Geography Now! Ecuador

Hey everybody, say hi to Cindy! She is the only Ecuadorian I know. Wow, I’m so excited to be on Geography Now! This is so cool! Hey Barby, can I…? Go ahead. It’s time to learn geography! NOW!! Hey, everybody, I’m your host, Barby. We’re going straight to the belly button of the planet and we have to be a little careful because it’s been known to erupt frequently. Let’s jump in. The República del Ecuador literally translates to the “republic of the equator” due to the fact that Ecuador beautifully straddles the center of the Earth. I mean hypothetically speaking, if the Earth had rings, this is what the sky would look like in Ecuador. Ecuador is the smallest of the Andean highland countries located on the northwest coast of South America, bordered by Colombia and Peru, making it one of the only two countries not touching Brazil in South America. The country is divided into twenty four provinces, with the capital Quito located in the Andean highlands. Quito is interesting because it just acts as both the capital of the country and the capital of the Pichincha province. Heh, heh. Pichincha. That sounds endearing. It sounds like something you would name a crab. It translates to the “burning souls of a thousand dragons”! Really? Just joking. Oh! (laughs) In addition to the inland domain, Ecuador also administers the world famous Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of 19 islands about 900 kilometers west off the coast. We’ll talk more about these in the next section. It’s gonna get real good. The country has 11 international airports, as well as several regional ones that fly to every other province. Yeah! We even have one that goes to Orellana in the middle of the Amazon. In the middle of the Amazon? Yeah. Oh. Nice. People love Ecuador because it only spans about 660 kilometers. You can literally travel across the entire country from coast to mountain stead the rainforest within about, eh, eight hours. The furthest you can drive inland would be the Ten Highway that end at Tarapoa, a small town that ends in the middle of the Amazon. Otherwise, from here, the only way to go further is either by foot or by boat on the rivers that straddle the Peruvian border or you can ride down the Rio Putumayo to the tri-point border with Peru and Colombia at the rarely used Güeppi Landing Strip. Located on the Guayas river, the largest city is actually Guayaquil which is where- I’m from! Cindy’s from there! Yeah, it’s awesome. Cindy, I have a question. In Guayaquil, is it true that you can find like, iguanas everywhere, like in the streets and stuff like that, or? Yea, you can actually find iguanas everywhere and there is a park that is very famous that these iguanas have taken over so every time you walk in it’s like full of iguanas everywhere. Dang. One reason why the transport is limited in the east has to do with the intense terrain that makes up the country and dude, this place is loaded with contrast. Let’s see what’s going on inside. Ecuador is kind of like a mini Colombia and Venezuela in which you have the same general geographic regions Cindy, tell them what they are. Okay, so we have four regions in Ecuador. They are called La Costa, which is like, by the border by the beach. We have La Sierra, where the Andes, the mountains, are. El Oriente, which is the Amazon part of like, the Ecuador. And then we have the Insular, which is Galapagos Islands. Each of these regions offers a radically distinct climate, elevation, biodiversity, and topography that deviates from the others. One thing for sure though is that Ecuador is home to one of the highest concentrations of volcanos on the planet, both active and dormant. As it sits on the ring of fire in the northern volcanic zone in the Andes, and thanks to the subduction of the Nazca Plate under the South American Plate Ecuador is subject to regular volcanoes and seismic activity. The Sangay and Reventador volcanoes just erupted in 2016 and Cotopaxi, probably the most famous volcano in Ecuador, remains in a restless state. The Andes highlands are generally chillier with steep, fertile valleys with farms and ranches irrigated with the snowmelt from the mountains. The coastal areas enjoy flatter land and beaches where people love to surf. The inland amzonia region is heavily dense with plants and wildlife, making Ecuador the world’s most biodiverse country per square kilometer on the planet. Gotta love the Amazon, always boosting your credentials. Hey, Cindy, you’ve been to the Galapagos, right? Yes. What was it like? It’s a really beautiful place, just don’t ever ever step on sea lions. They’ll bite you. They’ll bite you. Eugh! However this place does come with a few guidelines. If you visit the Galapagos though, just remember you are not allowed to touch any of the animals, but, the animals are allowed to touch you if they want. And a lot of them actually do, since they’ve never experienced any real threat from humans. Penguins will literally just snuggle up to you,. When it comes to resources, Ecuador is all about four things. Oil, bananas, wood, and flowers. Oil makes over 40% of exports and provides over a quarter in public sector revenue. The problem is that most of the oil plots are at least in the eastern Amazon region so there’s always a conflict with preservation. At about 25% of the global output, Ecuador is also the world’s largest banana exporter. Go ahead, check that sticker on your banana. You have a one in four chance of it