Ecuador, a country of approximately 13.9 million inhabitants, straddles the equator (for which it is named) on the Pacific coast of South America, bordered on the north by Colombia and on the south and southeast by Peru. The country is split, geographically and culturally, into three distinct regions. The lowlands along the Pacific coast have a Spanish-speaking, mainly mestizo (mixed indigenous and European heritage) population. The Andean highlands that constitute the central region of Ecuador are home to a population of predominantly indigenous descent, many members of which speak Kechwa, a dialect of the Incan imperial language Quechua, either exclusively or in addition to Spanish. In the Amazonian basin in the east, the site of much of Ecuador's sizable petroleum reserves, a number of small ...

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