Our South American Neighbors - G. Southworth

Quito and Ecuador—
The Land of the Equator

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth

Right around the very center of our great globe, half way between the poles, runs the Equator. On that imaginary line the rays of the sun beat straight down and the heat is terrific.

And right in the path of the Equator, where it crosses South America's western coast, lies a small country, Ecuador, the land of the Equator. Could anything sound hotter?

What a surprise then to hear that Quito, Ecuador's capital, is called the "City of Eternal Spring"! "Eternal Hot Summer" certainly seems more suited to a place only fifteen or twenty miles south of the Equator. But Quito is not only a city of the Equator. It is also a city of the mountains.

Two parallel ranges of the Andes cross Ecuador from north to south. Between them lies a high plateau which is crossed from cast to west by other mountains. These mountain ranges of Ecuador are like a great ladder lying on the ground. The two north and south chains form the sides while those from east to west are the rounds. The plateau varies from 7,000 to 9,500 feet above sea level, and Quito is at the greatest height.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Its 9,500 feet above the sea accounts for the capital's delightful climate, the great elevation so tempering the heat as to make it just right for comfort. The warm, beautiful days of May in our northern states are like the constant climate of Quito.

The two most magnificent mountains in Ecuador are Chimborazo, "Emperor of the Equator, ". and Cotapaxi, "King of the Volcanoes." Neither of them is far from Quito. Chamborazo is the greater giant of the two, reaching a height of about 20,500 feet, or nearly four miles. Cotapaxi is a fiery old mountain, the highest active volcano in the world.

A few years back a journey to Quito meant a long, hard ride on mules. Setting out from Guayaquil, Ecuador's chief port, the tedious mountain climbing ride took from twelve to fifteen days.

In 1908 a railway between the two cities was completed after more than thirty-one years of work. The road is 297 miles long. As 400 miles of railroad is all. the entire country boasts, it is easy to see how important is the Guayaquil and Quito line. Both passenger and freight trains run over it regularly, the passenger trains, however, running only during the day. The engines creep and crawl and tug up and up the mountains and the journey takes two days.

Guayaquil has been called the front door of Ecuador. Through its port passes seven-eighths of the country's trade. On the map, Guayaquil seems to he situated on the coast. It is really about forty-five miles up the Guayas river, which, by the way, is Ecuador's principal water-way.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Lying in the lowest and most tropical part of the republic, Guayaquil is very unhealthful, but active steps are being taken for the drainage and sanitation of this important port of Ecuador. The people who live in the hot, fever-infected city are said to have only one reason for remaining, to make money. Guayaquil does indeed offer this opportunity.

Ecuador's greatest product is cacao and the republic leads the world in its. production, the annual export amounting to over $17,000,000. The word cocoa is sort of a trade name applied to the finished product of the cacao bean after it has been roasted and powdered. Chocolate is cocoa prepared with sugar and a flavor.

The cacao bean or seed grows in small melon-pods on trees of the same name. The seed looks like a thick almond in size and shape. There are about four steps in the process of making the cacao bean into the powdered cocoa of commerce. These steps are first breaking the pod, then the fermentation and drying or roasting of the bean itself, then the powdering process and lastly the packing.

Often the cacao bean is exported in its original form as the different countries which buy cacao treat the beans differently in order to suit the taste of different people.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


For instance, what is known as Dutch cocoa is sold largely in England; English cocoa meets with favor in the United States; while American and French chocolate sells everywhere.

Another source of wealth in Guayaquil is the manufacture of the straw hats commercially called Panama hats. In Ecuador these hats are called gipijapa, and form Ecuador's second most important export. The making of the hats is the only manufacturing industry which furnishes the country anything for export. However, in the number and value of the Panama hats made, Ecuador leads the world.

All this is because the straw from which the hats are made grows chiefly in Ecuador. Hats of the best quality woven in this republic are so pliant and flexible that they can be folded and carried in the pocket without doing them the slightest injury. The story is told that one hat sent from Ecuador to a former Prince of Wales could be folded into a package no larger than a watch.

