Once part of the Inca heartland, Ecuador lies on the western coast of South America. Its territory includes the fascinating Galápagos Islands, 610 miles (970 km) to the west.
Geography: Broad coastal plain, inter-Andean central highlands, dense jungle in upper Amazon basin.
Climate: The climate is hot and moist on the coast, cool in the Andes, and hot equatorial in the Amazon basin.
People and Society: Most people are of Amerindian–Spanish extraction (mestizo). Black communities exist on the coast. The strong and largely unified Amerindian movement leads the pressure for social reform; one in eight people live in extreme poverty. Recent left-wing policies have given greater rights to women, the poor, and Amerindians.
The Economy: Oil provides half of export earnings. World’s biggest banana exporter. US dollar offers stability, but less control. Defaulted on debt in 2008, prioritizing social spending.
Insight: Darwin’s study on the Galápagos Islands in 1856 played a major part in his theory of evolution
Official Name: Republic of Ecuador
Date of Formation: 1830
Population: 13.6 million
Total Area: 109,483 sq. miles (283,560 sq. km)
Density: 127 people per sq. mile
Languages: Spanish*, Quechua, other Amerindian languages
Religions: Roman Catholic 93%; Protestant, Jewish, and other 7%
Ethnic Mix: Mestizo 55%, Amerindian 25%, White 10%, Black 10%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: US dollar = 100 cents