Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and is the focus of the nation’s economy. Its economic prowess is due in large part to its location at the convergence of the Daule and Babahoyo rivers, just 70 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. After suffering years of neglect from bureaucrats and corrupt officials, Guayaquil has taken its future into its own hands. Fueled by a newly discovered interest in attracting tourists and a greater commitment to small enterprise and entrepreneurs, Guayaquil is realizing its historically proven potential. Guayaquil’s renaissance isn’t complete but signs of improvement are everywhere. The most obvious indication of the city’s rebirth is the urban renewal project Malecón 2000. The newly completed Malecón is a collection of restaurants, theaters, and parks along Malecón Avenue, which runs parallel to the Guayas River.
Between 1535 and 1547, a number of Spaniards attempted to establish settlements in the location of present-day Guayaquil. Fierce coastal Indians foiled all but the last; Francisco Orellana defeated the local tribes and officially founded the city of Guayaquil in 1547. Ironically, Guayaquil derived its name from the area’s last Indian chief and his wife, Guayas and Quil, who committed suicide rather than submit to Spanish rule. The Puna Chief’s passion and pride lives on today not only in the city’s name but in its people. The two million-plus Guayaquileños are a diverse mix of peoples (Indigenous, Spanish, Mestizo, and African), all of whom share Guayas and Quil’s indomitable spirit, a characteristic evident in the city’s fast paced, hot-blooded lifestyle.
City Hall and Clocktower in
city center. Photo by Ted Karsch.
Since its establishment Guayaquil has grown to be Ecuador’s most populous urban area and a significant South American trading hub. The city’s economic development has not been easy or without cost. Initially Guayaquil progressed slowly due to a
labor shortage that stemmed from Indian and African slave resistance. Eventually highland Indians were imported as paid laborers and industry boomed. Today, Guayaquil’s Puerto Maritimo receives 90% of Ecuador’s imports and is responsible for 50% of the nation’s exports, making it the driving force behind the country’s economy.
As a coastal city just a few hundred kilometers from the Equator, Guayaquil has a tropical climate. From December through April Guayaquil is sunny, hot, and humid with temperatures reaching 37 °C (98 °F). The rest of the year, due to the Humboldt current, it is cloudier and cooler but temperatures rarely dip below 29 °C (80 °F).