Ecuador Encyclopedia Online

By | December 14, 2021

Physical characters

The territory of Ecuador it should be distinguished in a coastal region (Costa), an Andean (Sierra) and an Amazonian (East) region. The Sierra (1/4 of the total area) consists of two ranges, the Western Cordillera and the Eastern (or Royal) Cordillera. There are about forty volcanic systems, many of which are active (Chimborazo, 6310 m; Cotopaxi, 5897 m; Sangay, 5413 m), and the seismicity is strong. Between the mountain ranges there are highlands (Ibarra, Quito, Latacunga, Ambato, Riobamba, Cuenca, Loja). Along the coast there is an alluvial plain, partly marshy, behind which there are some systems of hills that reconnect with the Andes. For Ecuador 2007, please check

The climate manifests a marked seasonality. The eastern Andean side receives constant rainfall, over 2000-2500 mm per year; the western one (1000-1500 mm per year) and the intermontane basins, on the other hand, have periods of aridity. The southern coastal region has sub-desert characteristics. The temperature is locally diversified according to the altitude, but has modest excursions: Quito, at almost 2900 m asl, has an average temperature around 14 ° C, with an excursion of 1 °; on the sea, Guayaquil averages around 26 ° C, with a slightly higher excursion. The Andean system acts as a watershed between the Amazon River basin, into which Napo, Pastaza, Zamora flowetc., and the Pacific, towards which shorter and steeper rivers flow (Daule and Esmeraldas are the main ones). The forest, equatorial in the Amazonian lowland, subtropical and temperate on the mountain ranges, is replaced by grasslands at around 3000 m; along the Pacific coast, to the North, there are tropical formations which, proceeding towards the S, pass through the savannah and the xerophilous steppe. The fauna is rich and varied; of exceptional interest is that of the Galápagos.


In the pre-Columbian era the plateau was occupied by people of Andean culture, today almost all assimilated into the Creole population; the indigenous peoples of the Coast have disappeared, while in the eastern lowland there are numerous Amerindians of Amazonian culture, characterized by a notable linguistic division. Interesting data provided by archeology, which testify to Mesoamerican (in the Coast) and Andean (in the Sierra) influences. In the peninsula of Santa Elena, the culture of Las Vegas (10th-7th millennium BC) shows traces of an incipient agriculture. Of exceptional artistic quality the goldsmith’s art of La Tolita (500 BC-500 AD), of Manteño and Milagro-Queredo (from 500 AD).

The original population of Ecuador it was concentrated in the Sierra and only with the advent of the Spaniards did the expansion of the coast begin. The Amerindian population (41% of the total) still lives in the Sierra, while on the Costa mestizos dominate (42%) and the white minority (11%) is concentrated in the cities. The Costa has now overtaken the Sierra in population, while the East remains depopulated (5 residents /km 2on average). With over 50 residents / km 2on average, Ecuador it is the most densely populated country in South America (excluding island states). Population growth is slowing slightly, but still accentuated (birth rate 21.54 ‰ in 2008, mortality 4.21 ‰): the population went from about 3 million in 1950 to about 6 in 1970, to 9.7 in 1990 and 13.9, according to estimates, in 2008. Large movements from the Sierra towards the coast and from the countryside towards the cities (the urban population is 63%, compared to 25% in 1950). Only Quito (1,514,000 residents) and Guayaquil (2,090,000 residents, main economic center) have national importance, while Cuenca (304,000 residents), Ambato and Riobamba, in the Andean region, and Machala (217,000 residents), Portoviejo and Esmeraldas, on the coast, exert a local influence. Very strong are the socio-economic disparities between the white component (dominant on every level) and the others and between the residents of the cities and those of the countryside; the conditions of the less favored classes and the rural population (especially indios ) are gradually improving, also as a consequence of greater organizational activism.

Official language is Spanish; the dominant religion is Catholic (92%).

Economic conditions

The economy of Ecuador it was traditionally characterized by large estates and very small peasant properties in the Sierra, capitalist plantations on the Costa, no use of the Amazonian side; and the country depended on exports of tropical products (cocoa, later also coffee and bananas). In the 1970s, the entry into production of hydrocarbon fields in the East made Ecuador exporter of oil, but did not protect it from the erratic price trend, aggravated, for agriculture and fishing, by negative weather and climatic conditions, such as the anomalous duration of El Niño. Some land reform intervention has led to an increase in agricultural production. Despite the recent expansion of the manufacturing sector, thanks also to foreign investments, The country still has a ‘colonial’ type economy and lacks infrastructure (despite recent investments) and capital, despite substantial potential resources.

The cultivated area has expanded, to the detriment of the forest, which however still covers a large portion of the total area. Among the plantation products, bananas stand out (with 6.1 million t in 2006, Ecuador is among the top producers in the world), cocoa, coffee, sugar cane. In the Andean belt, basic food crops prevail (rice, corn, potatoes, cassava), as well as coca. The farm can count on cattle (5 million), sheep (1.05) and pigs (1.3). Fishing is important (527,128 t in 2006), practiced mainly around the Galápagos (crustaceans). Forests provide 6.7 million m 3of timber. The primary sector now absorbs only 8% of assets.

In the northern part of the East the aforementioned oil fields are exploited, connected by oil pipeline with Esmeraldas; total production reached about 27 million tonnes in 2006; new basins are being explored. The manufacturing industry includes refining and petrochemicals and traditional textile and food productions. Very strong development has marked the tertiary sector (trade), which absorbs over 70% of the active population.

Among the poor road communications (43,197 km, 15% of which are asphalted) the Ecuadorian section (1400 km) of the Carretera Panamericana stands out; connections with Brazil in the East are planned. The railway network measures less than 1000 km. Discrete port facilities (Guayaquil, Esmeraldas) and a good network of internal airlines. The role of the United States as a trading partner has been downsized to the benefit of South American countries. Oil covers a large part of exports; imports concern industrial products; the trade balance tends to balance. International tourism is still modest (841,000 admissions in 2006), mainly directed to the Galápagos.

The monetary unit is the US dollar, divided into 100 cents.

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