"Why did you choose Ecuador?" The question invariably has been thrust at me by friends and associates throughout my work on this volume. It is my hope that the following pages will make a twofold contribution to our understanding of problems common to much of the Latin American area.
In the first place, this book offers an interpretation of political instability in an American republic with a large Indian population. The interpretation is addressed specifically to Ecuador, but I suspect that work on that country might be of some use in inquiring into similar problems in a number of other American nations. Ecuadorans say that theirs is the "classic" country in which to study Latin American revolutions. The chronic political problems of Ecuador -- revolution, caudillismo, ineffective written constitutions -- plague many another Hispano- American state. Moreover, political instability in these countries is little understood in the United States. I do not claim that the reader will find in this book the whole answer to this problem, either in Latin America as a whole or in Ecuador particularly; but I believe it is justified if it adds a measure of insight to our search for an appreciation of some of the difficulties of a number of the other American republics.
Second, the development of a Latin American literature in political science has long been hampered by the paucity of basic information on the individual countries. Research in each of these republics must precede the emergence of a solid general literature on the political problems of this area. I hope that this volume may add something to our knowledge of Ecuador and thereby serve as a step, however small, in the accumulation of basic data necessary to the evolution of a workable literature on the area as a whole.
My especial interest in Ecuador stems from a four-year sojourn in Washington, D.C., beginning in 1942, when I was associated with the Office of the Coördinator of Inter-American Affairs and later with the Department of State. However, no country -- and certainly not Ecuador -- can be studied adequately from afar, and in March, 1948, I journeyed to the tiny "Republic of the Equator." During my six-month stay in Ecuador, I visited all three continental regions of the country and lived with the people and their problems. Documentary materials are abundant in the republic, and I used them liberally; but this book is not pieced together from documents. I shared the life of the Sierra Indian in some of his villages; I attended sessions of congress and of a . . .