Ecuador and People

Ecuador and people traditions reflect a degree of mixture or fusion between Catholicism and aboriginal customs.


Although other Christian and non-Christian religions are also present. The majority of the population in Ecuador is Roman Catholic. One example is the presence of crosses.

Their Catholic significance is obvious, but before the Spanish conquest native people also made cairns (pyramids of rough stones) and put crossed sticks over them to mark important intersections. Religion in Ecuador and its people is closely related to the festival calendar.

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It is at once a festival, a feast, a party, a holiday, and a holy day. It is a day to be looked forward to and prepared for a day in which to be very happy or very solemn or very patriotic.

It is a day when the restraints of social hierarchy may be temporarily relaxed, when rich and poor can celebrate together.

The most authentic Ecuador and people celebrations are the village festivals held to honor a community's patron saint to commemorate the founding of a canton or parish or to celebrate the season's harvest. Every single town and village in Ecuador has its own special feasts.

This is usually celebrated with a solemn mass, a parade with floats and folkloric dancing, exhibits, bull fights, live music, dancing, fireworks (a lot of them), traditional foods, and much drinking.

If in your Ecuador vacations you walk through a village during its celebrations, take advantage of this special opportunity.

You may be invited to dance, have something to eat, and even more likely, you will be offered chicha (a fermented corn beverage) or aguardiente (literally "fire water"- home brewed cane liquor).

This situation happens especially in the Mama Negra celebrations in the city of Latacunga. It is an amazing festival with parades, folkloric dresses, dancing and much drinking. People will be offended if you do not accept and you must find a polite way to say no if you wish to abstain or when you've had enough.

Transportation to a village is likely to be crowded during festivities, hotels may be full and shops and services closed.

The majority of Ecuador and people is Mestizo of mixed Spanish and Indian blood, many native people retain their cultural identity and belong to a number of different nations.

There are also Afro-Ecuadorians (descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the eighteen century) a few direct descendants of Spaniards and other smaller minorities.

Ecuador and People from the Coast

The coast plain is the most densely populated region, with just over half of the country's people. Here you find the Montubios, a generic term for coastal country dwellers.

The northern coastal province of Esmeraldas has the highest concentration of Afro-Ecuadorians.

There are also a small number of coastal native people such as the Awas, Chachis, and Tzachilas or Colorados (which live in the town of Santo Domingo 2 hours from Quito).

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Ecuador and People from the Highlands

The inter-Andean region was historically the most heavily populated in the country, dating back to pre-Inca times. Today it is home to the highest proportion of native people, with a common language (Quichua) inherited from the Incas.

These natives live mainly in the rural areas throughout the Sierra, and their typical dress and hats vary from one region to another.

Highland native groups with a distinct cultural identity include the: Otavaleños, Salasacas, Cañaris, and Saraguros. You are sure to meet many highland native people during your visit to Ecuador.

Ecuador and People from the Amazon Rain Forest

Although the Amazon lowlands account for less than four percent of the country’s population, this has been the area of fastest growth and greatest natural destruction since 1972, when petroleum extraction began in the region.

Most colonists migrated to the jungle from the highlands and settled in towns along the foothills west of the Amazon jungle, while many natives maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the rain forest.

As a result of increased contact with colonists and oil workers, cultural assimilation among rain forest native people is running high.

The most numerous of Amazon native groups are the Quichuas del Oriente (Jungle), a group distinct from highland Quichua speakers. Smaller groups include the Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, Cofan, Siona, Secoya and Zaparo.

As a rule, if you plan to visit these communities and surrounding areas you will need a permit (often several permits) from native communities along the way.

It is best for you and the native people you might encounter if you go with a qualified guide. Click here to have more information on Ecuador

Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides). Click to order from Amazon

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading!

There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.


Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands. Click to order from Amazon

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands

Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers.

Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!


Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in.

Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!


Moon Spotlight Galapagos. Click to order from Amazon

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands

If you're a seasoned Galapagos regular, then you will probably prefer something weightier.

But for first-timers looking for simple, down-to-earth advice on where to go, what to see and the best shopping and eating on the islands, this is the book for you.

Small, well-priced, and reliable!


Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

The 10th anniversary edition of this photographer's tour of the Galapagos Islands is a stunning book, worthy of anybody's coffee table.

This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!


See More About Ecuador

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Whitewater Rafting in Ecuador

Ecuador Jungle

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