Ecuador <<EHK wuh dawr>> is a small country in South America. It is on the west coast of South America along the Pacific Ocean, in between Colombia and Peru. The equator crosses Ecuador and gives the country its name. Ecuador is the Spanish word for equator. The equator is an imaginary line that runs around the middle of Earth halfway between the North and South poles. Quito <<KEE toh>> is the capital city.
The high Andes Mountains rise through central Ecuador. A flat plain stretches west of the Andes and runs along the Pacific Ocean. East of the Andes Mountains, a large jungle covers almost half the country. Few people live there.
The Galapagos Islands lie about 600 miles (970 kilometers) off the coast. Most of the islands are the peaks of volcanoes. The Galapagos are known for their unusual animals and plants.
About 75 percent of Ecuadoreans consider themselves mestizos. Mestizos have both European and indigenous (native) ancestors. Smaller ethnic groups include whites; indigenous people; and Afro-Ecuadoreans, who have African ancestors.
Whites make up the wealthiest and most powerful group in Ecuador. Indigenous people and people with African ancestry are the poorest and suffer from prejudice. A number of organizations work for the rights of indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorean people.
Spanish is Ecuador’s official language. In areas where most people are indigenous, their native languages may be used as the official languages. Most Ecuadoreans live in cities, which have people of different backgrounds and cultures.
Ecuador has important petroleum deposits. Oil ranks as the country’s leading export. Service industries and agriculture are also important to the country’s economy. Service industries are economic activities that provide services rather than produce goods.
Farmers in Ecuador grow bananas, cacao, coffee, sugar cane, and other crops in coastal areas. Cacao is a seed used to make chocolate and cocoa. Crops grown in the central highlands include barley, corn, potatoes, and wheat. Ecuador is also the world’s leading producer of a lightweight wood called balsa.
The nation’s manufactured products include chemicals, Panama hats, processed foods, woven cloth, and wood products. Mined products include gold, limestone, oil, sand, and silver.
In the 1400′s, Inca Indians from Peru conquered much of what is now Ecuador. At that time, many different American Indian tribes lived in Ecuador. The Inca united many of these tribes under one government and taught them Quechua, the Inca language.
The Spanish took over the Inca empire in 1534. They made Quito their capital. They built many beautiful churches and public buildings there. The Spanish ruled the country for almost 300 years. Ecuador gained independence in 1830.
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