Ecuador', a republic of South America, so named from its position on the equator, lies between 1° 23' N. and 4° 45' S. lat., and in about 73°-81° W. long. Bounded on the west by the Pacific, it is inserted like a wedge between Colombia and Peru. But its only certain limits are those defined by the ocean, where it has a seaboard of some 400 miles; most of the frontier east of the Andes has never been determined. The area, often stated at 160,000, is really under 120,000 sq. m. (i.e. rather less than the United Kingdom), including the 2940 of the Galapagos Islands (q.v.). The total population is stated at 1,400,000, of whom 1,000,000 may be Indians, 100,000 of European stock, and 300,000 of mixed blood. The principal cities are Quito, the capital (80,000 inhabitants), Guayaquil, the chief port (50,000), Cuenca (30,000), Riobainba, Latacunga, and Ambato. Ecuador consists of three divisions - the lowlands west of the Andes, the mountainous plateau of the interior, and the less elevated forest-country to the east. Besides the main range of the Andes (q.v.), forming the backbone of the country, there is an outer range, with peaks rising to 15,000 feet; from the cordillera proper numerous long spurs, attaining a height of 14,000 feet, are thrown out towards the east, between which rise great affluents of the Amazons, while the coast-range possesses only short and very precipitous spurs. The principal mountains of Ecuador either are or have been volcanoes. Tunguragua (16,690 feet) broke out in 1887; Pichincha is by no means extinct; Cotopaxi(q.v.) and Sangai (17,465) are constantly active. Of the coast-streams the principal are the Guayaquil River, and the Rio Esmeraldas; east of the Andes the chief rivers are the Napo and its affluents, flowing into the Marafion. In mineral wealth Ecuador has been ranked amongst the poorest states of South America; but gold is wrought, and silver, quicksilver, iron, copper, zinc, asphalt, and petroleum occur, as well as graphite and anthracite.
Ecuador is an agricultural country. The eastern winds become saturated as they pass over the Atlantic and up the Amazons; and their moisture is almost ceaselessly precipitated as they approach the snowy peaks of the Andes, producing a dense growth of vegetation on the eastern foothills. On the other side also, where the rain-clouds of the Pacific are caught, the gorges of the western spurs become very hothouses. Natural sabanas or open plains are, however, found on the western lowlands. Sarsaparilla, balsams, caoutchouc, vegetable ivory, and wax are collected, and coffee, rice, cotton, tobacco, etc. are grown, but in smaller quantities; while the trade in cinchona promises soon to be a thing of the past, owing to the reckless destruction of the trees. The plateau region and large tracts to the east are comparatively healthy; the valleys on the Pacific side are commonly full of disease. In the interior there is a very small thermometric range, and a perpetual spring reigns in the uplands. The fauna is rich: the mammalia include the jaguar, puma, ounce, ocelot, deer, tapir, peccary, capy-bara, and several species of monkeys and bats; fish abound, both in the rivers and along the coast; and among reptilia are the boa constrictor, turtles, and alligators. Chiefly, however, is Ecuador the paradise of birds (ranging from the condor to the humming-bird) and insects. The live-stock includes cattle, sheep, horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas.
The state religion, to the exclusion of every other, is the Roman Catholic; and in no country have the Jesuits had such a paramount influence as in Ecuador, or employed it so well. Quito possesses a university and an institute of sciences (1884), with three faculties. The manufactures are limited to coarse cloths, kerosene, ice, and the preparation of spirits from the sugar-cane, and of flour or starch from the yuca or cassava root. Guayaquil is famed for its hammocks and Panama hats, made from the fibre of the 'pita' plant. Commerce is sadly handicapped by the want of roads. There are only about 60 miles of railway open; but the chief towns have been connected by telegraph, and there are even telephones in Quito and elsewhere. The value of the exports, chiefly cocoa, coffee, vegetable ivory, caoutchouc, and hides, varies from £1,200,000 to £2,300,000 per annum; the imports, chiefly cottons, other textiles, and provisions, vary between the same limits. Great Britain, the United States, Germany, and France have large shares in the trade. Exports to Britain vary from £72,000 to £220,000 a year, and imports from Britain from £260,000 to £300,000.
Constituted as an independent state on the dissolution of Bolivar's Colombia (q.v.), the Republic of the Equator has, in little more than half a century, passed through a succession of violent political changes that render its history equally difficult and profitless to follow. Under its last constitution the executive is vested in a president, elected for four years, with a vice-president, a cabinet of four ministers, and a council of state; the legislative power is entrusted to a senate and house of representatives. The army consists of 3340 officers and men, and there is a navy of one steel transport, two gunboats, and a cruiser. The finance of the country is in hopeless embarrassment: the revenue, some £670,000, is usually exceeded by the expenditure. The foreign debt is stated at £700,000, and there are heavy arrears of interest.
See Hassaurek, Four Years among Spanish Americans (New York, 1867; 3d ed. 1881); Sim-son, Travels in the Wilds of Ecuador (1887); Col. Church's Report to the U.S. Government in 1883; Whymper's Great Andes of the Equator (1892).