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Physical Geography
(Capital City) 2º 00' S, 77º 30' W

Area: 276,840 Square Kilometers

Physical Geography:
Equador sits on the equator and is positioned in the northern, southern, and western hemispheres. It is divided into four regions:
  1. The coastal lowlands and mountains (La Costa)
  2. The Andean highlands (La Sierra)
  3. The Amazon Region (El Oriente)
  4. The territory of the Galapagos Islands, also known as the Archipiélago de Colón

The Andes is composed of over 20 mountain peaks, all of which are at least 13,779 feet in height. Most of these are located in the Cordillera Occidental. There are also over 30 volcanic peaks, many of which are active. The majority of Ecuador's rivers run through the upper elevations of the Andes (flowing east in the direction of the Amazon River) or westward into the Pacific Ocean. The most important rivers include the Babahoyo, Chira, Coca, Curaray, Daule, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Napo, Paztaza, and the Putumayo.
Mt. Chimborazo
Mt. Chimborazo

Ecuador's highest point is Mt. Chimborazo which climbs to 20,561 feet or 6,267 meters.
The lowest point is the Pacific Ocean at 0 feet or 0 meters.

Ecuador's weather patterns vary greatly depending on geography, particularly with respects to altitude. The four main regions of Ecuador all experience a variety in climates, seasons, and temperatures.

In La Costa, the coastal lowlands, weather is usually warm. Temperatures average 25°C. The wet season occurs from December to May.

In La Sierra, the highlands, a much colder climate occurs. Temperatures vary with altitude and the average summer temperature in Quito Ecuador is approximately 16°C.

A humid and wet climate can be found in El Oriente or the Amazon region. Daytime temperatures are usually around 25°C . Although the dry season varies by region, it usually occurs between the months of November and February.

The Galapagos Islands have a warm, dry climate year round. Temperatures here tend to average 27°C.

In addition to altitude, latitude, and topography, there are two opposing currents that influence Ecuador's climate. The warm current of El Niño occurs from December to May and the cold Humboldt current is in effect for the rest of the year. Variations in precipitation and climate occur whenever any one of these currents is stronger than the other. It is due to all of these factors that Ecuador is prone to severe variations in climate which include dry mesothermic, wet tropical, and equatorial patterns of weather.

Special Features:
  • The western coastal lowlands are surrounded by banana, palm, and cacao farms, in addition to shrimp breeding.
  • Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are slightly smaller than Nevada.
  • Ecuador experiences frequent earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes, floods, and droughts.
  • Ecuador is composed of 22 provinces: Azuay, Bolivar, Canar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, El Oro, Esmeraldas, Galapagos, Guayas, Imbabura, Loja, Los Rios, Manabi, Morona Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Pichincha, Sucumbios, Tungurahua, Zamora Chinchipe.

Population Size:
14,573,101 as of 2009.

Even though the population of Ecuador was highly concentrated in the mountainous central highland region a few decades ago, today, it is divided equally between that area and the costal lowlands. Migration towards urban centers has increased the urban population to 66%. The tropical forest region is not very populated as it only contains about 3% of Ecuador's total population.

  • Mestizo- 65%
  • Amerindian- 25%
  • Spanish and others- 7%
  • Black- 3%

Major Cities:
Cuenca, Esmeraldas, Guayaquil, Riobamba.
Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador

Migration Issues:
Ecuador has had no large-scale patterns of immiggration since the colonial period. Since that time, emigrants have generally outnumbers immigrants. The largest migration within Ecuador is that from rural areas to cities as opportunities for urban employment widen. There also exists a growing movement from the highlands to the lands of the Oriente and the coast. Many of those living and working in Ecuador's capital of Quito are from Cuba and Colombia. In 1999, the net migration rate for Ecuador stood at .55 migrants per 1,000 population. A year later, the total number of migrants was around 82,000. In 2008, however, the net migration rate became -0.81 migrants/1,000 population.

Special/Unique Demographics:
  • 31.1% of the population is aged 0-14
  • 62.7% is 15-646.2% is 65 and older
  • The median age in Ecuador is 25 for both men and women
  • Population growth rate: 1.497%
  • Birth rate: 20.77 births/1,000 population
  • Death rate: 4.99 deaths/1,000 population
  • Languages: Spanish is the official language but Amerindian languages are widespread.

