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Arts & Culture
The Rise of the Incas The Ecuador-Perú Peace Proccess
The Conquest of Ecuador The Protocol of Río de Janeiro
Down the Amazon River The Cenepa confrontation (1995) 
Liberation The peace process
The Explorers Ecuador - Perú Peace Agreements
The 20th Century Plan for Binational Development
© 2001Ecuador-Travel-Guide.org.
All rights reserved.

Little is known about the earliest arrival of humanity in the New World the date has been set as early as 80,000 years ago, and as recently as 20,000. There is general agreement, however, that the beginning in 3000 BC, society began to move toward permanent settlements and communities, a change usually indicated by the presence of pottery. And the earliest substantial evidence of pottery in the New World is found along the coast of Ecuador .

The Valdivian site at Alta Loma is rich in pottery decorated by carved motifs and colored clays. The ancient town of some 2,000 people at Real Alto was adding ceremonial temples to its architecture by 1500 BC, and sculpted female figurines and other forms suggest a degree of artisitic as well as ritualistic purpose. The pre-historic Valdivian culture of today's Manabí Province thus argues that Ecuador is not a poor sister to New World civilizations -- the Incas to the south and the Mayas to the north -- but perhaps their ancestor.

Another extremely significant find in Ecuador was named La Tolita, after an island in the mouth of the Santiago River in Esmeraldas Province. This culture flourished along the Pacific coast around 300 BC, and its sophistication in metallurgy and goldwork is exceptional. Great quantities of gold figurines and ornaments were found here -- much now lost to looters and prospectors -- and platinum objects were created as well. The technology to work platinum, whose melting temperature is much higher than gold's, was not rediscovered until the 1850's.

The Manta culture which followed, again in Manabí Province to the south, built great cities of 20,000 people, traded with México and Perú, and manufactured textiles as well as gold, silver, pottery and stone work. They may also have settled, at least seasonally, on the Galápagos: domesticated strains of cotton have been found in the islands, and shards of pottery as well.

Elswhere in Ecuador, the highlanders were developing agricultural adaptions of their own, and with them came the earliest civilizations. In the so-called Avenue of the Volcanoes, between Quito and Cuenca, several culture areas gained prominence. The Quitus united two major areas, of the Quito and the Caras along the coast, about 1400 AD. And in the south, the Cañaris developed sophisticated textile arts (including ikat, found elsewhere in the world only in Guatemala and Indonesia) and a powerful militaristic tradition. This positioned them as the "border guards" against the expanding state to the south, that belongued to the Incas.

The Rise of the Incas
The 14th and 15th centuries saw a frenzy of warfare, precipitated not only by the northward march of the Incas out of Perú but also by the God- and gold-obsessed conquest of the New World by the Spaniards. In the region now known as Otavalo, the Caras were the predominant tribe; it was the sun-worshipping Caras who drew the path of the sun, Inti Nan, in the landscape of the equator. To the south were found the numerous Puruhas around Chimborazo; in the 14th century the two ruling families of the Puruhas and Caras intermarried to create the kingdom of Quitus, situated where the present-day capital now stands. Their major enemies were to the south -- the Cañaris, centered around present-day Cuenca.

It was the Cañaris who fought off the drive of the Incas to dominate the entire northern Andes for almost a decade following the invasion of the Inca Tupac-Yupanqui, frustrating his military might and preventing his advances. The drive of the Incas for domination was based on their recognition of the value of the fertile valley between the volcanoes, still Ecuador's heartland. Once past Azuay, their advance was somewhat easier, and in the auspicious year of 1492 the Kingdom of Quitus itself fell. (North of Quitus, the Caras continued to fight, but they too met the same end as the Cañaris in 1509.)

The result was the spread of Quechua across the land, improved irrigation methods and new crops (the sweet potato and coca among them) and even the husbanding of the llama, a beast of burden not domesticated in Ecuador until then. The Inca set up a northern capital called Tomebamba on the fertile banks of a swift-flowing river -- where the Cañaris had their old capital, and where the Spanish destroyed them both to build Cuenca.

