Ecuador Culture and the Ecuadorian People
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Contemporary Ecuadorian culture has distinct roots in its rich and multi-ethnic history. Ecuador’s population is estimated to be 15,223,680, with 1.4% annual growth rate. The population is ethnically mixed: 65% mestizo (mixed indigenous – Caucasian), 25% Indigenous, 10% Caucasian, 7% African descendent 3%. (Source: the CIA World Factbook.
Although the population was heavily concentrated in the Andes highlands region a few decades ago, today it is divided about equally between that area and the coast. Migration toward cities – particularly Quito and Quayaquil – in all regions has increased the urban population to approximately 67%. The rainforest region to the east of the mountains remains the most sparsely populated of Ecuador’s three continental regions and contains only about 3% of the population.
The various groups of people who have come to settle in Ecuador – from Europe, Africa and elsewhere – and the country’s many indigenous groups have all contributed to Ecuadorian culture as it is today. From the rich and varied food traditions to customs for celebrating various holidays and religious festivities, Ecuador’s culture is a pleasure to explore.
Ecuador’s many different peoples coexist peacefully.
Photo by Casa Matico.
Amazonian frontier towns, Pacific coast fishing villages, rambling old haciendas, packed markets and colonial cities provide the stage on which Ecuador’s cultures intermingle. Each strives to maintain its own identity and history while also charting a meaningful path into the future. Due to Ecuador’s compact and diverse nature, one can experience any number of Ecuador’s distinct cultures within one day. Journeying just a few hours by car or bus, you can arrive in an entirely new community with its own customs and flavor.
Achuar girl wearing
traditional face paint.
Photo by Sincha Sacha.
Ecuador has many diverse indigenous groups, many of whom retain their pre-Colombian languages. By far the largest of these groups is the Andean Quichua, who number more than 2 million. Smaller Andean groups include: the Caranqui, the Otavaleños, the Cayambi, the Pichincha, the Panzaleo, the Chimbuelo, the Salasacan, the Tungurahua, the Tugua, the Waranka, the Puruhá, the Cañari, and the Saraguro in the highlands,
Semana Santa celebration in Quito. Photo by Jason Halberstadt
The Amazon basin is as rich in indigenous culture as the highlands. Despite increasing pressures from the industrialized world, shamanistic traditions still thrive within the rainforest worlds of the Huaorani, Zaparo, Cofan, lowland Kichwa, Siona, Secoya, Shuar and Achuar.
In addition to numerous and varied native cultures, Ecuador has a thriving Mestizo culture, and a sizable Afro-Ecuadorian culture (approximately ½ million), the descendants of African slaves who worked on coastal sugar plantations in the sixteenth century. Today’s Afro-Ecuadorians are famous for their marimba music and dance festivals.
Modernization has not robbed Ecuador’s cities and towns of their distinct local flavors largely because it is people – not just historic sites – that give these places their character. Otavalo, long famous for its warm, enterprising indigenous people, continues its ancient tradition of market days in the twenty-first century. Baños, with its hot springs and agreeable climate, welcomes visitors day in and day out with unwavering smiles. And Quito, the country’s political center, has developed into a cosmopolitan city while maintaining its small town candor and geniality.
Updated January 26,2013