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Besides the fact that the equator runs right through it, how much do you actually know about Ecuador? Bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west, Ecuador has four distinct and contrasting regions. The banana-producing Costa, or coastal plain; The Sierra, or Andean uplands; The Oriente, home to tropical rainforest and oil exploration; And the famous volcanic Galapagos Islands, whose rich and unique marine ecosystem attracts swarms of tourists.

This small country was originally home to a variety of Indigenous groups that were gradually taken over by the Inca Empire in the fifteenth century. It was colonized by Spain in the sixteenth century and achieved independence in 1820. The legacy of both empires is reflected in the country’s patchwork of ethnic identities: most of its 15.2 million inhabitants are Mestizos, a term denoting a person of combined European and Amerindian descent. Although Spanish is Ecuador’s official language, 13 Indigenous languages are also recognized, including Quechua.

As well as being the world’s top banana exporter, it is also a major exporter of coffee, shrimp and cocoa. Traditionally a farming country, the country’s economy was transformed by the growth of industry and discovery of oil in the 1960s. But not all Ecuadorians benefitted equally; the Spanish-descended elite gained much more than Indigenous communities. By the end of the 20th century, a combination of factors including the drop in oil prices drove the economy into recession. Measures to stabilize the economy have been met with widespread animosity, especially among Indigenous groups.
Feb 8, 2016
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Geography