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January 2, 2009

Ecuador and diversity

An small Overview of Ecuador: a Mega-Diverse Country

Ecuador is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries of the world, in other words one of the richest in biodiversity and endemism with regards to flora and fauna. Mega-diverse country is the name given to any of the 17 countries with the highest biodiversity levels on Earth. These are mainly tropical countries, such as those in southeast Asia and Latin America. Together they count on 70% of the biodiversity of the planet, with their territories making up 10% of the surface area of the planet (Cancún Declaration, 2002). Amongst these countries, Ecuador has the smallest area with just 256,370 Km2, namely 0.17% of the terrestrial surface of the planet, and in consequence it is the country with the greatest biodiversity of the planet in comparison to its area. This is also applicable to the human ethnic diversity found inside the country.


The variety of faces, features and skin colors is probably the best expression of diversity in Ecuador. The Blacks, Native Americans Indians, whites and Mestizos that currently live in this country are, in one way or another, the result of a long, complex process of the merging of several human groups. Although there are no up-to-date statistics, approximately one of every four Ecuadorians belong to nationalities or current Native Indian peoples. The majority, in addition to one of the thirteen or more indigenous languages, speak Spanish. In line with this fact, eight of every twelve Ecuadorians are Mestizos and speak Spanish.

Ecuador is located in the North West part of South America, and has around 13 million inhabitants. It comprises three main ethnic groups, classified not by importance but by the number of inhabitants and by their own self-knowledge, namely: (a) urban populations, Mestizos (b) indigenous Native Americans, who comprise over 100 multi-ethnic and pluri-cultural groups and (c) Afro-American black populations who are descendants of slaves and who inhabit specific regions of the country, principally in the province of Esmeraldas, Imbabura and small groups spread throughout the Ecuadorian coastline. Some authors describe the current black population as a dihybrid group which is the result of the ancestral admixture between Africans and Native Americans.

Currently there is growing interest in the populational genetic studies in Latin America, particularly thanks to our rich ethnographics. This is based on the unique, new ("with hardly five centuries of crossbreeding") and relatively homogenous history of the region, particularly following the discovery of the continent. In the last five centuries, several original populations came into contact, interacted and mixed, thus producing the current ethnic admixture. These are, in chronological order, the Indigenous Native Americans, a close group deriving from Central Asia; the Europeans, mainly Spaniards and Portuguese; and the Africans, who were brought as slaves to Latin America from Equatorial Guinea.



Demographic and Genetic Perspectives

Ecuador is a small country in South America located in the western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru, at 2˚00’ South, 77˚30’ West. It has a population of 13,927,650 (July 2008 est.) inhabitants and annual population growth rate 0.935% (2008 est.), arising almost 14 million of inhabitants. It is a multi ethnic country with a stronger native culture. It is located in latitude cero and has 283,560 sq km with a density of 53.6 inhabitants per km2. A half (54%) of the population lives in urban zones, especially in the 4 bigger cities Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and Santo Domingo. It has 24 provinces distributed en 4 main regions: Highlands (Sierra), Coast, Amazonia and Insular region. Ecuador is a democratic republic and the official language is the Spanish. Religion: predominantly Roman Catholic (95%), but religious freedom is recognized. Spanish is the official language, indigenous languages and also spoken inside native populations specially Kichwa. In education, the years compulsory ages are between 6-14, but enforcement varies. Attendance: through 6th grade, 76% urban, 33% rural, literacy 92%. Health: Infant mortality rate: 22.1/1,000. Life expectancy: 76.81 yrs.


Immigration process

The internal migration in the past 100 years was concentrated in the Sierra. Today the population is divided almost equally between Sierra and Costa. This migration, particularly to the big cities in all regions has also increased the urban population. The Amazon region, known as the "Oriente” (East), is located east of the Sierra and although it constitutes nearly half of the Ecuadorian territory, remains sparsely populated. The East contains only 3% of the population, the majority being indigenous Amazonian always been free and not subject to the Spanish conquest. These Amazonian indigenous nationalities have maintained their traditions, culture and languages completely intact, and kept a wary distance and to the rest of the Ecuadorian population, especially the newly mestizos and white settlers arrived in the interior. The settlers are newcomers increased over the small immigration occurred during and after the 70s when the national government hosted a multinational exploitation of oil reserves in this area. In the past 25 years, Ecuador has experienced two major waves of emigration, sending 10 to15 percent of Ecuadorians overseas, mostly to Spain, the United States, Italy, Venezuela, with a small but growing number in Chile (3, 5). While the country continues to experience emigration, the number of immigrants, particularly Peruvians and Colombians, has increased in the last five years. Most Peruvians are economic migrants, and the majority of Colombians are refugees, escaping an escalation of armed conflict since 2002 and the hardships created by drug eradication programs in southern Colombia (5). The net migration rate is 7.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.) (1). Most of the immigrants came predominantly from the poorest of the country, especially the highly disproportionate number of indigenous people made up of emigrants leaving the country in conjunction with the people of low socioeconomic status and some white-mestizos to be affected by the economic crisis, increasing poverty and fear to join the index. Due to an economic crisis in the late 1990s, more than 600,000 Ecuadorians emigrated to the U.S. and Europe from 2000 to 2001. According to the 2000 U.S. census there were 323,000 persons who claimed Ecuadorian ancestry. Including undocumented migrants, it is unofficially estimated that there are approximately one million Ecuadorians currently residing in the U.S.

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