When I first travelled through Ecuador for two and a half weeks in July 2012, I was enchanted by its diverse scenery, warm-hearted people, and fascinating culture. I am happy to have been calling Ecuador my home for the past nearly two years.
Ecuador is a nation of about fifteen and a half million people and is roughly the size of Colorado. It is located on the Pacific Coast of South America, wedged between Colombia, Peru, and the vast Amazon rainforest of Brazil to the east. I am living in Sangolquí, a city just 40 minutes outside of the nation’s sprawling capital of Quito. Quito is nestled into the Andes mountains, and sits at an elevation of 9,530 feet above sea level.
Politically, Ecuador has a representative democracy and has been relatively stable since the start of the 2000s. However, Ecuador has had over twenty different constitutions in its history, pointing towards their chronic instability and lack of commitment to democratic and constitutional principles. Their current president is Rafael Correa, who was re-elected for his third presidental term in February 2013.
The need for development programs here is very real. About 28% of the population live below the line of poverty, and the country has seen more than its fair share of economic troubles in the past. In 2000/2001, Ecuador experienced an extreme recession and a period of hyperinflation, leading politicians to peg their currency to the U.S. dollar to stabilize the economy. While this temporarily crippled the economy even further, this policy has prevented any further issues of hyperinflation, and the nation still uses the U.S. dollar as its currency today.