Located in northwestern South America, Ecuador borders Peru and Colombia and includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific. Originally home to several Amerindian groups, it was colonized by Spain in the 16th century and gained independence in 1820 as a sovereign nation. Most of its population of 16.4 million citizens are considered mestizos, followed by people of European, native American and African descent. Spanish is the official language spoken by the majority of its people.
Ecuador has a biodiversity that is reflected in its native plants and animals, including those that reside on the Galápagos Islands, a popular destination for both tourists and researchers alike. The Andes mountain range as well as the Amazon river, both play a critical role in Ecuador’s climate and ecology. As its name indicates, Ecuador’s location at the equator also means there is very little variation in daytime and nighttime hours during the year.
Ecuador’s economy is primarily dependent on petroleum and agricultural products and is currently considered a developing, although upper-middle-income, economy.