If Tomebamba, or Tumipampa as the Incas called it (the Plain of the Knife -- they must have met with stiff resistance in taking over the Cañaris capital) became the capital, it needed outposts to defend itself from the still-restless natives. One such outpost was at Ingapirca, a name which only means "Inca walls", located just off the road from Cuenca.

The Inca Tupac-Yupanqui took as his bride a Cañari princess; his son Huanya-Capac was born in Tomebamba, in Cuenca. When Huanya-Capac himself decided to divide his kingdom between his own two sons, he deeded the northern half to the offspring of a Quitu bride -- Atahualpa -- and the other, Peruvian part to his son of more traditional Inca lineage, Huáscar. In the time honored tradition of divided kingdoms, the two brothers fell to fighting, and when the civil war was over in 1526 was the Quitu-Inca, Atahualpa, who stood victorious.

It was into this land of the Incas, Ecuador and Perú, that Francisco Pizarro marched, and the era of the Conquest began.

The Conquest of Ecuador
Finding an empire weakened by civil war and ripe for conquest, the spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro began his march through mosquito-infested swamps and hostile local populations in 1524. Finally reaching the highland capital of Cajamarca, Perú, they wasted little time in massacring the royal guard and kidnapping the Inca Atahualpa. From captivity, Atahualpa gave the order for his half-brother Huáscar to be killed, in hopes this would secure his safety with Pizarro. Then, to further please the gold-odsessed spaniards, Atahualpa offered a roomful of the glittering metal as ransom.

For nine months, Atahualpa was held captive while the ransom was assembled. During this time he learned the language of his captors, mastered the art of writing, played chess with Pizarro, and was treated as the royalty he was. Finally 24 gons of gold had been amassed, but even this was insufficient to satisfy the European invaders. After baptizing Atahualpa with his own Christian name, Francisco, Pizzaro publicly garroted the Inca on August 29, 1533.

As Pizarro's forces continued to wipe out the outbreaks of rebellion in the Incan empire, they heard of the Kingdom of Quito, where the Inca had his northernmost capital. Pizarro dispatched a bloodthirsty lieutenant named Sebastián Benalcázar to take this prize. In his way stood the Inca chief Rumiñahui, who met the Spaniards with a considerable force in May, 1534, in the shadow of Chimborazo. Despite their desperation, the indigenistas met with defeat at the superiority of spanish horses and firearms.

While the Spanish forces sent by Pizarro negotiated for rights to the spoils with a rival army of conquistadores (captained by Pedro de Alvarado, Hernan Cortéz right-hand man in the conquest of México), Rumiñahui put the city of Quito to the torch. On the ruins of the northern capital of the Incas, the Spaniards finalized their conquest of Ecuador by founding the Villa de San Francisco de Quito on December 6, 1534.

Though the Incas finally fell to the conquistadores, the conquest of the country proved far more problematic. Remaining was the effort to extend Spanish dominion into the vast unknown of the Oriente -- the eastern part of the continent, on the far side of the Andes and into the Amazon.

Down the Amazon River
With the conquest, Francisco Pizarro named his brother Gonzalo as governor of Quito to search for the elusive El Dorado, and the source of cinnamon. Second in command was Francisco de Orellana, founder of Guayaquil, and only 29 year old at the time. On December 25, 1939, the expedition of 340 soldiers, 4,000 Indian slaves, and countless pigs, dogs, horses and llamas left Quito.

Within days they endured a powerful earthquake, and an attack by hostile indigenistas. By the time they crossed the high páramo at 13,000 feet, soldiers had begun to succumb to cold, hunger and exhaustion. Their momentum carried them down into the Oriente, where they continued to conflict with local tribes, losing few but killing many. Random chance led them to the banks of the Río Coca, where they were reduced to eating off the land.

Here Orellana and 57 soldiers built and manned a boat to sail downriver to find food. The powerful current took the craft swiftly downstream, and intentionally or not, Orellana made the decision to abandon his commander Gonzalo Pizarro and simply continue. For nine months, Orellana and his diminishing crew encountered friendly and hostile settlements, including a tribe of women warriors, according to Orellana, who attacked them with spears and arrows like the Amazon women of Greek myth. Thus did Orellana find a name for the river he rode, from Ecuador to the Atlantic, which he reached in August 1541.