Health and EducationHealth system:
Healthcare is provided to the citizens of Ecuador by many organizations, both public and private. It is estimated that 52 percent of the population has regular access to public and private assistance. Another 23 percent of the population has some sort of access to health assistance. The poorest demographic makes up the 25 percent of the population without any access to health care. The life expectancy at birth for an ecuadorian is 75.

Specific Health Issues:
One of the largest health concerns in Ecuador society is child malnutrition. Due to a large disparity between the rich and the poor, many children in Ecuador will grow up in poverty and face many health issues due to malnutrition and poor access to health care.

  • Approximately 26% of children under the age of 5 will experience stunting caused by malnutrition
  • Approximately 45% of all children in Ecuador are considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be malnourished
Child raised in poverty
Child raised in poverty

Systems providing care:
Public Health System
Social Security Institute
Private Services
Armed Forces / Police
Other NOG's
Population Protected
Population Not Protected

Education system:
Ecuador has a publicly funded education system that is mandatory for children ages 6-14. Most children living in urban sprawls will follow attend primary school during these ages but close to 26% will not continue school after the age of 15. In rural settings, it is estimated that only 11% of children will continue on to secondary school. Despite these numbers, the literacy rate in Ecuador is actually surprisingly good with 93% of adults being literate (2007). Children raised in middle to upper class families can usually afford to attend private secondary institutions and many may go on to study in on of almost 60 universities in Ecuador.

A large group of students outside an urban primary school
A large group of students outside an urban primary school

Environmental Issues Yasuni Park:
Although relatively small in size, Ecuador is among the top ten most bio-diverse nations on our planet. This being said, the industrialization of Ecuador and the continuing expansion and advancements has had many impacts on this country's delicate landscape. Considered to be the biggest threat now is constant deforestation for the exploration and removal natural resources. It is estimated that Ecuador has logged close to 25% of its forests since 1990, although public outcry and support from numerous organizations has seen a decline in the deforestation rate in the years most recent. In late 2009, Ecuador agreed to leave 850 million barrels of crude oil beneath the treasured Yasuni National Park after receiving support from a trust fund and the United Nations. Extraction of the oil would have been detrimental to aboriginal groups living in the area and would have destroyed thousands of ecosystems and displaced hundreds of thousands of animal and insect species.

As of January 29th, 2010, Ecuador President Rafael Correa has gone against his own word and the agreements made with trust funds and the United Nations and is threatening to begin drilling within Yasuni as early as June, 2010.

Aerial view of Yasuni National Park
Aerial view of Yasuni National Park

Interesting links:
Yasuni Park Trust Fund Will Keep Ecuador's Oil Underground

Yasuni-ITT: Chronicle of a Death Foretold?

Park in Ecuador likely contains world’s highest biodiversity, but threatened by oil

The Economy of Ecuador
While traditionally an agrarian economy, modern-day world markets have made Ecuador’s economy rely more on service and industry. The economy is heavily dependent on the petroleum, with petroleum exports accounting for over half of Ecuador’s export earnings and a quarter of government revenue. Remittances are the second-highest source of income, valued at over 2 billion in 2006. Ecuador suffered a major economic crisis in 1999-2000 after the nation’s banking system collapsed. In 2000, the government replaced it’s national currency, the sucre, with the U.S. dollar to address this crisis and help stabilize the economy. The economy grew substantially following its financial crisis due to the dollarization as well as an increase in oil prices and remittance income. However, Ecuador was among the hardest hit of all Latin American countries by the global recession of 2008, as oil prices dropped and remittance income decreased substantially as the job market in the United States and Europe evaporated.

Some figures about Ecuador's economy:

US $7300
6.8 %
Total GDP
US $107.1 Billion
GINI Index

Poverty in Ecuador has ​declined in the past decade but remains high at 38.3% according to 2006 figures. The future of poverty in Ecuador depends on the nation’s ability to maintain economic growth. There is a challenge for cities as people living in poverty move to urban areas due to differences between urban and rural income. Social programs by the government to combat poverty have had some success, but have sometimes lacked targeting, allowing funds to leak out and reducing the program’s effectiveness.

Urban Sector
Industrialization in Ecuador started late compared to most Latin American countries. It started in the 1960s, and consisted almost entirely of textile production, food processing, and artisan activity. Manufacturing became the most dynamic sector of the economy in the 1970 stimulated by the petroleum revenue and exports to other nations. However, industrial development in Ecuador is still in its early stages. So another source of income to the urban sector is tourism.
Ecuador has several beautiful unique tourist attraction sites that are breathtaking. From volcanoes to beaches, you can expect to find almost any kind of environment here. It also has a pleasant climate that is sometimes described as "permanent spring”. It gives easy access to the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands have a lot to offer to any adventurer. Tourism is still a prospering industry in Ecuador, but the low prices seem to attract many new visitors each year.

Rural Sector

The agricultural sector, which produces about 14 percent of the GDP and 30 percent of the labor force (1.25 million workers), is sustained by its largest export, bananas. Ecuador is world’s largest exporter of bananas. Coffee is also another staple of Ecuadorian agriculture and is one of the country's largest exports after bananas. Cocoa beans and sugar canes are also some of the major agricultural products in Ecuador. Most Ecuadorians who live in the rural areas live on subsistence farming. Aside from farming Ecuador is also the world’s second largest exporter of shrimp.

Unique Features of Ecuador ​

As a nation dependent on oil exports, Ecuador has close economic ties to the United States. This is shown well by Ecuador’s replacement of the sucre as its national currency with the US dollar. Ecuador also does trade with the nations surrounding it.

Ecuador has been affected by the drug trade in South America, as cocaine grown in Colombia is smuggled through Ecuador. Drug traffickers also frequently launder money in the nation, due to its U.S. currency and its weaker anti-money-laundering law enforcement.

One of the most unique regions of Ecuador is the Galapagos islands, where wildlife exists which is not found anywhere else on earth. It is here that Charles Darwin formed many of his hypotheses about the origins and evolution of life on earth when he visited the islands in 1835.

Critical Issues:


Ecuador fits the model of an unfinished nation. There is a sense of patriotism, especially around elections and border disputes; however the urban and rural poor generally consider themselves abandoned by the government. The political parties of the democratic system are weak in the countryside, with the traditional patron-client of bartering political power for economic favors.

Current President


Since January 15, 2007, President Rafael Correa was elected as Ecudor's leader. He dissolved the Congress and convened a special constitutional assembly, which wrote a new Ecuadorian Constitution.

Unfortunately, few readers have access to Ecuadorian literature due to the country's undeveloped publishing infrastructure. Poverty and illiteracy are partly the reasons why writing/publishing/selling books render a small reading public.

Important Writers:
Eugenio Espejo (1747-1795) essays were a product from the Enlightenment. He rejected Spanish thought and tried to reconcile the contradictions of colonialism. Juan León Mera (1832-1894) wrote poetry, Indian history, and the national anthem; an integral part of Ecuador’s unity. Juan Montalvo (1832-1889) is arguably the country's greatest writer. He was a liberal characterized by anticlericalism and political essays that would attack dictatorship and defend basic freedoms.

Popular Music:

Primarily rooted from Indian and Spanish sources. The sanjuanito, the pasacalle, and the pasillo are three of the best-known rhythms and melodies that make up Ecuadorian music. The sanjuanito is festive and popular at dances, the pasacalle is danced with lots of movement, and the pasillo has a slow tempo and is usually played in minor key.

Popular Entertainment:
Ecuadorians had adopted bullfighting as an integral part of many of their civic and religious celebrations. Alongside soccer, volleyball is common, though it is played differently to Western volleyball. Jefferson Pérez gave Ecuador its first ever Olympic gold medal in 1996 in speed walking.


Selverston-Scher, M. (2001) Ethnopolitics in Ecuador:Indigenous rights and the strengthening of democracy. North-South Center Press at the University of Miami

Handelsman, M. (2000) Culture and customs of Ecuador Greenwood Press