President: Rafael Correa (2007)
Land area: 106,888 sq mi (276,840 sq km); total area: 109, 483 sq mi (283,560 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 15,654,411 (growth rate: 1.37%); birth rate: 18.87/1000; infant mortality rate: 17.93/1000; life expectancy: 76.36
Capital (2011 est.): Quito 1.622
Largest cities: Guayaquil, 2.287 million (2011)
Monetary unit: U.S. dollar
Ecuador, about equal in area to Nevada, is in the northwest part of South America fronting on the Pacific. To the north is Colombia and to the east and south is Peru. Two high and parallel ranges of the Andes, traversing the country from north to south, are topped by tall volcanic peaks. The highest is Chimborazo at 20,577 ft (6,272 m). The Galápagos Islands (or Colón Archipelago: 3,029 sq mi; 7,845 sq km), in the Pacific Ocean about 600 mi (966 km) west of the South American mainland, became part of Ecuador in 1832.
The tribes in the northern highlands of Ecuador formed the Kingdom of Quito around 1000. It was absorbed, by conquest and marriage, into the Inca Empire. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro conquered the land in 1532, and throughout the 17th century a Spanish colony thrived by exploitation of the Indians. The first revolt against Spain occurred in 1809. In 1819, Ecuador joined Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama in a confederacy known as Greater Colombia.
When Greater Colombia collapsed in 1830, Ecuador became independent. Revolts and dictatorships followed; it had 48 presidents during the first 131 years of the republic. Conservatives ruled until the revolution of 1895 ushered in nearly a half century of Radical Liberal rule, during which the church was disestablished and freedom of worship, speech, and press was introduced. Although it was under military rule in the 1970s, the country did not experience the violence and repression characteristic of other Latin American military regimes. Its last 30 years of democracy, however, have been largely ineffectual because of a weak executive branch and a strong, fractious Congress.
Peru invaded Ecuador in 1941 and seized a large tract of Ecuadoran territory in the disputed Amazon region. In 1981 and 1995 war broke out again. In May 1999, Ecuador and Peru signed a treaty ending the nearly 60-year border dispute.