A turbulent history is what probably unites all Latin American countries. Ecuador is no exception: since its foundation in 1830 it saw a government change every two years on average. This is a short overview of the history of Ecuador, so you have some background info when you visit the country.
Alright. What are the Ecuadorians really made of?
Brazilians exploring the west, looking for fertile lands. Thousands of years ago they shaped the Valdivia culture. Later other cultures appeared, many of them (Machalilla, Chorrera) known for skull deformation. The Shuar and Panzaleo were known for the technique of shrinking heads. Yes, this really was a freakshow. The Incas took over in the 15th century, built a lot of roads and introduced the Quechua language, still being spoken by a quarter of Ecuadorians. But then came 1532, when…
The inevitable question: how much damage did the Spanish cause during their conquest?
Well, they started with murdering the Inca ruler, thus basically ending that empire. The Incas defended fiercely but in the end had to give up Quito, which they burnt to the ground.
Although the locals, true to their modest mountainous cultures, were peaceful for centuries, the Spanish mistreated the indigenous populations. This led to several uprisings, some of them so heavy that landowners had to get African slaves. That explains the current ethnic composition of the population especially on the coast.
Simon Bolivar in the end freed the land between 1820 and 1822, marching on from Colombia. His dream of a great South America, which he started by combining Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, only lasted eight years though. In that year Ecuador became independent.
And they were happy ever after?
Not entirely. Peace was always volatile, especially as conservatives (based in the more Catholic Quito) and liberals (in secular socialist Guayaquil) have been fighting each other politically basically since independence until now. The military also stepped in several times, but Ecuador didn’t see the civil wars common in most other Latin American countries.
So no problems whatever?
Well, it’s still Latin America. Ecuador lived off banana exports until the discovery of oil in the end of the 70s, but became overreliant on it. Together with some natural disasters and the election of the mentally unstable Abdala Bucaram, this led to two decades of chaos, presidents ousted by congress and the local currency (sucres) breaking apart to be replaced by the dollar in 2000.
Stability came with Alfredo Palacio and especially Rafael Correa, who invested heavily in the health system and paid attention to indigenous rights. In 2017 Hector Moreno was elected president, a highly divisive figure whose policies turned sharply to the right after coming into office. This led to massive street protests in 2019.