Fast Facts

Population:
13,032,000
Capital:
Quito; 1,451,000
Area:
283,560 square kilometers (109,483 square miles)
Language:
Spanish, Quechua
Religion:
Roman Catholic
Currency:
U.S. dollar
Life Expectancy:
71
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $3,200
Literacy Percent:
93
Flag: Ecuador
Map: Ecuador

Ecuador's name comes from the Equator, which divides it unequally, putting most of the country in the Southern Hemisphere. It may be the smallest Andean country, but it has four distinct and contrasting regions. The Costa, or coastal plain, grows enough bananas to make the country the world's largest exporter of the fruit. The Sierra, or Andean uplands, offers productive farmland. Oil from the Oriente, jungles east of the Andes, enriches the economy. The Galápagos Islands, volcanic islands 960 kilometers west of Ecuador, bring tourism revenue with its unique reptiles, birds, and plants.

The country is divided ethnically as well as regionally. About 10 percent of the population is of European descent, about a quarter belong to indigenous cultures, and the rest are of mostly mixed ethnicity. Those of Spanish descent often are engaged in administration and land ownership in Quito and the surrounding Andean uplands; this is also where most of the indigenous people live—many are subsistence farmers. As a result, land-tenure reform is an explosive issue. The city of Guayaquil dominates the coastal plain, largely populated by mestizos. Guayaquil—the country's largest city, major port, and leading commercial center—is a rival to Quito. This is the wealthiest part of Ecuador, and complaints that tax revenues are squandered in the capital are common.

Regional and ethnic issues contribute to political instability for Ecuador's democracy.

ECONOMY

  • Industry: Petroleum, food processing, textiles, metal work
  • Agriculture: Bananas, coffee, cacao, rice; cattle; balsa wood; fish
  • Exports: Petroleum, bananas, shrimp, coffee, cacao

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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