For his own part, Gonzalo Pizzaro did make it back to Quito (by now the official colonial name for Ecuador), in June of 1542, to find his brother murdered and Perú and Quito in civil war. The Spanish King Carlos V had begun to rein in the abuses of the conquistadores, and had appointed a Viceroy to take over the administration of the New World. Sensing opportunity, and backed by the force of the conquistador tradition, Pizzaro contested the authority of the Viceroy and attempted to seize command. His rebellion lasted until April 9, 1548, when he was defeated and beheaded.

Though the King had reasserted his command, and the bloody era of the conquistador was over, Ecuador would endure more than 250 years of strict control and abuse under the yoke of Spanish authority, an era which would not end until the era of Liberation.

Even today, in the highlands of Ecuador, the pervading atmosphere is that of the Old West. During the years following the fall of the conquistadors, the Spanish aristocracy created and maintained an autocratic lifestyle, building dynasties of goods and influence. For some, this may have been some sort of "golden age" for Ecuador, when there was order in the land and fortunes to be made. But the order was certainly at the expense of human rights, and the fortunes were made on the backs of the people of the land. While the extent of cultivation grew ever broader, the indigenous population that lived on a land grant was regarded as little more than property, to be used at will.

At last the suffering and discontent erupted, and after nearly three centuries of Spanish rule, Ecuador was liberated in May 1822 by Simón Bolívar and his generals, who were intent on forming a united South America. Ecuador's national hero became Field Marshall Sucre. The commander of the army that freed the area from Spainish domination; in the final battle fought on the slopes of Pinchincha outside of Quito. (The national currency is named after this general.) A brief alliance of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador known as Gran Colombia lasted but eight years, and in 1830 Ecuador became an independent nation when 30-year old general Juan José Flores, commander of Quito, declared the Republic of Ecuador. The declaration didn't exactly have the support of the liberators: Sucre was assassinated en route from Bogotá to contest it, and the exiled and demoralized Bolivár died by year's end.

But independence, like liberation, was not a long-term solution. In 1833 civil war broke out between the conservatives of Quito and the liberal elements of Guayaquil. It was the first of a long series of revolutions between the two factions, which resulted in the subsequent rise of several dictators extending into recent years. The historical division between the conservative mountain-dwelling people and the liberal inhabitants of the coastal areas permeated Ecuadorian politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, and continues to this day.

The Explorers
At the outset of the 19th century, Alexander von Humboldt came to Ecuador from Germany. A protean explorer and scientist, Humboldt turned his curiosity, travels and research into discoveries in the field of climatology, geology, biology and more. He coined the phrase "Avenue of the Volcanoes," for the inter-andean region from Quito to Cuenca, and after him were named the Humboldt Current off the coast of South America as well as the Humboldt penguin, which he first described. One might say that what Darwin was to the Galápagos, Humboldt was to Ecuador's mainland.

Another significant explorer of Ecuador in the 19th century was the English mountaineer Edward Whymper, conqueror of the Matterhorn. After knocking off Chimborazo -- Ecuador's crown at 20,823 feet (6310 meters) -- Whymper turned his sights on lesser peaks such as Cotopaxi, Cayambe and Cotocachi. In fact, he made first ascents of nearly every volcanic peak in the Andes, a feat which is without precedent in the annals of climbing.

The 20th Century

In the last 100 years, Ecuador has endured the fate of many other countries, trying to balance its natural resources and indigenous character against an expanding and often merciless global economy. Some of them have been repressive, and others more expansive, such as the revolutionist and political leader Eloy Alfaro. During the second period of rule by President Alfaro (1907-1911), a new, more liberal constitution was introduced, with land reform and Indian rights components. But Alfaro himself was assassinated, torn apart and burned by an raging mob.

