ECUADOR & The Galápagos Islands
Tobias Idrovo attended Stellar as a foreign exchange student. Here is some general information about Ecuador.

Discover the cultures of Ecuador, not one single culture, a whole range of cultures mingled together, representing every level of this very stratified community. Ecuador's official language is Spanish, but Quichua - an Incan language - is spoken by the Indian population. Besides Spanish, ten native languages are spoken in Ecuador. English is the most spoken foreign language amongst tourist providers and professionals.

The Afro-Ecuadorians that are present in Ecuador today are famous for their marimba music and many music and dance festivals. Long before the Spanish conquered Ecuador and even before the rise of Incan civilization, the diverse native cultures of the region had rich musical traditions. Music played an important role in the ancient Andean people’s lives and archaeologists have found some very old instruments, such as, drums, flutes, trumpets and other musical artifacts, in ancient tombs.

The Ecuadorians have a distinctive type of dress code. The men and especially the woman in each region of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands can be easily identified by their dress as it is displays specific cultural diversities that are characteristic of that particular region. A major aspect of Indian identity is present in Ecuador. People that are familiar with the native dress can often tell roughly where an Indian is from, based on what they wear.
Ecuador has some very tasty and very strange combinations in their cuisine. You can expect to find some lemon marinated shrimps, toasted corn on the cob and a huge variety of pastries filled with all types of different stuffing. If you want to see an original Christmas celebration, you should go to Cuenca on the 24th of December where the Pase Del Nino is held.

---------- Discussion at Stellar with Tobias about his homeland January 2009 ------------------

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, a provice of Ecuador

THE NAME: The Galápagos Islands (Official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos, from galápago, "saddle"—after the shells of saddlebacked Galápagos tortoises)
The islands each have 2 names.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the capital of the Galápagos Province, in Ecuador. It is located along the southwestern coast of San Cristóbal, the easternmost island in the archipelago.


The islands first appeared on maps in about 1570 in those drawn by Abraham Ortelius and Mercator. The islands were called "Insulae de los Galopegos" (Islands of the Tortoises).

During World War II Ecuador authorized the United States to establish a naval base in Baltra island and radar stations in other strategic locations. Baltra was also established as a US Air Force Base at this time. Crews stationed at Baltra patrolled the Pacific for enemy submarines as well as providing protection for the Panama Canal. After the war the facilities were given to the government of Ecuador. Today the island continues as an official Ecuadorian military base. The foundations and other remains of the US base can still be seen as one crosses the island. In 1946 a penal colony was established in Isabela Island, but it was suspended in 1959.Until 1986, Baltra Airport was the only airport serving the Galápagos. Now there are two airports which receive flights from the continent, the other located on San Cristóbal Island. Private planes flying to Galapagos must fly to Baltra as it is the only airport with facilities for planes overnight.

FERNANDINA (Narborough)ISLAND: The name was given in honor of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. The famous Flightless Cormorant inhabits this island and also Galápagos Penguins, Pelicans and Sea Lions are abundant. Different types of lava flows can be compared and the Mangrove Forests can be observed.

FLOREANA (Charles or Santa María) ISLAND: It was named after Juan José Flores, the first president of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. It is also called Santa Maria after one of the caravels of Columbus. It is one of the islands with the most interesting human history and one of the earliest to be inhabited. At Post Office Bay, since the 18th century whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail could be picked up and delivered to their destination mainly Europe and the United States by ships on their way home.

GENOVESA (Tower) ISLAND: The name is derived from Genoa, Italy where it is said Columbus was born. Its nickname of “the bird island” is clearly justified. There is a large Palo Santo forest.

GALAPAGOS IGUANAISABELA (Albemarle) ISLAND (Ecuador): This island was named in honor of Queen Isabela, the largest island of the Galápagos

SAN CRISTOBAL (Chatham) ISLAND: It bears the name of the Patron Saint of seafarers, "St. Christopher". Its English name was given after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. This islands hosts frigate birds, sea lions, giant tortoises, blue and red footed boobies, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, dolphins, swallow-tailed gulls. The capital of the province of Galápagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the southern tip of the island.

