Ecuador's pre-Columbian peoples excelled
painting, sculpture, and gold and silver work. The Spaniards
trained indigenous artists to produce colonial religious art, which can
be seen in many churches and museums. The Quito School of the 17th and
18th centuries combined these two influences but was replaced by
formalism after independence, which favored subjects such as heroes of
the revolution and members of high society.
Ecuador's colonial religious architecture
is predominantly baroque, although domestic architecture tends to be
simple and elegant, comprising whitewashed verandahed houses built
around a central courtyard. Traditional Andean music has a distinctive
haunting quality based on an unusual pentatonic scale. Wind and
percussion instruments, including bamboo panpipes and flutes, are
staples of the sound. Local crafts include fine examples of basketry,
leather work, woodcarving, weaving, ceramics and jewelry.
About 40% of Ecuador's present population
are Indians, and another 40% are mestizos. The ethnicity of the coastal
population changes from north to south. Esmeraldas has the highest
percentage of Afro-Ecuadorians of any province, and it also has several
Indian tribes upriver from the coast. Further south, the population is
more mestizo - the typical Spanish-Indian mix prevalent through Latin
The predominant religion is Roman
Catholic, but there is a scattering of other Christian faiths.
Indigenous Ecuadorians, while outwardly Catholic, tend to blend
Catholicism with their traditional beliefs. Spanish is the main
language, although most highland Indians are bilingual, with Quechua
being their preferred language and Spanish their second tongue. Several
small lowland groups speak their own languages. English is understood in
the best hotels and in airline offices and travel agencies, but it's of
little use elsewhere.
Ecuadorian food consists mainly of soup
and stews, corn pancakes, rice, eggs and vegetables. Seafood is
particularly good, even in the highlands. Local specialties include caldo
de pates, a soup made from cattle hooves; cuy, whole roasted
guinea pig; and lechón, suckling pig. Guayaquil, the heart of
the south coast, has the gamut of cuisines. Patacones, fried
plantain chips, are a favorite side dish of the coastal dwellers.