Ecuador’s rich history and diverse geography have helped forge cultural identities within communities that stretch along Pacific coastlands, sit upon cool Andean mountainscapes, and extend through the lushly vegetated ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest.
The country’s population of about 15 million is divided almost evenly between costeros (coastal residents) and serranos (mountain residents), with a remaining 6% living in el oriente (Ecuador’s rainforest which occupies the eastern part of the country). Quito (2 million people) is Ecuador’s capital and political seat while Guayaquil (4 million) is the largest city on the coast. These cities represent Ecuadorian mountain and coastal cultures, respectively.
Although the Inca empire originated in Peru, by the early 1500s it began to spread over Ecuador, where a system of stone roads soon connected settlements. Messengers journeyed these roads carrying information recorded in the form of knotted string called quipu. Early groups such as the Quitus (who lived near today’s Quito), the Cañari, and Caras spoke Quechua while under Inca rule, a language that served as a lingua franca for the empire and one that is still widely spoken in Ecuador. The Spanish arrived shortly afterward in 1531.
Ecuador is a multi-ethnic country; people here are of indigenous, African, and European heritage. Most Ecuadorians are mestizos, with a mix of Spanish and indigenous ancestry. Over 1 million Ecuadorians have African ancestry, many of whom live in the north-western regions of Esmeraldas and Chota.
Cooking traditions vary greatly by region: coastal dining often include fish and beans while Andean cuisine favors meat, rice, and hominy. Visitors to Ecuador can expect to find exotic fruits, savory seafood such as tangy lemon-marinated shrimp, and a broad assortment of potatoes, among other distinctive flavors.
Music has been an important cultural aspect in Ecuador since long before the rise of the Inca Empire. A number of instruments such as flutes, drums, and trumpets have been found in ancient tombs. Pasillo is a popular genre of music that is associated with the indigenous communities, while marimba and bomba music is associated with Afro-Ecuadorian communities.
Take a look at some of the following articles to learn more about Ecuadorian culture.