ECUADOR: Background and history

Let’s start off with the usual suspects for a bit of background on Ecuador. Here’s our old friends at Geography Now! with an overview.

Ecuador was part of (and a breakaway product of) Simon Bolivar’s failed Gran Colombia project, a product of the fight for independence from Spain:

For some more on Ecuador’s history, here’s a very detailed political overview (with a bit of a left-wing partisan slant) by Latin American political science professor Luis Jiménez. It’s a lot to take in, as it goes through the many coups, revolutions, and changes in government Ecuador has seen in its history.

This month: ECUADOR

Last month I was learning about Gabon, now I’ve randomly pulled another country on the equator, that has thick forests, rich biodiversity, and oil reserves – Ecuador! So before I start this month, what do I know about Ecuador off the top of my head?

  • I know it’s a smaller Latin state in South America, sitting along the equator (hence the name), and that a lot of people there have mixed Spanish and Indigenous ancestry. The Andes run through the country and the capital Quito is one of the highest-elevation national capitals in the world. It’s generally a middle-income country with some oil reserves.
  • I know what’s now Ecuador was part of the Inca Empire, and also part of the larger Bolivarian independence movement from Spain, but I don’t know much more about those parts of history overall, or about their modern politics. It will also be interesting to see what similarities and differences there are with the other two Latin countries I’ve covered so far – Chile and El Salvador.
  • I know that the Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador, which are famous for their unique biodiversity and Darwin’s studies of finches on those islands gave led him to the breakthrough on evolution in On the Origin of Species. I also know that one of the Galapagos Islands was the original home of Lonesome George, the last remaining member of his species of tortoise – who lived for about 100 years.
  • As for Ecuadorean cuisine, I know there’s definitely some overlap with Peruvian cuisine, and dishes like ceviche hail from this region, but I don’t know much more than that. I do know that almost all the world’s guayusa comes from Ecuador – it’s a caffeinated plant similar to yerba mate. I’ve had it before and I quite like it.
  • I know that guinea pig is sometimes eaten in Ecuador. I don’t think I’ll be able to give it a try here in Canada; in 2011 a Montreal man was taken to court for importing guinea pig meat from Peru. However, the trouble seems to be more a blanket ban at the time on importing any meat from that country, but a quick google doesn’t seem to bring up anything for sale today in Canada.
  • I know that like other South American countries, there’s a rich literary tradition in Ecuador, so I definitely want to see what’s been translated into English!

Honourable mention also goes to German band Sash! with their eurodance song Ecuador – it has nothing really to do with the country (it was filmed in Spain and bald eagles are from North America), but if you had told me it was the most 1997 tourism ad for the country, I would have believed you: