Ecuador is a multi-ethnic and multicultural country. Its population exceeds 14 million. From this total, more than five and a half million live in the Sierra. On the Pacific Coast, the figure is closer to six million. In the Amazon, there are more than 600000 inhabitants, while 17000 reside in the Galapagos Islands.
In order to analyse Ecuador’s culture, both its ethnic and regional diversity should be taken into consideration.  Ethnically, its culture is defined by the presence of mestizos, indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian and white, while geographically this is reflected throughout the different regions, all rich with specificities.

Ethnicities of Ecuador

In its three continental regions, 15 indigenous nationalities coexist with different traditions and worldviews. The most well-known Amazonian indigenous nationalities are: Huaorani, Achuar, Shuar, Cofan, Siona-Sequoia and Záparo Shiwiar. The Tagaeri, relatives of the Huaorani, compose another group residing in this area but this was declared as "intangible" by the State, in respect to their desire to live isolated from civilization.
The Quichuas, comprised of the Otavalo, Salasacas, Canaris and Saraguros, reside in the Andes and Austral Mountains.  The community of the Awa lives in the north and, on the Pacific Coast, the Chachi, Huancavilcas and Tsáchilas.  There has also been significant migration from the countryside to the city.
Most of Ecuador's indigenous communities are integrated into mainstream culture to varying extents, but some communities still practice their own customs, particularly in the far reaches of the Pacha basin.
Then there are the Afro Ecuadorians.  There are two main concentrations of people of African descent in the country. One concentration occurs on the north coast in the province of Esmeraldas and, the second, in the Chota Valley, between the provinces of Imbabura and Carchi. Afro Ecuadorians live in all regions of the country, however.
Most of Ecuador's population self-identify as mestizo although there are some who prefer to adhere to a white / European cultural legacy, mainly in the large cities, where there are also mulattoes, zambos (Afro-Indigenous) and various small groups of immigrants from other countries and continents.

Text derived from the Ministry of Culture of Ecuador.


A multiplicity of artistic and musical expressions is also influenced by the fusion of European and indigenous cultures. Since the beginning of the conquest and colonization, there has been a gradual union of European music with indigenous music, from which mixed genres with musical components of both cultures have appeared.  It would be the Ecuadorian academic music composers that would incorporate these mixed genres into their works, establishing the Ecuadorian musical nationalism with the genres of el pasillo, yaraví, el albazo or el San Juanito. However, indigenous or ethnic music has a strong presence in Ecuador, which is linked to indigenous festivals and rituals.  There is also a significant black community in Ecuador whose rhythms and musical forms with African roots have enriched and shaped the Ecuadorian culture.

Academic music has also had a role in the musical development of Ecuador.  The work of composer Luis Humberto Salgado, who is the epitome of mestizo composers and one of the pillars of Latin American music, perhaps made the most significant contribution to world academic music, along with composers Alberto Ginastera, Hector Villalobos, Manuel Maria Ponce and Carlos Chavez.


Pre-Columbian literature was intended for liturgy and manifestations of religious worship, but also dealt with agricultural issues and rural festivities, and was characterized by oral transmission. With the arrival of the Spanish to America and the subsequent conquest, early accounts from the colonizers themselves about what they appreciated in the New World appeared, like the first pages to emerge from these new lands, the “Crónicas de Indias”.  With the arrival of European culture, the literary trends of the period were transmitted to America and the emerging literature was defined by gongorismo and culteranismo.  Ecuador had three significant figures: Antonio Bastidas and Jacinto de Evia, in the 17th century, and Juan Bautista Aguirre, one of the most valued within Hispanic gongorismo of the 18th century.

In the 18th century, Enlightenment philosophy had an enormous influence on Latin America and this growth in ideas had a decisive effect on the consciousness of the continent, a period marked by the neoclassical current. These origins, together with the political demands of the time, instilled an interest for freedom and the fate of the peoples in the consciousness of neoclassical Spanish Americans. These elements would be reflected in the written works of Eugenio Espejo.  Neoclassicism would not manifest itself in the field of poetry until after the Ecuadorian Independence, with the likes of Jose Joaquin de Olmedo ("Song of Junín. Canto a Bolívar").

In the first decades of the 19th century, with the birth of the republic, the romantic current prevailed. While Spanish American Romanticism inherited European characters, it was somewhat different. Thus, in the exaltation of natural beauty, rather a "regional landscape" prevailed.  In Ecuador, with his novel "Cumandá", Juan León Mera describes the jungle paradise, though Ecuador's first novel, "The Emancipated", by Miguel Riofrio, was written a few years earlier, in 1863. However, the most important figure of the era, and one of the highlights of the continent’s literature, was Juan Montalvo. Among his works, representing a unique ideological romanticism, "The Catilinarias" or "The Seven Treaties" are the most important books. Montalvo wrote “Los Capítulos que se le olvidaron a Cervantes”, a sequel to Cervantes’ novel “Don Quijote de la Mancha”.  Romanticism’s appropriation of popular traditions favoured the emergence of realism and costumbrismo (capturing of daily rituals), the founding novel of the latter being "A la Costa” (To the Coast), by Luis A. Martinez.

Modernism was adopted in Ecuador with some delay and its developmental years in the country were the first decades of the twentieth century.  The poets of this trend, known as Generación Decapitada ("Generation Beheaded" – called so for their bohemian style and premature death), were Arturo Borja, Ernesto Noboa and Caamaño, Medardo Angel Silvia and Humberto Fierro, for whom art and defending against mediocre and hostile daily realities were of the highest value.

In the early 20th century, realism would take two paths: social realism and psychological realism. An example of the latter is “Un hombre muerto a puntapiés” (A man kicked to death), by Pablo Palacio, a book that would mark the path for all subsequent literature. In the thirties, the so-called “Grupo de Guayaquil” (Guayaquil Group), comprised by Joaquin Gallegos Lara, Enrique Gil Gilbert, Demetrio Aguilera Malta, Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco and José De la Cuadra (Horno), the grandmaster of the Ecuadorian story, would dedicate itself to social realism because of the need to denounce social injustice and feudal tyranny.

In 1934, the most widespread and translated Ecuadorian novel appeared: "Huasipungo" by Jorge Icaza described, for the first time, the degree of exploitation that had fallen upon the Indigenous Peoples.  Another important book of Ecuadorian literature, and with which the cycle of social realism closed, is 1949’s “El Éxodo de Yangana” (The Exodus of Yangana), written by Angel Felicísimo Rojas, considered one of the best and most vigorous Ecuadorian novels.

Between 1950 and 1970, there is a transition period between social realism and the new trends of Latin America’s novel "boom", during which there is a prominence of narrative poetic production. At this stage, Gonzalo Escudero and Jorge Carrera Andrade, prodigious creator of images that find, in poetry, the key to unlocking the universe, expressed themselves with the most maturity. The oil exploration starting in 1972 would generate major changes in the material conditions of society and would powerfully influence a different collective consciousness.

The literature starting from the seventies until the present reflects some of these changes. Jorge Enrique Adoum is the author of one of the main poetry books of recent years, "The Journal of the Earth", and one of the most important novels of recent times, which has even been made into a movie: “Entre Marx y una mujer desnuda”. However, writers like Pedro Jorge Vera (“Las Familias y los Años”), Eliecer Cardenas (“Polvo y Ceniza”), Fernando Tinajero (“El Desencuentro”), Abdon Ubidia (“Sueño de Lobos”) and short story authors such as Raúl Pérez Torres, Jorge Davila Vasquez, Francisco Proaño or Marco Antonio Rodriguez, among others, should also be noted.  The world of the more modern Ecuadorian novel centres around key issues such as the critique of power and expressions of social tensions, an approach that is evident in Ivan Egüez’s "Memory Pájara" or "The Kingdom of the Soil" by Carlos de la Torre Reyes. Other authors have also, however, become prominent names in the historical account, such as Alicia Yanez Cossio with “Aprendiendo a Morir” and “Amarle Pude”, novels that feed from the biographies of Mariana de Jesus and the poet Dolores Galindo Veintimilla.

Gastronomy of Ecuador

The gastronomy of Ecuador is a varied way of preparing dishes, which is enriched by the contributions of the four natural regions that make up the country (Coast, Andes, Amazon and Galapagos), which all have different customs and traditions. Based on the country's natural regions, different main dishes and ingredients are subdivided.  Throughout its history, Ecuadorian cuisine has been strongly influenced by the peoples that conquered its territory: (Incas and Spanish) and migrants who have arrived in the country (mainly Chinese).  These variations and combinations have resulted in Creole food, owing its name also to the mixture of cultures that occurred with the beginning of miscegenation and the arrival of the Spanish, who brought their domestic flora and fauna, such as the ingredients and components known as Mediterranean cuisine, together with the native indigenous cuisine, forming what we call "Comida Criolla" today in Latin America.  This has provided a variety of cooking techniques and ingredients.


The Railroads of Ecuador and the rail route are considered a part of Ecuador’s Cultural Heritage. There are several routes that are currently in use and the stations found along them serve food and drinks and, in some cases, offer cultural events, as well as arts and crafts fairs. Trips made by train or railcar allow visitors to see and enjoy the scenery from a different perspective.  They transport us to another time and teach us to value our heritage.
For a more detailed description of the routes, please visit the website:
Text derived from the webpages of the Embassies of Ecuador in China and Washington.

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