Ecuador: A Virtual Paradise

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
Ecuador: A Virtual Paradise

(Morgan Wright, daughter of Steve and Donna Wright of Randall, is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer leader in Ecuador, South America. She has agreed to correspond with the Story City Herald on a regular basis. This is her third story submission, and in this article Morgan gives specific details about the country of Ecuador. Her previous stories appeared in the July 31 and October 2 issues of the Herald.)

—by Morgan Wright

As I have been writing these articles to share with everyone back home about my experience here in Ecuador, I feel that it is also very important to share the details about the country I am serving. Ecuador is such an amazing country with its rich traditions, friendly people and diverse ecosystems, with so much to offer, and it really has become my second home.

Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America (about the size of Colorado), but one of the most bio-diverse. Ecuador is home to over 1,600 bird species within the mainland, and 38 more species endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Also the country hosts over 16,000 species of plants, 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterflies. Ecuador is considered the country with the most bio-diversity per square kilometer in the world.

The country is split up into 24 provinces and divided into four distinct regions; the Andes mountains, the coastal region, the jungle, and the Galapagos Islands. Not only is each of these regions different climatically, offering distinct flora and fauna, but they also play host to unique peoples, cultures and traditions.

The Andes Mountains run down the middle of the country, dividing it into three regions, from west to east. This area of the country is known by the locals as La Sierra. The highest peak in Ecuador is a volcano named Chimborazo with its summit of 6,310 meters. Also found in La Sierra is the capital of the country, Quito, with a population of over 2 million people. The Andes region is home to many indigenous groups, with the biggest group being the Quichua. The majority of these peoples can be found in the areas of Otavalo, Riobamba, and Cuenca. The typical dress for Quichua women consists of a traditional peasant dress, which is a mixture of styles from Pre-Spanish days and is worn with a bowler style hat. The typical dress of a man consists of wool pants with a red poncho decorated with intricate designs.

To the East of the Andes Mountains lies the Amazon Basin. These eastern lowlands are known as El Oriente, and are part of the enormous Amazon River basin of South America. The region consists of low mountain ranges, tropical rainforest, large navigable rivers, over half of the population of flora and fauna found in the country, and home to many indigenous tribes and groups. The most represented groups include; Shuar, Ashuar, Huaorani, and Quichua. Members of these groups can be found all throughout the jungle region. The typical dress of these indigenous peoples consists of local seeds made into jewelry and face painting also made from local seeds. The Shuar of Ecuador are a proud indigenous group of fierce warriors who were once known for a practice called La Tsantsa, which is a process for shrinking the heads of slain enemies. Though now they live peacefully in the Oriente region.

To the West of the Andes Mountains lies the Pacific coastal region of the country, known as La Costa. This region is a broad alluvial plain drained by several rivers. Much of this region is densely populated and given over to large-scale agriculture. The biggest city in the country, Guayaquil is found in the southern part of La Costa. It is a central hub for the country with its many industries and shipping ports for exporting the countries goods. The most represented indigenous group to the coastal region is the Tsachilias. This group of people comes from the province of Santo Domingo. They are often identified by their red colored hair and seed jewelry. They paint their hair red with the seeds from the local achoite plant.

Lastly, around 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador’s mainland, one can encounter the Galapagos Islands. Well known because of the research by scientist Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands. There are eight main islands, six smaller islands, and many islets. These islands are home to over 56 species of birds, 1,000 species of insects, and more than 450 species of fish, and, of course, the famous Galapagos tortoises. These islands are a great source of income for the country.

Ecuador really does have it all, and should be considered a paradise. From its rich traditions, and cultures, to the mega diversity in plant and animal life, everything a person could want is within the Ecuadorian borders. I have truly enjoyed my time in this country and have been to all of the regions, except for the Galapagos. I have never been let down, or ceased to learn or see something new and exciting on my travels. Even though I have been here almost three years I still have not seen all of the wonders this country has to offer. I highly recommend visiting this majestic country and experiencing all of the wonders it has to offer.

If you would like to contact Morgan directly for any questions or comments she can be reached through her email at: morganlwright@gmail.com

Coming in Morgan’s next article: The successes and hard times of a Peace Corps Volunteer.