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Arts & Culture

The first thing to be said about the people of Ecuador, as generalization, is that they are incredibly hospitable and like helping people especially a gringo who needs directions to the nearest market.

Again, to speak generally, there isn't a very large middle class in Ecuador, as with most developing countries, so be prepared to see two extremes of wealth on the same street.
Ecuador's population is estimated to be 12,650,000 with a less than 2% annual growth rate. The population is ethnically mixed: 55% Mestizo (mixed indigenous - Caucasian), 25% Indigenous, 10% Caucasian, 9% African, and 1% of other races.

Although the population was heavily concentrated in the Andes highlands region a few decades ago, today it is divided about equally between that area and the coast. Migration toward cities of course - particularly Quito and Guayaquil - all of Ecuador's regions have increased the urban population by more than 50%. The rainforest region to the east of the mountains remains the most sparsely populated of Ecuador's three continental regions and holds only about 3% of the population.

Amazonian frontier towns, Pacific coast fishing villages, rambling old haciendas, packed markets, and colonial cities show just how many cultures Ecuador has, each one a recognized part of the Republic of Ecuador and each one striving to maintain its own identity and history while also clearing themselves a path into the future. Even outside these cultural crossroads, in a day, because of Ecuador's compactness, one can experience any number of Ecuador's distinct cultures.

Eleven or more different peoples make up Ecuador's Indigenous population. By far the largest of these is the Andean Quichua, who number more than 2 million. In addition to the Quichua, the Otavaleños, Salasacas, and Saraguros - all modern-day couriers of the ancient tongue of the Incas - reside in the Ecuadorian Andes.

The Amazon basin is equally as rich in indigenous culture as the highlands. Despite increasing pressures from the industrialized world, shamanistic traditions still thrive within the rainforest worlds of the Huaorani, Zaparo, Cofán, low land Quichua, Siona, Secoya, Shuar, and Achuar.

In addition to the numerous native cultures, Ecuador is home to a Mestizo culture, and a sizable Afro-Ecuadorian culture (approximately ½ million), the descendants of African slaves who worked on coastal sugar plantations in the sixteenth century. Today's Afro-Ecuadorians are famous for their marimba music and dance festivals.

Modernization has not definatly robbed Ecuador's cities and towns of their distinct local flavors largely because it is people not just historic sites that give these places their character. Otavalo, long famous for its warm, enterprising indigenous people, continues its friendly tradition in the twenty-first century. Baños, with its hot springs and agreeable climate, welcomes visitors day in and day out with unwavering smiles. And Quito, the country's political center, has developed into a cosmopolitan city while maintaining its small town candor and geniality.

To find out more about each of these cultures individually visit our Regions section.

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