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 labour.
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 land.
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 area.

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.