A skilled weaver will complete a hat in five or six months. He works always in the late twilight or early dawn, for in the middle of the day, the sun quickly dries the reed, which must always be kept moist to do good weaving. However, it is not so much the long labor which makes these hats too expensive for most of us to buy. Labor is cheap in Ecuador. It is the high import duties placed upon them by other countries. A great many of us might well envy the soft, beautiful hats which even Ecuador 's poorest peasants wear.

Did you ever hear of ivory nuts? Ivory nuts are the fruit of the tagua  palm, and buttons are made from them. "The clothes of the world are buttoned with ivory nuts and Ecuador is the chief producer."

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Traders in Guayaquil speak of the "button crop" as naturally as we speak of the wheat crop. The button crop is indeed a big crop in Ecuador. The ivory nuts are shipped to the United States, Germany, England, France and Italy to be manufactured into buttons. The turning out of these ivory buttons is a large industry in both Europe and the United States, giving employment to thousands of people.

Like ivory nuts, rubber is a product of„the tropical forest regions of Ecuador. The republic's annual yield of rubber is about one million pounds.

Ecuador's coffee plantations are in her lowlands. Here also are found sugar, rice, cotton, banana and tobacco plantations. These lowlands are strictly tropical and are in marked contrast to the snow-capped Andes which tower in the distance.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


In Quito, particularly, the contrast is most noticeable. There one can see afar off the snow fields of the surrounding mountains and at the same time the geraniums, roses, tulips and many other flowers which are always in bloom no matter what the time of year.

The last census places the number of Quito's inhabitants at 100,000, not very large for a capital city. But then Ecuador is not a very large country. It runs into the side of South America like a wedge driven in from the Pacific Ocean. In area, Ecuador is only about three times as large as our state of Pennsylvania; and its entire population about equals Philadelphia's. Many of Eucador's people are Indians who are descendants of the Quito and Cara tribes. Some 200,000 of these Indians live in the hottest parts of Ecuador and even to-day many of them are still uncivilized. Besides these pure Indians there are a few hundred thousand Spanish-Indians and over 150,000 families of pure Spanish descent, while the rest of the population is made up of people from the neighboring republics and traders from Europe.

Though the population of Quito, like most of all Ecuador, is made up chiefly of Indians, the city has its modern Spanish side. There are men of culture in Quito, there are women of high birth, there is a university of long standing, there are modern city improvements like electricity and telephones. Quito has the Government Building of the republic; it has many churches or cathedrals, an opera house and a very pretty park promenade.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


The style of the buildings is Spanish, most of the houses being built of stucco with red tile roofs. Quito does not lack picturesqueness nor, with its many gayly, even gaudily, dressed Indians, does it lack color.

It is to the Panama Canal that Quito, Ecuador, and the west coast of South America look for a brilliant future.

Ecuador's great resources are yet to be developed. She needs more white settlers, more railroads and a more stable government. Let us hope that the Panama Canal may lead to increased population, increased means of transportation and increased trade and happy prosperity for Ecuador.

Questions for Review and Study

  1. Give a description of the Equator as to its location and the climate of the countries which it crosses.
  2. Name Ecuador's capital and give its location as regards the Equator.
  3. What is the city called'?
  4. How do you account for the seeming conflict between this name and the city's location?
  5. Give a description of the mountain ranges of Ecuador.
  6. Name Ecuador's two giant mountains. Tell what each is called. Which is the greater?
  7. Name and describe Ecuador's chief port. What is this city called?
  8. What is the country's greatest product°?
  9. Give the steps necessary in making it ready for the market.
  10. Tell about the making of Panama hats.
  11. What is meant by the "button crop"?
  12. Compare Ecuador with Pennsylvania as to size and population
  13. What sorts of people live in Ecuador?