coming from Ecuador. Agriculture allows Ecuador to have an incredible selection of produce for some of their top notch cuisine. Such as! We have Guatita, we have Seco de Chivo, We have arroz con menestra. We have fritada and Locro de Papas. So there’s so many…oh yeah, I know, I know. We also eat cuys. I knew it! Yes… The interesting though is that in 2008, Ecuador became the first country to declare nature as “deserving constitutional rights” with a clause stating that nature has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate in its vital cycles. Almost as if it were a person. You know who else is like the people in Ecuador? The people! Once you meet an Ecuadorian, you will never forget them. First of all, the country has about 16.2 million people, and about 70% are mestizo. Whites, and Blacks, and Amerindians each make up about 8% respectively, and the remainder are other groups like East Asians. Keep in mind, the white population also sometimes includes Middle Eastern peoples, predominantly Lebanese and Palestinians, some Muslim and some Christian. Yes, that’s right! There are Christian Palestinians They do exist. Of course Spanish is the official language, and it’s been said that Ecuadorian Spanish is one of the smoothest and easiest to understand, which is one of the reasons why Ecuador is consistently ranked one of the top ex-pat destinations on the planet. You know, in addition of quality of life, cheap living costs, and decent pay. In certain areas, you can actually get a three course meal for like three dollars. Speaking of which, after the economic crisis in 2000 they switched their currency from the sucre to the dollar. In addition to Spanish, though, there are 14 indigenous languages that are recognized and established as regional languages. even though less than 10% of the population speaks them. The most prevalent of them being Quechua, spoken in the Andes, and Shuar, spoken in the Amazon. The government is actually trying to preserve the Quechua language by instituting Quechua programs and translations of TV, which most Ecuadorians are kind of like, eh, okay, sure, whatever. Fun side note: Gredo from Star Wars actually speaks gibberish Quechua. Even though they are few, far, and wide in dispersion, you can actually tell which tribe a person is from by what type of clothing they wear. For example, Otavalos, Salasacas, Saraguros, the Cañaris the Shuar, and a ton of others. The thing about South America is that the further South you go along the Andes, the more indigenous the population gets until you hit Bolivia where over 60% of everyone is Amerindian. Then it just kind of stops. Ecuador is kind of like the Andes Amerindian starting point. Along the northwest coast, you find the largest black population in the Cholta and Esmeraldas regions which have developed their own unique African influenced Ecuadorian culture. Mountain folks are sometimes referred to as “serranos” and coastal folks are called monos? Really? Cindy, doesn’t that mean monkeys? Yeah, it does mean monkey, and we kinda go with it but… So you kinda just got cool with it over time? Yeah, that’s right, BARBY. Oooo Culture wise, again, it really depends on what region you’re in. An Amazonian Ecuadorian will have a different set of value systems than a coastal or highland Ecuadorian but of course, one thing that everyone can attest to is the structure of the family. As a predominantly Christian nation, with the largest denomination being Catholics, many families value the god-parent system in which god parents are actually expected to provide both financially and psychologically their god children. Otherwise, Ecuadorians everywhere are hardworking with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Latin America, and enjoy doing their own projects on the side. They’re really good at avoiding drama, which brings us to… Like mentioned in the Colombia episode, Ecuador is like the entrepreneur little brother that kind of went of and created his own little company while the rest of the family was screaming and throwing plates at each other. Nonetheless, Ecuador has changed quite a bit in the past few decades. With the rise of a new president and semi-new wave socialist agendas, they soon became friends with Iran and are hence supporters of the Asad regime in Syria. left wing socialist politics by default also kind of makes them closer to the other countries that fall under the banner of new socialist governments, like Venezuela, and Cuba, and Bolivia. They have a love-hate relationship with the US and Spain since politically they have to kind of oppose capitalist imperialism but at the same time, so much of their business and trade and tourism dollars come from these two countries. Hey, money talks. Nonetheless, like mentioned before, as part of the term, I made up the ECoVe alliance. Ecuador’s best friends would probably be the fraternal twin siblings, Colombia and Venezuela. These three have gone through so much in the past few centuries in terms of alliances, battles against Spain and independences. In conclusion, Alexander Humboldt, who summarized it quite beautifully when he said “Ecuadorians are strange and unique beings, they sleep peacefully surrounded by roaring volcanoes, they live poor among incomparable riches, and they become happy listening to sad music.” Would you say that fits Ecuador pretty well, Cindy? Yes. I think it does. Stay tuned. Egypt is coming up next!

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