Ecuador is a patchwork of ethnic identities, a complex legacy of its indigenous and colonial past.
Long the heartland of a series of native Andean civilisations, it was taken over by the Peru-centred Inca Empire in the 15th century, and then Spanish conquerors a century later.
It won independence from Spain in the early 19th century.
Traditionally a farming country, Ecuador’s economy was transformed after the 1960s by the growth of industry and the discovery of oil. There was rapid growth and progress in health, education and housing.
Ecuador has many geographical zones, including Andean peaks, tropical rainforests and – 1,000km (600 miles) off the coast – the volcanic Galapagos Islands, home to the animals and birds whose evolutionary adaptations shaped Charles Darwin’s theories.
- REPUBLIC OF ECUADOR
- Capital: Quito
- Population 14.8 million
- Area 272,045 sq km (105,037 sq miles)
- Major languages Spanish, indigenous languages
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 73 years (men), 79 years (women)
- Currency US dollar