The Spanish also sent in numerous Jesuit missionaries to convert
the indigenous people. This campaign was very successful as most of the local people
converted to Catholicism. The missionaries also set up a system of schools and healthcare
facilities, improving the overall state of affairs in the region.
One area the Spanish didn't control for some time was
the coastal area in the north, in which an odd culture arose. A ship of slaves crashed
and found themselves in this area in 1570. They created a settlement as they married
the local indigenous women and killed the men. This mix of African
and Indigenous (called zambos) created a new culture that lasted for centuries
and continues to exist in some form even today. Other than this region, the Spanish
fully conquered the region fairly quickly.
Ecuador's economy under early Spanish rule thrived on
farming, ranching, and trade. However this system was heavily reliant on demand
and when demand fell in the 1700s, so too did Ecuador's economy. Many of the
wealthiest people moved away to more prosperous areas, essentially areas which held
political power like Lima or Colombia. Most of the missionaries
left as Spain recalled the Jesuits and much of the remaining
population fell into poverty.
Large land tracts fell apart as many people moved to the cities to find work. As
the European population slowly urbanized, the indigenous
population re-gained their freedom and in many cases moved to more rural areas or
to heavily populated indigenous cities and towns. In many ways this created a re-founding
of their culture and historic way of life, although changes were numerous as most
of these people spoke Spanish and were Catholic by this point.
The economic, political, and social unrest came to a head in 1808 when
France took over Spain. This led to chaos in many
of Spain's colonies, including Ecuador. Many of the
wealthy Spaniards in Ecuador, known as Peninsulares, supported the exiled
Spanish king, but most of the population, including the criollos (lower
class Spaniards) and the mestizos sought independence.
Independence didn't actually arrive until 1822 with the help of Simon Bolivar
from Venezuela. After a brief war, Bolivar and those seeking
independence won, but Ecuador was incorporated into the
Republic of Gran Colombia, which was obviously centered in Colombia.
Despite independence, Gran Colombia stationed its troops in the region of Ecuador
to liberate Peru, then Gran Colombia and Peru got into a war
over their border, which happened to be Peru's border with Ecuador, so these
battles fell on Ecuador's soil. Finally, in 1830 Venezuela withdrew from Gran
Colombia and Ecuador quickly did the same.
With independence from Gran Colombia, Juan Jose Flores took power; however he rose
through the ranks of the military and knew very little about running a country.
In 1845 he was removed from power, at which point it became clear that
Ecuador didn't yet have an independent identity. The people fought amongst
themselves for power and argued over the direction of the country. All the while
Flores was constantly attacking the country her formerly ruled to re-gain power.
This chaotic state continued until 1860.
From the 1860s the political scene settled down a bit and the economy stabilized.
This was a time of searching for an identity and an ever altering culture in
Ecuador. As the people changed the political scene and various opinions
could be heard, distinct groups were created, but the country also progressed as
a whole in numerous ways. The people began to unite as one nation, while various
sub-cultures were formed. The liberal cities were well educated and trade dominated
the economy, while in the conservative rural areas farming was again big business
as cacao became the country's largest export.
In the 1890s this progress continued as a new political party, the liberals, came
to power. Infrastructure was vastly expanded, education was encouraged, healthcare
was improved, and the country became, as a whole, more liberal as the church and
state were separated and free speech was allowed to a greater extent than it had
been in the past. Again this continued to change the people as Ecuador
continued to gain a stronger and more independent identity.
This progress slowed and the economy choked up over time and in 1925 a coup overthrew
the government. Although this seemed to ignite many of the people tired of the government,
it did little other than begin another long period of instability. With the worldwide
financial crisis of the late 1920s and 1930s, Ecuador also
struggled as demand for their goods fell. Then in 1941 war again broke out with
Peru over a border dispute, leading to another government being
Not surprisingly, this overthrow just led to more instability in
Ecuador. Since the 1940s the country has gone through numerous politicians,
many of whom didn't finish their term. The economy has shifted dramatically
with changing demand on the international market, the country has continuously fought
Peru over their border, and many people have turned to growing
and selling drugs on the black market as the most consistent way to make a living.
Since the late 1990s the political situation has settled down substantially, but
the economy has still been quite unpredictable, despite a number of efforts to stabilize
it. The people also remain divided in a number of ways; they disagree politically,
economically, and socially as most political moves made have benefited the rich
or the poor and few have led to true progress for all of the people. None-the-less,
the people tend to unite as one nation when it comes to international affairs and
arguments with neighboring countries.