Latin Cultures

by Sean N. Bennett

Ecuadorian Culture


  • Sean N. Bennett, RN, MSN - Associate Professor - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah
  • Katie L. Buxton, RN, BSN - Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Dorothy Duncan, RN - Salt Lake City


  • .


The population of Ecuador is close to 14 million (9). It is divided between the Coast and the Sierra. Ecuador is 109,493 square miles (283,600 square kilometers; approximately the size of Oregon); it is located in western South America, the second smallest South American nation. Two cordilleras separate the nation into coast, Andean, and Amazonian regions. The nation is bordered on the north by Colombia and on the east and south by Peru. The coastal region ranges from a tropical rain forest in the north to a mixture of wet-dry monsoon region for the rest of the region (9). The Andes region has numerous snow-capped volcanic mountains, overshadowed by Chimborazo (20,596 feet; 6,278 meters) and Cotopaxi (19,613 feet; 5,978 meters) (9). Rich, fertile valleys, or basins, lie in the inter-Andean region, Corridor of the Volcanoes. The Amazonian region consists of only about 6 percent of the nation’s population (9). Guayaquil, the major coastal city is populated with nearly four million people, and the Andean capital, Quito, which consist of two million people.


Ecuador’s history and culture is as diverse as the land in the country itself. Ecuadorian culture blends the traditions of the native cultures that originated there as well as the culture of that Spanish colonialism brought to the area. Archeologists have traced the first signs of humans in the area back to 10,000 BC. In 3200 BC there were three distinct peoples residing in what is now known as Ecuador. And by 500 BC large cities existed along the Pacific coast, the people that inhabited these cities were very sophisticated as evidenced by their metalworking, construction and navigational skills. In 1460 AD the three major tribes in Ecuador (the Canari, The Quitu, and the Caras) were powerful enough to put up a good fight and keep their ground when invaded by the Incan ruler Tupac. The Ecuadorian tribes however, were not so lucky when Tupac’s son Huayna Capac invaded several years later. Huayna Capac conquered Ecuador and converted the tribes to Quechua, the language of the Incas. When it came time for Huayna Capac to give the massive kingdom he had conquered to his heir, he chose to split the empire in two and give half to each of his sons. This proved to be a great for Francisco Pizzaro who would land in Ecuador several years later. Capacs sons feuded with each other and had just finished a civil war amongst the Incan people right before Pizzaro landed in 1532. The Incas were still reeling from the war, which gave Pizzaro the upper hand. Pizzaro was able to conquer the Incan people with a mere 180 men. The Spanish ruled Ecuador for approximately 300 years. The Spanish introduced such things to the Ecuadorians as, Roman Catholicism, the Spanish language, and colonial architecture. Independence from the Spaniards happened in 1822 when the famed liberator Simon Bolivar defeated the Spanish in the battle of Pichincha. This united Ecuador with Columbia and Venezuela which was known as the state of Gran Columbia. Bolivar’s plan was to eventually join all of South America into a constitutional republic. However this did not happen and after 8 years of being part of Gran Columbia, Ecuador seceded from the union. In more recent history it should be noted that the two largest cities in Ecuador, Quito and Guayaquil have had a longstanding dispute between them that has erupted into violence several times. Military dictators ruled the country after the turn of the century until 1979 when Ecuador became a democracy. The current president of Ecuador is Rafael Correa.


