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History of Ecuador

Archaeologists trace the first settlers in Ecuador to 10,000 BC. They were hunters and gatherers. Agricultural communities established themselves by 3000 BC as is proved by the priceless pottery discovered recently along the coast of Ecuador. They developed trade routes with tribes from nearby Peru, Brazil and the Amazon. By 500 BC they were trading with the Mayans of Mexico and had established large coastal cities and excellent navigational skills. The civilization at Ecuador prospered and in 1460 AD was powerful enough to repel the invading Inca but was ultimately defeated by the Inca king, Huayna Capac. The Incas originated in Peru and extended their control to Bolivia and central Chile within a century. They built huge monumental cities and connected them with wide, stone-paved highways hundreds of miles long. After conquering Ecuador, King Huayna Capac indoctrinated the tribes to Quechua, the language of the Incas, which is still widely spoken in Ecuador. To celebrate his victory over Ecuador, Huayna Capac ordered that a great city be built near present day Cuenca. The newly constructed city, Tomebamba, actually rivals the Inca capital of Cuzco (Peru).

When he died in 1526, Huayna Capac divided the Inca Empire between his two sons, Atahualpa and Huascar. Atahualpa ruled the northern reaches from Tomebamba, while Huascar held court over the south from Cuzco (Peru). The brothers soon entered into a civil war for control of the Inca Empire, which was when the Spaniards arrived. The Spaniards spread terror among the Indians with their horses, armor and weapons. Atahualpa was ambushed, held for ransom, and executed. The rule of the Incas was effectively over. Quito held out for two years and was finally destroyed by Atahualpa's general. The Incas destroyed the glorious city they had built rather than handing it over to the Spaniards. The city was rebuilt in 1534. Today Ingapirca is the only intact Inca site in Ecuador.

Francisco Pizarro, the Spaniard, landed in Ecuador in 1532 with 180 men and a lust for gold. There were no major uprisings by the Ecuadorian Indians, though their life was abysmal under the Spanish. The colony was ruled from Peru until 1739, when power was transferred to the viceroyalty of Colombia. . The Spanish also forced their religion and language on the natives. An emerging middle class supported several attempts to liberate Ecuador from Spanish rule. Independence was finally won in 1822, when South American liberator, Simon Bolivar, defeated a Spanish army at the Battle of Pichincha. Bolivar united Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, forming the republic of Gran Colombia. His plan was to eventually unite all South America as a constitutional republic; however, local interests soon led Ecuador to secede from the union in 1830. A long period of strife and instability followed and dictators and the army played an important role in running the country. During the first century of its independence, Ecuador changed its constitution 13 times and only few of its presidents managed to serve a full four-year term.

In 1941, Peru invaded Ecuador, seizing much of the country's Amazonian area. The area is still in dispute, though fighting has subsided for now. Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979 and free elections have continued since.

Ecuador has remained peaceful in recent years and is presently one of the safest countries to visit in South America. Independent Ecuador has seen a great deal of turmoil due to the differences existing between liberals and conservatives. Jamil Mahuad is the present President. A financial crisis in March 1999 resulted in riots and the government had to declare an emergency in the country.

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