Magazine article Geographical

Ecuador. (Factfile)

Magazine article Geographical

Ecuador. (Factfile)

Article excerpt

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Spanish

RELIGION: Christianity (95 per cent Roman Catholic)

POPULATION: 12.9 million Approximately 25 per cent are Amerindian; 55 per cent of Indian-Spanish extraction (mestizo); 10 per cent are white, nine per cent black, and one per cent other. Most people live in the lowland Costa region or in the Andean Sierra. The national average population density is the highest in South America, at 44 per sq km.

LOCATION: Ecuador straddles the equator, on the western coast of South America (Ecuador is Spanish for equator). It is bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of the smallest countries in the region.

INDIGENOUS POPULATION: Many indigenous groups maintain their distinct cultural identity. The Shuar are the largest single group and were the last to remain isolated until the discovery of oil in the 1970s.

The Indians are pressing for Ecuador to be recognised as a plurinational state, where different communities are seen as distinct nationalities. The result is a strong and largely unified Indian movement which is at the forefront of social protests.

Many Amazonian communities are successfully campaigning for their land rights to be recognised in the face of oil exploration and colonisation.

ECONOMY: In the 1970s, a transformation from an essentially agricultural economy to a predominantly petroleum one, boosted the economy. Since then, the economy has largely followed the fortunes of the international oil market.

Today, agriculture employs 30 per cent of the population and the country is the world's biggest banana exporter. It also produces cocoa and coffee.

Despite the abundance of oil, over two thirds of electrical power is generated from hydropower.

CLIMATE: Ranges from a hot equatorial environment in the Amazon to a dry heat in the south and `perpetual spring' in Quito.

TOPOGRAPHY: Three ranges of the high Andes mountains form the backbone of the country. Among the peaks is Cotopaxi, 5,897m, the world's highest active volcano. West of the Andes lie the flat coastal lowlands bordering the Pacific Ocean. The eastern lowlands, called the Oriente, are drained by the head-waters of the River Amazon. …

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