuador's export-orientated economy is based predominantly around crude oil and a few other primary commodities such as timber, gold and fish. The commodities’ respective price fluctuations continue to have substantial impacts domestically. Amid the international instability of the late 1990’s, this led to financial crisis, high inflation and currency devaluation. The majority of industry and manufacturing remains predominantly oriented to servicing the domestic market.
POPULATION AND CULTURE
Ecuador's population is ethnically diverse: 65% is comprised of the Mestizos of indigenous and Spanish colonist descent and 25% comprised of the Amerindians. Minorities include European immigrants and Afro-Ecuadorians. The main religion is Christian – 75% Roman Catholic and 25% Protestant. The mainstream culture is defined by its Hispanic mestizo majority, traditionally of Spanish heritage influenced at different degrees with Amerindian traditions and in some cases with African elements. The integration of Ecuador’s indigenous communities into the mainstream culture varies, with the least integrated being located in the Amazon Basin.
Updated May, 2011.