SANTA CRUZ (Indefatigable) ISLAND (Galápagos): Given the name of the Holy Cross in Spanish, its English name derives from the British vessel HMS Indefatigable, hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service are located here. The GNPS and CDRS operate a tortoise breeding center here, where young tortoises are hatched, reared, and prepared to be reintroduced to their natural habitat. The Highlands of Santa Cruz offer an exuberant vegetation and are famous for the lava tunnels.

DARWIN (Culpepper) ISLAND: This island is named after Charles Darwin. The voyage of the Beagle brought the survey ship HMS Beagle under captain Robert FitzRoy to the Galápagos on September 15, 1835 to survey approaches to harbors. The captain and others on board including his companion the young naturalist Charles Darwin made a scientific study of geology and biology on Chatham, Charles, Albemarle and James islands before they left on October 20 to continue on their round-the-world expedition.

There are few places quite as facinating as the Galapagos. The intention of this web site is to provide information on the Galapagos Islands to both scientists and non-scientists alike. Charles Darwin was the first geologist to explore the Galapagos. While the emphasis of this web site is on geology, we too have found Galapagos wildlife difficult to ignore, so you will find many images and observations on biology, as well as geology, on this site.

The Charles Darwin Foundation publishes a regularly updated online repository of all known species from the Galapagos Islands. An important milestone towards a better, comprehensive understanding of the unique Galapagos biodiversity, new species are still being discovered in the Galapagos, and new records will continue to be added.
In 1959, Ecuador designated 97% of the land area of Galapagos as a National Park, and then in 1986 the Galapagos Marine Resources Reserve was established, protecting the waters around the archipelago. The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) was contracted by the Government of Ecuador to provide the scientific input into the management of the Galapagos National Park.


Galapagos had no aboriginal inhabitants and was only officially discovered in 1535 by Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, when his ship was becalmed and carried there by currents.

The first English captain to visit the Galápagos Islands was Richard Hawkins, in 1593.

The Galapagos Islands were dubbed the "Enchanted Islands" by 1589. From then up until the end of the 1600s, the English realized the potential of the Islands as an ideal base for ambushing Spanish galleons passing through. In other words, pirates took over the islands and used the area as a center of taking loot from the Spanish. Until the early 19th century, the archipelago was often used as a hideout by mostly English pirates who pilfered Spanish galleons carrying gold and silver from South America to Spain.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, buccaneers and pirates used the islands as a staging post, stocking up on water and giant tortoises which they stowed alive on board their ships for fresh meat, before carrying out raids on the South American coast.

It was also an ideal spot for stocking up on food and water, especially the giant tortoise, whose meat they needed to survive their long ocean voyages.

Then in the latter half of the era of British naval domination, late eighteenth century through latter part of the nineteenth century, English whalers re-discovered the Islands. Unlike the Spanish, they weren't seeking the new world or the fountain of youth or even gold. They were following whales. Since whales migrate to the Galapagos Islands in order to breed, they led the whalers right to the chain of Enchanted Islands. Whalers also arrived from the U.S. and brought back large stores of whale oil, seal lion skins and the unlucky tortoises by the hundreds.

Alexander Selkirk, whose adventures in Juan Fernández Islands inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, visited the Galápagos in 1708 after he was picked up from Juan Fernández by the privateer Woodes Rogers. Rogers was refitting his ships in the islands after sacking Guayaquil.

ANNEXED: During the 19th century whalers and fur sealers further exploited the islands. Galapagos was annexed by Ecuador in 1832 and small colonies were gradually established on several of the islands.

