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economy of Ecuador, mestizos, Andes Mountains, Galapagos Islands, Native American ancestry

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Ecuador, country in northwestern South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean. The country also includes the Galapagos Islands (Colon Archipelago) in the Pacific, about 965 km (about 600 mi) west of the mainland. Ecuador straddles the equator (Ecuador is the Spanish word for “equator”). Quito, the country’s capital, is high in the Andes Mountains. Guayaquil, a port along the Pacific coast, is the largest city.

Ecuador has a diverse population composed of people of European, Native American, and African descent. The majority are mestizos, individuals of mixed European and Native American ancestry. Most of the Native Americans live in poverty in the highlands region, where a small elite of European descent controls most of the land and wealth.

Ecuador was a Spanish colony until 1822, when independence forces won a decisive victory over Spain. Since then the government has alternated between civilian rule and military dictatorship. Most of Ecuador’s political conflicts have involved squabbles among groups within the upper classes who control the nation’s wealth.

Agriculture dominated the economy of Ecuador until the 1970s, when the production of petroleum brought added income to the nation. The money generated by the oil industry produced a decade of prosperity and extensive government spending but eventually led to an economic crisis in the 1990s as revenues fell, prices spiraled ever higher, the currency was devalued, and the country’s foreign debt burden grew. Although successive governments have tried to implement economic reforms, Ecuador’s economic footing remains unsteady.


For younger readers

Beirne, Barbara. Children of the Ecuadorean Highlands. Carolrhoda, 1996. For readers in grades 3 to 6.

Foley, Erin. Ecuador. Marshall Cavendish, 1995. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Morrison, Marion. Ecuador. Children's Press, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Parker, Edward. Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998. For readers in grades 3 to 6.


Handelsman, Michael. Culture and Customs of Ecuador. Greenwood, 2000. A compact overview of Ecuador's varied culture.

Hanratty, Dennis M., ed. Ecuador: A Country Study. 3rd ed. Library of Congress, 1991. Discussion of the country's political, social, and economic systems and institutions.

Lourie, Peter. Sweat of the Sun, Tears of the Moon: A Chronicle of the Incan Treasure. Atheneum, 1991. An account of the author's journey through the mountains of Ecuador in search of Inca treasure.

Pearson, David L., and Les Beletsky. Ecuador and Its Galapagos Islands. Academic, 2000. Two biologists provide an illustrated guide to the ecological wonders of Ecuador.

Peck, Robert M. Headhunters and Hummingbirds: An Expedition into Ecuador. Walker, 1987. Description of an expedition into the interior Ecuador's mountains.

Pineo, Ronn F. Social and Economic Reform in Ecuador: Life and Work in Guayaquil. University Press of Florida, 1996. A brief and engaging history of the city of Guayaquil and its transition from town to metropolis.

Rudel, Thomas K. Tropical Deforestation: Small Farmers and Land Clearing in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Columbia University Press, 1993. Case study of a problem of major global significance.

Van Aken, Mark J. King of the Night: Juan Jose Flores and Ecuador, 1824-1864. University of California Press, 1989. Political biography of Ecuador's first president and his influence in shaping the Ecuadorian nation.


Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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