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General Information about Ecuador
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The history of pre-Inca Ecuador is lost in a misty tangle of time and legend, and the earliest historical details date back only as far as the 11th century AD. It is commonly believed that Asian nomads reached the South American continent by about 12,000 BC and were later joined by Polynesian colonizers. The arrival of the Incas is dated around 1450 AD. Despite fierce opposition, the conquering Inca soon held the region, helped by strong leadership and policies of intermarriage.
The first Spaniards landed in northern Ecuador in 1526. The Inca leader, Atahualpa, was ambushed, held for ransom, 'tried' and executed, and the Inca Empire was effectively demolished. Quito held out for two years but was eventually razed by Atahualpa's general, Rumiñahui, who preferred it to be destroyed rather than lost intact to the invading Spaniards. There were several attempts to liberate Ecuador from Spanish rule. Simón Bolívar finally achieved Independence in 1822. Full constitutional sovereignty was gained in 1830. A coastal-based liberal revolution in 1895 under Eloy Alfaro reduced the power of the clergy and opened the way for capitalist development. Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. In 1941, neighboring Peru invaded Ecuador and seized much of the country's Amazonian area. The 'new' border between the two countries - initially agreed upon and ratified by the 1942 Rio de Janeiro treaty - was finally recognized by both counties in a 1998 treaty. Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability.
In the last years, several presidents have been replaced by the vice-presidents as per Ecuador’s constitution. Democratic elections took place on November 26th, 2006. Rafael Correa is the new elected president. (The world fact book 2005, Lonely Planet, U.S. Department of State.) Back to top
Ecuador has substantial petroleum resources, which have accounted for 40% of the country's export earnings and one-fourth of public sector revenues in recent years. Consequently, fluctuations in world market prices can have a substantial domestic impact. In the late 1990s, Ecuador suffered its worst economic crisis, with natural disasters and sharp declines in world petroleum prices driving Ecuador's economy into free fall in 1999. The banking system also collapsed, and Ecuador defaulted on its external debt later that year.
The MAHAUD government announced it would dollarize the economy. A coup, however, ousted MAHAUD from office in January 2000, and after a short-lived junta failed to garner military support, Vice President Gustavo NOBOA took over the presidency.
In March 2000, Congress approved a series of structural reforms that also provided the framework for the adoption of the US dollar as legal tender. Dollarization stabilized the economy, and growth returned to its pre-crisis levels in the years that followed. Under the administration of Lucio Gutierrez, who took office in January 2003, Ecuador benefited from higher world petroleum prices, but the government made little progress on fiscal reforms and reforms of state-owned enterprises necessary to reduce Ecuador's vulnerability to petroleum price swings and financial crises. The actual administration (Rafael Correa) will try to make progress in these areas. (The world fact book 2005) Back to top
About 40% of Ecuador's present population is Indians, and another 40% are mestizos. The ethnicity of the coastal population changes from north to south. Esmeraldas has the highest percentage of Afro-Ecuadorians of any province, and it also has several Indian tribes upriver from the coast. Further south, the population is more mestizo - the typical Spanish-Indian mix prevalent through Latin America. Ecuador is a multiethnic and multicultural nation. It has a population of more than 12.6 million. More than 14 indigenous groups live on the Ecuadorian mainland, maintaining their own traditions and ways of life. The following are the principal indigenous groups of the Amazon region: Huaoranis, Achuar, Shuar, Cofán, Siona-Secoya, Shiwiar and Záparo.
The principle indigenous groups of the highlands are the Quichua, Cañaris, and Saraguros. In northern Ecuador, live the Awa community. On the Pacific coast, live the Chachis, Cayapas, Tsáchilas, and Huancavilcas. People of mixed race, white, and Afro-Ecuadorians primarily populate the nations cities and villages, although large numbers of indigenous migrants have moved from the country to the city. This has caused some problems such as growth of slums, lack of housing and schools, unemployment, crime, among other issues.
The official language of the country is Spanish, but other languages, such as Quichua Shimi, Awapit, Cha´palachi, Tsafiqui, Paicoca, A´ingae, Huaotirio, Shuar-chichan, and Záparo, are widely spoken in areas with large indigenous populations. The predominant religion is Catholicism but many communities still preserve their ancient beliefs of worship of the earth, the mountains, and the sun. (The world fact book 2005, U.S. Department of State, The Ministry of Information and Tourism) Back to top
Ecuador's pre-Columbian peoples excelled in pottery, painting, sculpture, and gold and silver work. The Spaniards trained indigenous artists to produce colonial religious art, which can be seen in many churches and museums. The Quito School of the 17th and 18th centuries combined these two influences but was replaced by formalism after independence, which favored subjects such as heroes of the revolution and members of high society.
