The earliest inhabitants of Ecuador probably came from Asia and
the Pacific islands. In the 15th century A.D., these peoples were conquered by the Incas.
In 1534, the Inca Empire lost its power when the Spanish defeated the Inca armies. From
the 16th to the 18th century, Ecuador was a colony of Spain. The Spanish introduced
cattle ranching and cultivated bananas and cocoa, using the native peoples for forced
Did you know? |
Abdalá Bucaram, president of Ecuador 1996-97, has performed as a pop singer and
released albums of his music.
In 1809, the colonists began a revolt against Spain. They joined
with Colombia and Venezuela, under the leadership of Simon Bolívar, to win
independence. At first, independent Ecuador was part of a large republic called Gran
Colombia that included Venezuela, Colombia and Panama. Ecuador became a separate republic
in 1830. Independence was followed by a period of political instability. A conservative
group, based in Quito and supported by the Catholic Church, opposed a more liberal group,
based in Guayaquil.
In the early 1900s, Ecuador's economy improved with an increase in
the demand for cocoa in Europe. However, in the 1920s Ecuador's cocoa trees fell victim
to disease and the economy declined. The 1930s and 1940s were times of political instability.
In the early 1940s, Peru seized the area around the Amazon River. Ecuador lost its rights to
this area and its mineral wealth under the terms of the 1942 Rio de Janeiro treaty. Ecuador
later rejected this treaty. Both countries continue to disagree over who really owns this
In the late 1940s and 1950s, the banana industry grew, which helped
stabilize the economy and foster political peace. However, in the 1960s the economy suffered.
The government was overthrown in a military coup in 1972. That same year, oil companies
from the United States began to export oil from Ecuador's oil fields. The oil industry
strengthened the economy but led to social change. People left rural areas to work in the
cities and the gap between the rich and the poor widened.
Did you know? |
Maps sold in Ecuador show different boundaries from those sold in Peru. This is because
of the long dispute between the countries as to who really owns the Amazon headwater
Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979. Inflation, budget shortfalls
and an increased debt led to an economic crisis in 1982. In March 1987 an earthquake
interrupted oil exports. In the 1980s and 1990s, Ecuador's leaders have worked to increase
international ties, improve the economy, and resolve the dispute with Peru.