Old Historical Centre QuitoPrior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Ecuador was controlled by the Inca empire. Francisco Pizarro's subordinate, Benalcázar, entered the area in 1533. Not finding the wealth of the mythical El Dorado, he and other conquistadors, notably Gonzalo Pizarro and Orellana, moved restlessly on and the region became a colonial backwater. Given an audiencia in 1563 and established politically as the presidency of Quito, it was at various times subject to Peru and to New Granada .

After an abortive independence movement in 1809, the region remained under Spanish control. It was liberated by Antonio José de Sucre in the battle of Pichincha (1822) and was joined by Simón Bolívar to Greater Colombia.

As a creole middle class began to emerge, there were several attempts to liberate Ecuador from Spanish rule. On August 10, 1809 Quito established the first self governing junta in the Spanish colonies in America. Guayaquil declared its independence on October 9, 1820.

With the dissolution of that union in 1830, Ecuador, geographically isolated, became a separate state (four times its present size) under a constitution promulgated by its first president, Juan José Flores. During this government the first constitution was written. Quito was chosen as the capital of Ecuador and catholicism was the oficial religion of the State.

During the second goverment of J.J. Flores the third constitution was written and was denominated the "slavery Act" since all male Ecuadorians between the ages of 22 - 55 years had to pay a "tribute" tax of 3 pesos and 5 reales.

ColumbusDuring the last part of the 19th Century, the country flourished economically, mainly due to cocoa exports. In the late 1800s, Eloy Alfaro lead a liberal revolution that reduced the power of the clergy and sparked an era of capitalist development.

Political instability predominated during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1941, Ecuador was invaded by Peru and lost control over much of its Amazon Territory. After World War II, Ecuador's economy received a boost due to banana exports. A period of peace and prosperity from 1948 to 1960 followed with three freely elected Presidents completing their terms in Office. One key figure during these years was the five-time President, Jose María Velasco Ibarra.

In the 1960s, foreign companies began to develop oil resources in the Ecuadorian Amazon region. In 1972, a nationalist military regime seized power. In 1979, Ecuador returned to a democratic Government.

Keyfacts about Ecuador

Location:

Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru

Capital: Quito

Population:
13,5 million

Time Zone:
GMT 5 hours

Ethnic groups:

Mestizo (mixed Ecuadorean and white) 65%, Indigenous 25%, Spanish and others 7%, black 3%

Religions:
Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%

Languages:
Spanish (official), indigenous languages (especially Quechua)

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