Symbolism Identity as Ecuadorian has many of representations. La patria (“the motherland”) is balanced by el pais, “the fatherland” (country) (9). The people look to the government for sustenance and protection and also expect corruption. When the government does not serve the people, they rise up together as one. The familiar communal chant during such uprisings is “the united people will never be defeated”. The feminine concept of la nacion (“nation”) is weaker than the other two as is the combined ides of a “nation-state”. “Governability” is another key symbol in Ecuador, and every leader has stated that Ecuador is very complicated to govern, or that governability is unattainable (9). The national flag emerged in the union of Gran Colombia in 1820’s (9). The broad horizontal yellow stripe represents the sun, fountain of all natural abundance; the red stripe is for the blood of the heroes who fell in the making of a nation (specifically those who died in Quito), and the central blue strip is for the sky (9). The national coat of arms, part of the national flag, features the union of Coast and Sierra. The condor, the national bird, is on top of the coat of arms. In the 1960’s the Central Bank of Ecuador took as its symbol a golden sun mask from the La Tolita archaeological culture of Esmeraldes Province (9). One of Ecuador’s most powerful combined symbols appears on some official stationeries and in many other places, is “Ecaudor has been, is, and will be, an Amazonian country” (9). This slogan arose after Peru attacked Ecuador in the war of 1941. Following the wars in 1981 and 1995, the boundary dispute was resolved in October 1998. An acceptance of the treaty, Ecuadorians all over the place reported feeling as though a limb had been amputated from the shared body of el pais long after the Peruvian violation of la patria. On May 1999, presidents Jamil Mahuad and Alberto Fujimori presented a new symbol of unity-the Spondylus shell- evidence of ancient long distance trade between the native peoples of Ecuador and Peru-renewing their nations’ cooperation in development and prosperity (9). The national anthem is played and sung in many of its verses at all public gatherings in every setting. Every television station signs on with the national anthem, often along with pictures of the national flag flying and the golden sun mask radiating. There are two key symbols that represent cultural, biological centralization and homogenization and diversification, human integrity, and dignity. The first refers to a body of blended Ecuadorians who occupy the middle to lower classes. It is met constantly by the second symbol of nacionalidad (“nationality”) which refers to being culturally distinct in an oppressive nationalist state (9). National Identity National identity emerged historically in several segments. The elites and the upper-class, along with ideologues in the military and the press, use the concept of “blanco mestizo” to both identify with the masses, and to affirm their distance from the masses (9). The elites have a concept of “good people-people of good or proper background”. They are tribute by new elite that sometimes is known as gente de bienes (“rich people”) (9). The concept of sociedad (“society”) refers to the old elite, both internally and among the new rich (9). Music is a very important part of the Ecuadorean culture. The music of the Ecuadorean people reflects the diversity of their history and landscape, one can hear a mixture of country, Afircan rthym, Andean music and the indigenous music of the jungle people.

Values and Norms

Traditions, Beliefs and Attitudes


Nearly 1330 different religious groups exist in Ecuador. Roman Catholicism is by far the most dominant of these. The Roman Catholic church is so dominant in Ecuador it is actually considered to be one of the three pillars of society, (the other two being government and military). In 1998 it was estimated that over 90% of the Ecuadorian population claimed Roman Catholicism as their religion of choice. Baptists, Methodists, Protestants and Anglicans make up another 2% of the population. Other denominations include Mormonism, Lutherans, Jehovah’s witnesses, Bhuddists, Jews, Muslims, followers of Inti (the Incan sun God) and Itzachilatan. Sunday is considered a Sabbath day and recently it was made into law that no alcohol can be bought or sold in Ecuador on Sunday

Sense of Self and Space

Communication Style and Language

Spanish, called castellano, is the official Ecuadorian language. According to the 1998 constitution, the state guarantees the system of bilingual, intercultural education that uses the principal language of a specific culture and Spanish is the dialect of intercultural relations (9). The original nationalities speak various languages that belong to different linguistic families. Quichua is spoken by most indigenous people in the Sierra and by the largest native group in Amazonia (9). Quechua has twelve million speakers ranging from southern Columbia to Argentina in the Andes, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru in Amazonia (9). It is the largest Native American language. The display of emotions in Ecuador is quite bold. It is not uncommon to see such emotions as anger, sadness or joy expressed in public which is a significant contrast from what one would experience in the United states. Also it is important to mention that a common greeting for coming or going is a kiss on either cheek.

