The Republic of Ecuador is located in South America and lies along the equator. It is bordered to the north by Columbia, to the east and south by Peru, and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands which are located 620 miles to the west of the mainland. The total landmass of Ecuador is about 110,000 mi.², or roughly the size of the state of Nevada. The total population of Ecuador is about 16.6 million (census data from 2017).
The capital of Ecuador is Quito which lies at an elevation of 9,350 feet making it the second highest capital city in the world. It is also the second largest city in Ecuador with an estimated population of 1.7 million. Quito was founded on the ruins of an ancient Incan city in the 1500’s. There are many well preserved churches and interesting buildings to explore near the city center.
The official language of Ecuador is Spanish. And, since the year 2000, the national currency is the US dollar. The current president is Guillermo Lasso and the government is democratic with each president serving a four year term. Of interest, voting is mandatory for those between the ages of 18 through 65 years old.
The geography of Ecuador is very diverse with four main regions: La Costa (or the Pacific coastal Plains), La Sierra (the Andean highlands), La Amazonia (the Amazon jungle located in the east of the country), and La Region Insular (the Galapagos Islands). Interestingly, the tallest mountain in Ecuador, Chimborazo (at an elevation of 20,561 feet), is further from the center of the earth than Mt. Everest due to the spherical shape of our planet.
The climate of the country depends on the location. In the mountains, the temperatures are spring like year-round with daytime highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s. In the coastal areas, the temperatures are more tropical with highs ranging from 80° to 90°F.
The economy of Ecuador is largely based on exports of petroleum and other commodities. Specifically, oil exports make up more than 40%. This is followed by bananas, for which Ecuador holds the worldwide record of being first place for production and exportation. Other major exports include processed fish, shrimp, cut flowers, coffee and cocoa beans.
Regarding the culture, the Ecuadorian people are multi-ethnic. Approximately 70% of the population is classified as “mestizo.“ This is a mixed racial group comprised of Hispanic European and indigenous South American Indian heritage.
Spanish as the official language, is spoken by over 90% of the population. There are many secondary languages, but Quechua, an ancient Incan language, is one of the most common. It is used by those living in more remote areas of the Andes mountains.
The primary religion of the country is Catholicism with many holidays and festivals based on Christian teachings. And, as in most South American countries, soccer (Fútbol) is the most popular sport. But, other favorite pastimes include music and dancing.
The cuisine of Ecuador is quite varied. Lunch is usually the main meal of the day. In the mountains, more meats and starches such as rice, potato, and hominy are consumed. While in the coastal regions, fish, beans, and plantains are more common.
Generally, the people of Ecuador are warm and welcoming. A standard greeting involves eye contact with a smile and handshake. Although many women will greet other women and men with a quick kiss on the cheek. And, it is considered polite to give the same greeting upon departure. Initially, when addressing people, it is best to be more formal using Señor, Señora or Señorita along with the person’s surname. When invited to a social gathering it is generally customary to arrive late.
Ecuador has a comprehensive national health system. It provides free medical care to the citizens. There is also an emphasis on prevention. And, to reach more underserved populations, all newly graduated dentists, physicians, and nurses must complete a one-year obligatory “rural” year of service. But, even with this socialized system, many Ecuadorians live below the poverty line and do not have adequate access to healthcare.
The following are some statistics based on 2017 data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The life expectancy in Ecuador is 78 years old. The infant mortality rate is 14%. The most common causes of death are ischemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, stroke, and lower respiratory tract infections. The health problems that cause the most disability are low back pain, headache disorders, and diabetes.
** For more details regarding Ecuador, there are numerous website references. One of the most comprehensive is Wikipedia.