Ecuador, on the north-west coast of South America, bounded by Colombia on the north-east and Peru on the east and south with the area of 269,178 km2 (103,930 sq. mi.)
The coast and the inland are rich in tropical fruit and vegetation and cocoa and coffee are grown in the higher valleys extending into the foothills of the Andes, where the cinchona and great mahogany trees grow.
The Andes run north to south through the middle of the country, with many high peaks, like the Cotopaxi, at 5,897 m (19,347 feet), being the highest active volcano in the world.
Between the peaks are high but fertile valleys where the climate is temperate.
Ecuador has plentiful supplies of natural gas and hydroelectric power to meet domestic energy requirements, and also mineral deposits of lignite, gold, and silver.
The oil industry, nationalised since 1988, produces the country's chief export, but otherwise the economy is primarily agricultural with bananas (Ecuador is the world's leading exporter), coffee, and fish are the other main exports.
Oil revenues have been invested to develop some manufacturing industry.
Ecuador's history can be traced back to the 6th Century when independent kingdoms had developed with two cultural regions, the coastal one that adapted to the open sea, and one adapted to the interior environment.
The Incas conquered the central valley in the 15th century, and their communications network included a road from Cusco to Quito, which they set up as their regional capital.
In 1535 the Spanish Francisco Pizarro united the region to his Peruvian conquests and made his brother, Gonzalo, as governor.
Soon the Spanish crown took over and the established Quito as a regional centre under the viceroy of Peru.
In 1822, with Antonio Sucre's victory at Pichincha Ecuador gained independence, joining Gran Colombia.
In 1830 Ecuador became a separate republic.
The tension between the conservative landowners of the interior and the more liberal, business community of the coastal plain made Ecuador's history since independence turbulent.
Between 1845 and 1860 there was an almost total breakdown in government.
In 1860 Garcia Moreno as President established order.
Moreno was assassinated in 1875, but was followed by a period of stable governments.
After World War I increasing poverty of the masses led to political turbulence again.
In 1941 by Peru defeating Ecuador in their border dispute forced it to abandon claims on the Upper Amazon.
Since 1944 civilian governments alternated with the military as rulers of Ecuador.
In 1995 the recurrent border dispute with Peru flared up again, but was settled after several days of fighting.
The main religion is Roman Catholic (93.5% ).
Population over 12 million. Ethnicity, Quechua 49.9%, Mestizo 40.0%, Spanish or other European origin 8.5%.
Official language; Spanish.
For more information about Ecuador see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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