In the early 16th century the Spanish discovered and subsequently conquered Ecuador. Over the next two centuries Spanish Colonial rule in this New World spread. Sadly, the Spanish unintentionally brought with them smallpox and measles, diseases that, over time, all but wiped out much of the indigenous Indian population.
After suffering a severe depression throughout most of the eighteenth century, and with Ecuador's cities gradually falling into ruins, the thoughts of independence were in the wind.
That struggle for freedom was bloody, difficult and very long, but independence was finally achieved in 1830, and over the next 140 years a series of military and political groups ruled the land.
Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999.
Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability, as seven presidents have governed Ecuador since 1996.
Quito, the capital, is the political center, while Guayaquil is the commercial hub. The world-famous Galapagos Islands (a territory of Ecuador) are positioned about 600 miles to its west.
The indigenous populations mixed with those of European descent give Ecuador a unique cultural texture. It's a very friendly country, known for warm, welcoming hospitality.