NORWEGIANS: In the beginning of the 20th Century, Floreana turned into the Promised Land for many Norwegians who were influenced by the Ecuadorian consul in Oslo at that time, August Cristiansen. A dream that didn’t last very long. In the mid 20’s the colony of Floreana (the Norwegian village) of the island was no more than a collection of small houses. In those days, some Germans decided to try their fortune. The first to arrive was Friedrich Ritter. This medical doctor from Berlin arrived at the island in 1929 accompanied by Dore Strauch. For almost three years they were the only permanent inhabitants of the island. Its tranquility was disturbed only rarely by occasional visitors. In 1932, other Germans arrived looking for a better life, Margaret and Heinz Wittmer (and their son Harry). Several months later the extravagant baroness arrived accompanied by her 3 lovers. In the years that followed, Floreana was the scene of mysterious disappearances like the one of the baroness and one of her lovers. In the 1930's several mysterious deaths and disappearances among the European community on the island of Floreana put Galapagos in the news.

The first governor of Galápagos, General José de Villamil, brought a group of convicts to populate the island of Floreana and in October 1832 some artisans and farmers joined.

José Valdizán and Manuel Julián Cobos tried a new colonization, beginning the exploitation of a type of lichen found in the islands (Roccella portentosa) used as a coloring agent. After the assassination of Valdizán by some of his workers, Cobos brought from the continent a group of more than a hundred workers to San Cristóbal island and tried his luck at planting sugar cane. He ruled in his plantation with an iron hand which lead to his assassination in 1904. Since 1897 Antonio Gil began another plantation in Isabela island.

Tobias' father arranged for the restoration of the plantation of Jose Valdizan.

Scientific American Frontiers invites you to join us on our expedition to the Galapagos Islands! Host Alan Alda, the Frontiers crew, scientists, and School Program ambassadors Sherri Steward and Mandy Williams took an exciting voyage to the Galapagos, December 6-12, 1998. The cyber field trip is archived on this website.

maps, history, information

---------end - discussion ------------------------

a photographic journal of weaving

One of the most important Ecuadorian traditions is held on November 7 th. It is The Mama Negra celebration (Black Mother) in the city of Latacunga, this is one of the major celebrations in Ecuador.Also here there are big and colorful parades.

On November the 1 st and 2 nd the Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead) is commemorated. Every family in Ecuador goes to the cemeteries to leave flowers and visit the family members who have died. Indians have the tradition of taking food into the cemeteries to symbolically feed the dead. A drink called the Colada Morada (a thick blackberry-fruit drink) is served during these dates.

Carnival is also among Ecuador traditions. It is celebrated in every corner of Ecuador during March or April (exact date depends on the religious calendar) big parties take place in every major city with outstanding parades. It is traditional to see people throwing water to each other. The Beaches in Ecuador are crowded during Carnival. The city of Ambato is where the feast of the flowers and fruits takes place during Carnival. "No water is thrown" in this city and of course a big parade is also part of the celebrations. Ecuadorians enjoy 4 days of vacation.

Holy Week is a religious (Catholic) celebration. It is celebrated in April and an enormous parade is held in honor of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The typical dish served during this week is the Delicious Fanesca

Quito Foundation: The Spanish culture is present during this Ecuador tradition. There are a wide range of parades, bullfights and parties that take place on the streets.

One of the most singular and colorful traditions in the city of Quito is to ride on top of the Chivas, these are open buses with no windows or doors.

A brass band is placed at the roof playing music loudly, the bus is crowded with happy people singing and drinking riding all around the city.

Ecuador is known for its fabulous exotic fruits, high quality fish and seafood, and the countless varieties of Andean potatoes. Across the country you'll find a broad spectrum of national and regional dishes, including lemon-marinated shrimp, toasted corn, and pastries stuffed with spiced meats. If you're feeling courageous, you can put your culinary bravery to the test with roasted cuy (guinea pig) or tronquito (bull penis soup).

For those on a budget, the best way to stretch your money is to take advantage of set plate meals, an Ecuadorian institution in many restaurants. Lunches (almuerzos) and dinners (meriendas) usually give you a soup, main course (including meat), and dessert for around USD 1.00. Vegetarian versions are often available upon request.

