By any standards, Ecuador is considered
ethnically diverse. The breakdown of the population is as follows:
mestizo (mixed blood, 65%), Amerindians (25%), Euro-Americans
(6%), Afro-Americans (3%), and Oriental (1%). Further, Ecuador's Amerindians
are divided into 12 distinct indigenous nationalities.
Culturally, Ecuador is a breath of fresh air thanks
to the indigenous communities. Each community, in its own way, struggles
to distinguish itself from the cultural homogeneity of European-Spanish
consumer culture. Conserving almost all of their traditions, today
they astutely lean on the tenets of democracy and the rule of law
to preserve their forebear's territories and beliefs.
With the arrival of the Spaniards onto the shores of
the New World, two separate societies emerged-- the colonist and the
native society. The former has historically tried to displace the
latter, and it has only been recently that the state has made efforts
towards stopping this cultural violation.
In the constitution of 1996, Ecuador's Amerindians finally received
appropriate political recognition from the State. The official recognition
designated Ecuador as a country that is pluri-cultural and multiethnic.
Further, since 1998, ten languages that belong to these indigenous
communities have been recognized by the state as offical languages.
Another group which is culturally and ethnically important
for Ecuador are the Afro-Americans. Afro-Americans were brought to
Ecuador in the 16th and 17th century as slaves. After achieving their
freedom, Afro-Ecuadorians have carved out their own special culture
as rich as any in Ecuador. However, their struggle for a fair share
of the country's wealth and for their rights as citizens is not as
well organized as the Amerindians. Unfortunately, deep-seeded prejudices
still exist in Ecuadorian society.
In this section we will learn more about each of these
ethnic groups and their struggles to survive in a globalized world.