Ecuador’s pre-Columbian people produce excellent 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 favoured subjects such as heroes of the revolution and members of the 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 sound and is based on an unusual pentatonic scale. Wind and percussion instruments, including the bamboo panpipe and bamboo flutes, are used. Local crafts include fine examples of basketwork, leatherwork, woodcarving, weaving, ceramics and jewellery.

Sunset in the beach
The predominant religion is Roman Catholic, but there is a scattering of Methodist, Baptist and other faiths. The Indians, while outwardly Catholic, tend to blend Catholicism with their traditional beliefs. Spanish is the main language. 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 is of little use elsewhere.

Ecuadorian food consists of soup and stews, corn pancakes, rice, eggs and vegetables. Seafood is particularly good, even in the highlands. Local specialities/curiosities include caldo de patas (soup made from cattle hooves), cuy (whole roasted guinea pigs), Arroz con menestra y carna asada (Rice with beans and meat) and puerco (suckling pig).