At only pennies per bite, bakeries offer a delicious range of breads, sweet pastries, and savory snacks, such as empanadas (hot, crispy meat or cheese-filled pastries) and llapingachos (potato and cheese pancakes). Dishes sold in the street are also quite cheap, but hygiene is often questionable, and you may quickly surpass your intestinal limits. A good rule to follow is the "locals rule" -- if the place is frequented by many locals, the food probably merits joining the crowd.

The regular diet of rice, potatoes, and meat (beef and chicken everywhere, pork in the Sierra) is complimented by another national culinary institution, aji (hot sauce). Most Ecuadorian restaurants and homes have their own version of aji, each with its own intensity of "picante" (a word derived from the verb to bite or to sting), so sample a bit before smothering your food! If you don't see a little bowl of aji on your table, just ask they´ve surely got it. In addition to aji, basic dishes are usually accompanied by the proverbial rice, small salad, and potatoes or patacones (squashed, fried green bananas). On the coast and in the Amazon, potatoes are often supplemented or replaced by menestra (beans or lentils) or yuca.

Soups are without doubt Ecuador's specialty. Most lunches and dinners are accompanied by a savory soup as the first course. Locro soup, made with cheese, avocado and potato, sounds a bit odd, but is actually quite tasty. Chupe de pescado, a fish and vegetable soup with coastal origins, is becoming popular throughout the country. Bolder diners can try yaguarlocro, a potato soup made with sprinkings of blood. Those ready to throw their inhibitions completely to the wind should dip their spoon into caldo de pata, a broth containing chunks of boiled cow hooves, considered a delicacy by locals and believed by hopeful men to increase virility.


Seafood is popular and plentiful throughout Ecuador. Lobster dinners can be enjoyed along the coast and in major cities for very low prices. In Esmeraldas province on the northern coast, your tastebuds will happily discover a new culinary twist with "encocados," seafood dishes prepared in coconut milk.

The signature dish of the country, however, is ceviche, a seafood dish marinated in lemon and onions -- Ecuador's answer to sushi. Unlike sushi however, Ecuadorian ceviche is always dished up with popcorn! Ceviche can be made of fish (de pescado), shrimp (de camarones), shellfish (de concha), squid (de calamari), or all of the above (mixta).


Vegetarians will be pleasantly surprised by the wide selection of vegetarian options in Quito, Otavalo, and Baños. Don't expect too many menu options outside of these three cities, however. You will often find yourself ordering "pollo sin pollo" -- the chicken plate without the chicken. You may get a few raised eyebrows, but at least your meal will be meat-free.

International Cuisine

As an up-and-coming cosmopolitan city, Quito also offers a good selection of international cuisine. If you fancy Argentinean steak, Italian pasta, Japanese sushi, or French fondue, you won't be disappointed. Expect prices substansially lower than those in the United States or Europe. Chinese, Mexican, Cuban, Arabic, Indian, and vegetarian meals are available in Quito at reasonable prices. Outside of Quito and Guayaquil, only Baños offers a good mixture of international cuisine.

Vocabulary of food preparation:

A la brasa: grilled
Al vapor: steamed
Apanado: batter-fried/breaded
Brosterizado: deep-fried
Encocado: stewed in coconut
Frito: pan-fried
Hornado: roasted
Reventado: skillet-fried
Seco: stewed meat plate

With the mouthwatering exotic fruits of Ecuador come delicious fruit juices, (jugos) including naranjilla (a cross between an orange and a tomato), tree tomato, mora (blackberry), guanabana (a luscious thick aromatic sweet white juice), maracuya (passion fruit) and papaya.


Llapingachos (Potato Cakes)
Bolon (fried plantain)
3 Leches Cake (sweet milk soaked cake)
taquitos (beef very popular)
Lomo en Jugo de Naranja (Pork Loin in Orange Juice)
Quimbolitos (Steamed Puddings)
Sopa de Mani (Peanut Soup)
Seco de Chancho (Pork Stew)
Locro (Potato Soup)

Links to recipes from Ecuador

Ecuadorian food descriptions