Food and Feeding Habits

Ecuador is blessed with a rich landscape which provides the perfect areas to grow a variety of different native foods. The three main regions of Ecuador are the coastal region which brings in a large array of seafood to dine on, the highlands which are the breeding ground for the traditional Andean crops of quinoa, chia, potatoes, corn and many other grains, and lastly the tropical region which spawns many different exotic fruits. In Ecuador, lunch is considered to be the most important meal of the day. It is usually a big meal and traditionally is shared with family and friends.

Time Consciousness

As with the other Latin American countries, the sense of time in Ecuador is a very relaxed one when compared to a person from the United States sense of time. Being fashionably late is almost a national trait in Ecuador, thus patience is a vital trait to have when working with those in the Ecuadorian culture

Relationships and Social Organization

Ecuador has a patriarchal society, this means that men and women take on more traditional roles in the family and in the workplace. Men typically take on the role of providing for the family and working in the workplace and women take on the role of rearing children and working in the home. It is also common to have two or three generations living in the same home. Children typically do not leave their parents homes until they are ready for marriage, and even then they will sometimes stay depending on the financial circumstances. Although Ecuador traditionally has this patriarchal society today the influence of North America can bee seen and some of these traditional roles dividing lines are blurring. Meaning women are leaving the home and entering the workplace, which also means its becoming slightly more frequent to see women in roles that traditionally were for men. Division of Labor In the upper and middle classes, family connections and higher education are extremely important for important participation in many professional, powerful, political figures (9). Manual labor opportunities are often controlled by labor bosses, who recruit among poor people and illegally take a portion of the workers’ wages (9). This system, known as enganche, exploits black and indigenous people, they’re set against low-class and usually unionized mestizo workers. People have multiple means of labor recruitment including community based minga, in which everyone pitches in which everyone assists in to accomplish a task. Social Welfare National welfare programs, consist of a social security system with extensive health-care components, exist (9). It is common for a program to be established with inadequate funding. A program without funding is everywhere, and the cultural image reflects economic reality. The failure of the social security system has provoked numerous protests for reform (9).

Education and Learning

Work Habits and Practices


Currently, Ecuador is experiencing a big change in the healthcare department, the current president has changed the healthcare system to a social type system where healthcare is free. This has not occurred without some mishaps along the way. Many Ecuadoreans do not trust this new system and choose to pay out of pocket for what they believe is better healthcare elsewhere. In the hospitals it is common to have a separate section, more private and up do date, for those patients who are paying for their services. It is also common to see in the hospitals and clinics people lined up and waiting all day to try and get an appointment. Waiting lists are in place for many different types of treatment, however if one wishes to pay they often do not have to wait for care. Western type healthcare delivery exists mainly in the big cities, smaller cities rarely have access to western type healthcare. If a person contracts a serious disease and wishes to be treated with western medicine they will often move to one of the large cities to receive healthcare. If a person sustains a serious injury or illness in a rural area then such things as religious treatments, shamanism, and home remedies are common types of treatments. Traditional and alternative medicines were recognized in the constitutional reform of 1998. Amazonian Quichua shamans and coastal Tscháchila healers are considered to be the most powerful healers. It should also be noted that the use of soul vine or Banisteriopsis caapi, also known as Ayhuasca is wide spread in this region. Ayahuasca has become so popular it has gained the attention of pharmaceutical companies, and international tourists. Many pharmacies exist in Ecuador, and because of the lack of accessibility to physicians many pharmacists take on the role of diagnosing their customers. Most all medications can be purchased at a pharmacy without a prescription but many pharmacies are very limited in there supply. In larger, well stocked, government pharmacies armed guards are part of the staff. Because of the lack of supply of medicine much small quantities of medicine are also available for sale as compared to what is available in the United States. . . As a Registered Nurse (RN), it would be important to recognize: 1. Ecuadorean culture is very family centered so when caring for one of this culture keep in mind that they may have many visitors 2. Ecuadorean culture while in the hospital is typically in a one room ward setting so visitors may not be very conscientious of noise levels.

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External Links











9. Culture of Ecuador. (n.d.). Retrieved June, from Countries and Their Cultures: Ga/Ecuador.html#b