Military rule became the fashion as the century wore on, sometimes hidden behind the veil of elected leadership. Often this veil was borne by José María Velasco Ibarra, who enjoyed five presidential terms between 1934 and 1961. A compelling and convincing public speaker, his most famous statement is surely to be treasured by politicians worldwide -- "Give me a balcony and I will be president again!"

Perhaps the most difficult event Ecuadorians must swallow is the loss of almost half their territory in 1941, when Perú seized a large portion of the Amazonian region. The area -- rich in coffee plantations, gold and oil -- continues to be contested, and conflicts between Ecuador and Perú still erupt occasionally. All Ecuadorian maps used in schools show the country as including this vast region,. with a thin dotted line marked, "Line of the Protocol of Río de Janerio, 1942."

Economically, Ecuador held its own for a long time with such products as shrimp, cacao, textiles, coffee, Pánama hats and flowers. Bananas from Ecuador are still dominant in the produce section of your supermarket, thanks to the monopolistic control of the United Fruit Company. But contemporary with a crisis in the hacienda system of land ownership, and the resulting land reform movement of the early 1960's, came the discovery of oil in the Oriente. And with the "oil crisis" of the early 1970's, Ecuador found its place in the global economy -- today, over a third of the nation's exports are petroleum products.

Ecuador's role as a significant exporter of petroleum has proven to be at the expense of its environmental quality, and the indigenous people of the Oriente continue to resist this exploitation. Other environmental and political issues still simmer, but for the most part Ecuador has remained an island of stability in a troubled region, its mountains providing no havens for Marxist revolutionaries like Perú to the south, and its hinterlands no drug farms like Colombia to the north. And, with the rise of "ecotourism" in international tourism industry, the time may be close when Ecuador again finds its place at the center of the global map.

The Ecuador-Perú Peace Proccess
The territorial dispute between Ecuador and Perú dates back to Colonial times and the legal claims to the territory of the Amazon region. According to "utti posidettis iuris", Latin American countries came into independence with the territory held by the Colonial predecessor entity. 

Upon independence, Ecuador joined what is now known as "Great Colombia", comprised of the territories of Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Panamá –then a part of Colombia and signed the Treaty of Peace and Limits of Guayaquil in 1829, and the subsequent Pedemonte-Mosquera Protocol of 1830. They established the Marañon-Amazon River as the border between Perú and Ecuador.

Perú contested the agreements. The Herrera-García Treaty of 1890 recognized Ecuador's sovereignty over the Marañon River (Amazon). The Peruvian Congress, however, failed to ratify the agreement.  

During the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a succession of negotiations between Ecuador and Perú failed, including the arbitration process by the King of Spain. Between 1936 and 1938, representatives from Ecuador and Perú attempted to negotiate a peace in Washington, D.C. The negotiations failed when Perú extricated itself from the process prematurely.  

In February 1941, Perú gave assurances to the United States that the dispute with Ecuador would be solved peacefully. In July, Peruvian forces invaded parts of Ecuador.

The Protocol of Río de Janeiro

On January 29, 1942, while part of Ecuador was occupied by Peruvian troops, both countries signed the Protocol of Río de Janeiro. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the United States signed the Protocol as guarantors. The U.S. had recently entered World War II and was mainly concerned with presenting a united front of the Americas, so peace was dictated more by the outcome of the 1941 war than by negotiations.  

The failure of the Río Protocol to establish a precise boundary has made the assistance of the Guarantor Countries imperative through the years. While the Brazilian arbiter, Captain Braz Días De Aguiar, subsequently resolved some differences in 1945, many features of the original agreement remained unresolved.    

The Cenepa confrontation (1995) 

On January 1995, there were several skirmishes along the borderline. Military raids by Perú ensued and Ecuador defended, and held, its positions.
Ecuador called for a cease-fire and diplomatic negotiations. Finally, on February 17, 1995, the "Declaración de Itamaraty" was signed. 
In several zones, the boundary description in the Protocol of Río did not reflect the geographic reality.  

The peace process
Ecuador and Perú held negotiations on February, 1995, to achieve a cease-fire on the Cenepa. The negotiations took place in Brazil, with the assistance of the Guarantor countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the United States of America. 

