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Ecuador's pre-Columbian peoples excelled in pottery, 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 America.


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.