Ecuador: The Birth of a New Nation
Although Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro discovered the land throughout much of the western part of South America and territory that is now called Ecuador early in the 16th century, there has been little attention paid to the area as it did not have any appreciable gold or silver resources. Even so, Ecuador’s current capital, Quito, was founded in 1534 on the site of an older Inca settlement of the same name.
The fall of the Inca Empire saw Spain emerge as the ruling power in the region. Ecuador remained a somewhat sleepy province of Spain’s New World empire for the better part of the next three centuries until it became caught up in the winds of change blowing through Latin America in the early years of the nineteenth century.
In 1822, a lieutenant of famed South American liberator Simon Bolivar named Jose Sucre fought a series of running battles with Spanish royalist forces that culminated in their defeat at the Battle of Pichincha. Ecuador, along with Colombia and Venezuela became part of a large state called Gran Colombia. The new country was unstable, however, and broke up in 1830. For the first time, Ecuador stood on its own as a truly independent nation.
Independence has not been an easy road for Ecuador. Rivalry between its conservative capital Quito and liberal second city Guayaquil has been fierce and longstanding in nature.
Political instability has also plagued the nation, resulting in frequent coups and political assassinations up through the late 20th century. The year 1979 was a pivotal one for Ecuador, as relatively free and fair elections saw the establishment of democratic rule. Since that time, Ecuadorian politics have been spirited but restrained in comparison to previous eras with a series of free elections confirming the people’s desire for democracy.