So how did Ecuador become the country it is today: a home to 16 million people and even more animals, resulting in a bigger biodiversity per square mile than any other country around the world? Well, it all started with a variety of indigenous peoples who slowly started to interact and form tribes and communities, and finally confederations. In fact, these confederations were so well organized that the Incans had such a hard time taking the region over that it took them a good two generations of rulers to do so - and they still had to deport some confederations to closeby countries that showed too much resistance. Interestingly, natives living in the coastal regions and Amazon jungle were so hostile that the Incans found it impossible to conquer them, leaving those areas mostly to themselves until the Spaniards arrived. Some Incan ruins dating back to the late 15th century can still be found in Ingapirca, near Cuenca, including a Temple of the Sun.

While the Inca invasion was brutal, the Spanish one was even worse: torture, pillaging, looting, and the results of importing European diseases, the natives had no immunity against left the population shrinking. When Pizarro, a Spanish conqueror, arrived with his men in the first third of the 16th century, Ecuador had just suffered from a civil war for the throne between two rivaling brothers. As the new Emperor refused to submit to the Spanish crown and Catholic God, he was imprisoned and later executed. Thousands of Inca defenders lost their lives that day, being slaughtered by the Spanish soldiers. What followed were nearly two decades of rebellions, resistance, and assassinations, before the Spaniards were able to develop a peaceful colonial rule. Although “peaceful” is relative, considering that almost have the population had to endure forced labor and slavery and were subject to Christianization.        

1820 marks the year that the criollos (people of Spanish descent but born in Ecuador) were finally able to accumulate enough force to achieve independence from Spain with the help of Venezuela and Argentina, starting in the city of Guayaquil. By 1822, Quito had been conquered and Ecuador was officially an independent country. Three decades later slavery was put an end to. For a brief period of time, Ecuador joined the Republic of Gran Colombia, which was followed by a quite one-sided war against Columbia, resulting in the Ecuadorian government reluctantly making peace with Columbia.

What followed was a phase of Conservative reign, a bloody civil war led by the Catholic Church resulting in the victory of the liberals and a coup d’état marking the end of the Liberal rule in the early 20th century, paired with a serious economic depression. Things were made even more complicated by the constant struggle of Ecuador and its surrounding neighbour countries to define the borders. It wasn’t until June 17, 1999, that Peru and Ecuador finally came to an agreement of the area distribution and borders, putting an end to a 170 year long war-infused and fruitless negotiation rich struggle for land possession. In 1979, the country returned to democracy, ending a decade long series of dictatorships.