Ecuador's colonial religious architecture is predominantly baroque, although domestic architecture tends to be simple and elegant, comprising whitewashed verandah houses built around a central courtyard. Traditional Andean music has a distinctive haunting quality based on an unusual pentatonic scale. Wind and percussion instruments, including bamboo panpipes and flutes, are staples of the sound. Local crafts include fine examples of basketry, leatherwork, woodcarving, weaving, ceramics and jewelry. (Lonely Planet) Back to top
Due to geographic differences in altitude, longitude and latitude, and the climatic effects of the Pacific Ocean, the Amazon, and the Andes, the various regions and sub regions of Ecuador have very different climates and microclimates.
The Pacific coast has a rainy season between December and May and a dry one from June to November. The temperature oscillates between 23 and 26 degrees centigrade. The Highlands, on the other hand, has a rainy, cold climate from November to April and a dry one from May to October. The temperature here is between 13 and 18 degrees centigrade.
In the Amazon, the climate is rainy and humid between January and September, with temperatures between 23 and 36 degrees centigrade, and it is dry between October and December. The Galapagos has a temperate climate with temperatures ranging between 22 and 32 degrees centigrade. (The Ministry of Information and Tourism) Back to top
All travelers must have a passport which is valid for at least six months before arriving in Ecuador. They must also have a return ticket to their country of origin or to another destination. Travelers should always have a colored copy of their original passport with the entry stamp of Ecuador on hand during their stay. The only time a traveler should carry their original passport is when they are traveling to another province of Ecuador or in order to complete bank or ministry procedures.
Each tourist is able to come into the country for a limit of up to 90 days per year without a Visa. For those travelers who plan on staying more than 90 days, they must apply for a Visa at the Ecuadorian Embassy in their country of origin. If the traveler is already in Ecuador, they can apply for a Visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Visa 12-IX will give the tourist access to the country for 180 days. The Visa 12-VII for volunteers or Visa 12-V for students will last for exactly one year.
(The Ministry of Information and Tourism) Back to top
In Ecuador they use American dollar. In the big cities like Quito, they accept all types of cards like Visa, American Expr ess, MasterCard, Diners etc. However, it is a good idea to bring some money in cash or travelers checks with you. Back to top
It is mandatory to have insurance in the case of theft or loss of belongings. In the case of becoming sick or injured and upon receiving treatment from a private hospital, the traveler will have to pay by their own methods. In any hospital an invoice or receipt should be given after treatment and it can then be reimbursed by the insurance agency within the tourist's country of origin. If belongings are lost or stolen, a written complaint can be completed with the metropolitan police. Only with those documents the traveler will be able to proceed in order to receive a refund of what they have lost. Back to top
Before coming to Ecuador, check with your doctor to determine which vaccines you need. We recommend the following vaccines:
- Typhoid fever: Must be taken 2 weeks before arrival. Lasts three years
- Hepatitt A: Must be taken 1 month before arrival. Lasts 1-2 years. If you refill the vaccine after 1-11/2 years it lasts 20 years
- Yellow fever: Must be taken 7-10 days before arrival. Lasts 10 years Yellow Fever is a very rare cause of illness for travelers, but, if you plan on spending time in the rainforest or coastal lowlands, you should get immunized. Like Malaria, Yellow Fever is a disease transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Likewise, you should follow the same precautions as with Malaria. Employ insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito netting to minimize the risk of bites from infected mosquitoes.
- Tetanus: Must be taken 2 weeks before arrival. Lasts 10 years
- Malaria: If you are going to the jungle or the coast you also need antimalarial drugs On account of Ecuador's diverse geography, there is risk for Malaria in some parts of the country and not in others. Mosquitoes, the primary carriers of malaria, do not like heights. As a result, travelers run little risk of getting Malaria while in the mountains and mountain valleys of Ecuador's High Sierra Region. On the other hand, because mosquitoes thrive in the Ecuador's hot and humid Coastal region and the Amazon jungle lowlands, you must take the appropriate precautions while traveling in these regions. Travelers can eliminate much of the Malarial risk by taking prescription antimalarial drugs and protecting themselves against mosquito bites. You can protect yourself from mosquito bites by using insect repellent (the repellent must contain DEET), always wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and sleeping beneath mosquito nets. (The Ministry of Information and Tourism)