In February 17, 1995, the "Declaración de Itamaraty" was signed. It included, apart from a cease-fire, a separation of the armed forces, the demilitarization of the conflict zone under the supervision of military observers from the Guarantor countries, and the determination to solve all pending "impasses" between Ecuador and Perú. Thus, the peace process aim is to reach a final settlement of one of the most intractable disputes. 

In March 28, 1995 it was necessary to reaffirm the commitments of "Itamaraty" and both countries, along with the Guarantors, signed the "Declaración de Montevideo". 

The Mission of Military Observers Ecuador-Perú, MOMEP, was implemented and has overseen the separation of forces and the demilitarization of the zone. Initially formed by Officers of the Guarantor countries, it has been gradually extended to incorporate Officers from Ecuador and Perú. 

Diplomatic negotiations have been carried out throughout the process, to agree on the procedural and substantive issues. Both countries presented a list of what they considered the "pending impasses" (no country could veto the other’s list) and agreed to look into them. On February 1997 Ecuador and Perú negotiators initiated the formal review of the "pending impasses" and approaches to solve them. 

By the end of 1997, Ecuador and Perú had agreed on a schedule and framework to reach a final, comprehensive, just and honorable settlement. Four Commissions were established, and they have met on the Guarantor countries’ capitals:

  • Commission I Commerce and Navigation (Buenos Aires, Argentina) 
  • Commission II Border Integration (Washington, D.C.)  
  • Commission III Setting of Land Border (Brasilia, Brazil)  
  • Commission IV Confidence Building Measures (Santiago, Chile) 

The first round of sessions of the Commissions started on February 17, 1998. The second round took place on March 30, 1998 to April 2, and significant progress was made. The final round of the Commissions, May 18-19, 1998, reviewed the progress.  

Commissions II and IV concluded their mandates and drafted agreements on their subjects, pending a global solution. Commission II also produced a document that is a "blueprint" for cooperation, trade and development in the border region and would set up a "Binational Fund for Peace and Development", to be financed by friendly Governments, international organizations and donors.  

A meeting of High Representatives was convened for May 22-23 in Buenos Aires to propose alternatives to Commissions I and III. Presidents Alarcón and Fujimori attended a meeting with President Cardoso in Brasilia.  

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador and Perú had an informal meeting with the Senior Representatives from the Guarantor countries on June 15-16, in Washington, D.C. to address the pending issues. Although progress was made, it was agreed not to set a deadline but to strive for an acceptable and prompt solution.  

Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the United States have been fully supportive of the peace process.

Presidents Mahuad and Fujimori met several times to conclude the process, and finally agreed to submit the last unresolved issue to arbitration by the Guarantor countries, upon acceptance of the Congresses of Ecuador and Perú.

Ecuador - Perú Peace Agreements
On October 26, 1998, Presidents Mahuad and Fujimori signed the "Acta de Brasilia" and witnessed the signing of the complementary peace agreements by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries, José Ayala Lasso and Fernando de Trazeugnies.  

The Presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Chile -the Guarantor countries of the Protocol of Río de Janeiro with the United States of America-, the King of Spain, the Presidents of Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela and U.S. Special Envoy Thomas Mack McLarty were in attendance.  It was an impressive gathering for an impressive achievement.

The Ecuador-Perú dispute had been regarded as one of the most intractable disputes and one of the last -if not indeed the last-  sources of militar confrontation in the western hemisphere.  The historic accomplishment of peace has been hailed by the international community, and the courage and determination of Presidents Mahuad and Fujimori saluted by the Heads of State of the Americas and beyond.

The Agreements signed in Brasilia are:

  • "Acta Presidencial"
  • "Trade and Navigation Treaty"
  • "Integration Treaty"

There were also exchange of Notes regarding "Confidence Building Measures" and the "Canal of Zarumilla".

Plan for Binational Development
The ageements envisioned a Plan for Development of the border region that allows peace to take root in both countries and bring the dividends of peace to the people, through increased cooperation, trade and investment.

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