With its relatively small territory,
Ecuador has the biggest biodiversity per area in the world! Ecuador has 4
diverse and rich regions: the Oriental region (Amazon Rain forest), the Coastal
region, the highland region, and finally the Galapagos Archipelago. Ecuador is
one of the smallest countries in South America. It lies on both the Northern and
the Southern Hemispheres, and is divided by the equator which gave Ecuador its
name in the 19th Century. Ecuador borders Colombia (North), Peru
(South and East), and the Pacific Ocean (West).
The population is a about 12 million with Spanish the common language.
Most of the indigenous population speaks Qujchua. In many schools English is the
second language taught. The country
is 95% catholic.
When we speak of the Pre-Columbian
Cultures, we refer to the ethnic groups that lived in America before the arrival
of Columbus. These peoples as tribes, they are cultures, ethnic groups. At
that time, North, Central and South America housed cultures that lived for many
centuries, however, these cultures, to the eyes of the Spaniards, were poor and
"primitive". In reality, these were and some still are, cultures
developed in many ways who saw the world and life in a different manner. Not
having had writing, and due to the difficulty in communications, these cultures
had remained isolated, and developed their own style of dress, artistic
expression, spiritual beliefs, etc. In
the sixteenth century, with the advance of Christianity, many of these cultures
lost ground as to their religion, language, and arts, and learned new ones
brought by the Europeans. The Spanish imposed the Christian religion, and to
this day, many of the indigenous cultures have adopted the Catholic religion.
However they maintain their original language, dress and artistic expressions.
Some cultures are still isolated and have little or no contact with the new
comers, and to this day maintain their way of life as they have lived for way
over 500 years.
In Ecuador, when we speak of
mega-diversity we speak not only of our magnificent biological world, but we
also refer to the human factor. The bio-diversity and ethnic-diversity is rich
and different, with characteristics depending on the natural environment of the
Coast, the Highlands and the Rainforest.
The Culture of the Coast
The oldest known cultures of America lived on the
Ecuadorean coast (3500-500 B.C.). The cultures that subsist to this day are
three different groups: the Awá, the Chachis or Cayapas and the Tsachilas or
Colorados. They live in the tropical rainforest on the west Andes and possibly
settled there escaping from the invasion of the Incas from Peru (15th Century)
or from the Spaniards (16th Century).
The Amazonian Culture
Many archeologists hold that some of the oldest
cultures that survived (over 10,000 years) are actually from this tropical humid
rainforest impossible to reach for many centuries. In the "Cosmo
vision" of these indigenous groups, the human being is only a part of the
"Amazanga" rainforest and the human spirit wanders in this forest
The human spirit can enter an eagle or a serpent or a
jaguar, each one with a symbolism as to their nature according to their beliefs.
The rainforest provides their food, medicinal plants, and
spiritual richness. To these people, the tropical rainforest is their
home, their drug store, their supermarket, and their religion; thus, their
extreme respect to the ecological balance. These people are not naturalists nor
consumers. They are apparently very poor (according to modern world economical
standards), however, they have a rich spiritual life and live in peace
surrounded by their families, taking from nature only what they need for
survival, taking time to meditate and enlighten their spiritual selves.