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Geology: Land of the Volcanoes
The Pacific Ring of Fire is a broad geological region characterized by its clusters of volcanoes and its propensity for earthquakes. It includes such places as Japan and California. The Ecuadorian Andes are also part of the Pacific Ring of fire.

 

The Andes mountains were formed in the Mesozoic era as a result of over a million years of the collision of two tectonic plates. The lighter Nazca plate in the Pacific ocean converged under the heavier American Plate in a geological process known as subduction. All of Ecuador's major peaks are stratovolcanoes. These type of volcanoes are a product of subduction. Stratovolcanoes are known to have sudden and violent eruptions with long periods of dormancy. The more dangerous part of those eruptions are the combined flow of lava, mud and ice, called lahars.

The Galapagos Islands are not considered to be part of the Ring of Fire. Rather, these islands are the top of gigantic underwater volcanoes that form over a "hot spot' where two tectonic plates are seperating. These volcanoes are much younger than the Andes.

Language & Religion
The official languages of Ecuador are Spanish and the indigenous language, Quechua. The importance of Quechua in Ecuador and in other Andean countries such as Peru is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Microsoft™ is planning to release its popular Office software in Quechua in 2006.

Ecuador's principal religion is Roman Catholicism. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence of native belief-systems as the indigenous people reclaim their identity and voice. Native "religions" revere Pacha mama (Mother Earth) and emphasize the harmonious coexistence with nature. Socially, indigenous traditions value community over the individual (community-ism).

Population
There are 13.2 million people living in Ecuador. The majority of the population is mestizo (mixed blood) (65%), followed by Amerindians (25%), black (3%), and Spanish and other ethnic groups (7%). Similar to many developing countries, the majority of Ecuador's population is under 25. The population growth rate is currently estimated at 2%.

The most populous city in Ecuador is the port city of Guayaquil with a population of 2.5 million. Quito is the second most populous with 1.5 million people.


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