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People, Language & Religion


Ecuador's population is ethnically diverse. The largest ethnic group, as of 2007, is the Mestizos, who are the mixed descendants of Spanish colonists and indigenous Indians and who constitute 62% of the population. Amerindians account for around 25% of the current population. Whites, mainly Criollos, the unmixed descendants of early Spanish colonists, as well as immigrants from other European countries, account for about 10%. The small Afro-Ecuadorian minority, including Mulattos and Zambos, largely based in Esmeraldas and Imbabura provinces, make up 5%.

The Amazon Basin is inhabited by many primitive tribes, including the Jívaros, once famous for their shrunken-head war trophies, and the Záparos, Aucas, Secoyas and Cofanes. In the early 1980s, the tribes were organised in the Federación Shuar, which seeks to preserve their cultural identities.


The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, spoken by about 93% of the population. The Spanish of the coastal areas is similar to that of the other lowland areas of Latin America, maintaining something of the Andalusian characteristics, especially the dropping or slurring of the consonants represented by s and d. In the isolated highlands, a more precise Castilian pronunciation is found, but many words and even some of the singsong intonations of Quechua, the Amerindian language, have crept into the Spanish.

Nearly 7% of the total population speak only Quichua, a dialect of the Quechua language, while another 6% speak it in addition to Spanish. Quechua was imposed on the Amerindians of Ecuador by the conquering Incas in the 15th century, supplanting a number of unrelated languages. Remnants of these forgotten languages are retained in many modern place names. There has been little detailed study of the languages of the jungle tribes of the Oriente.


Approximately 1,330 different religious groups, churches, societies, Christian fraternities and foundations co-exist in Ecuador. However, introduced by the Spaniards with the conquest in 1540, Roman Catholicism is by far the dominant religion. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church is considered to be one of the three pillars of society, along with the Government and the military. Approximately 85% of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholic, and 7.3% are Protestants. In the rural parts of Ecuador, indigenous beliefs and Catholicism are sometimes syncretised. Most festivals and annual parades are based on religious celebrations, many incorporating a mixture of rites and icons.

The Jewish community of Ecuador, with domicile in Quito, has about 600 members. However, this number is decreasing due to young people immigrating to study in Israel or abroad and not coming back. The community has a Jewish centre with a synagogue, a country club, a cemetery and supports the Albert Einstein School, where Jewish religion, history and Hebrew are taught. There's also a Chabad House since 2004 in Quito. There are some small communities in Riobamba, Cuenca and Ambato. There are some small percentages of Orthodox Catholics, indigenous religions, Muslims, Buddhists and Baha'i.

Animistic religions survive among the jungle Amerindians of the Oriente. Itzachilatan is one Amerindian church. Some natives are followers of Inti, the Incan sun god. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution.





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