A map of Ecuador Ecuador is the Spanish name for the Equator, which runs through the northern part of the country. Running down the centre of Ecuador are the snow-capped mountains and volcanoes of the Andes. The highest peaks include Cotopaxi, which at 5897 metres (19,347 feet) is the highest active volcano in the world. This highland region, known as the sierra, is home to almost half of Ecuador's population. To the west, a green, fertile plain stretches to the coast; this rich farmland is used for growing bananas, rice and flowers. Eastern Ecuador is part of the great Amazon rainforest. Ecuador’s territories include the Galápagos Islands, which lie about 1000 kilometres (620 miles) west of the mainland in the Pacific Ocean.
About three-quarters of Ecuadorians are mestizo—descended from both Native American peoples and Spanish settlers, who arrived in the 16th century. A smaller number are the descendants of Africans brought by the Spanish to work as slaves. Most people live in the central highlands or along the Pacific coast, while a large area of the rainforest is almost completely uninhabited. Most of Ecuador’s native Quechua people live in mountain villages or towns.
Because the Earth bulges slightly at the Equator, the summit of Ecuador’s Chimborazo, at 6267 m (20,556 ft) is further from the Earth’s centre than the top of the world’s highest mountain, Everest, at 8848 m (29,028 ft).
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