The 4 Main Ethnic Groups Of Ecuador

The ethnic groups of the Ecuador are divided into 4 main groups: mestizos, afro-Ecuadorians, the euro-Ecuadorians and Amerindians. 
This last group, although not the largest in population, encompasses multiple ethnic groups native to the region in at least 14 indigenous nationalities recognized by the state.

However, there are other minority ethnic groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon, in the Andes, and on the coast. Later we will name and explain them.

Ecuador is one of the nations of South America representative for multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity. With a population of more than 16 million inhabitants (2016), most Ecuadorians can trace their ancestors to three geographic origins:

  • The prehispanic for more than 15,000 years
  • Europeans — mostly Spanish — for around 500 years.
  • Sub-Saharan Africans brought in by former settlers as a source of slave labor.

The result of the mixture of two or three of these groups gave rise to the modern ethnic variety of Ecuador.
The group of mestizos is the one with the largest number of people and they are mainly concentrated in the cities.

A good number close to 43% of the total population lives in rural areas and it is in these areas where most of the Amerindian ethnic diversity of the country occurs.

The coasts, the Andean highlands and the Amazon fringe are the most characteristic areas where these ethnic groups live.

Main ethnic groups of Ecuador

1- Mestizos

As previously mentioned, it is the ethnic group with the largest population, reaching 71.9% in the entire territory.

They are the mixture of five hundred years between the Spanish whites with the native Indians of Ecuador.

2- Euro-Ecuadorians

They are the descendants of Spaniards born in Ecuadorian colonial territory from approximately the seventeenth century, known as Creole whites. They make up a little more than 6% of the total population.

It is very difficult to ensure the total racial purity of Ecuadorian whites today, since the minimum mixing after so many generations was inevitable, but in comparison between mestizos, Afro-Ecuadorians and Amerindians, their physical features are clearly distinguishable.

3- Afro-Ecuadorians

They are the ethnic group of most direct descendants of the African slaves transported during the colonial era.

They are located mostly on the coasts of northern Ecuador and make up about 7% of the population. This group also includes the mulattoes and the zambos.

4- Amerindians

Also known as South American natives, they are a set of ethnic groups that originally occupied the territory of present-day Ecuador. They were communities mainly of hunters, gatherers and farmers.

These groups received appropriate political recognition from the state in 1996, followed by the incorporation of some of the native languages ​​as official languages ​​of Ecuador after Spanish. Among them the Quichua and the Shuar.

They constitute a little less than a quarter of the total population and their communities have preserved a good part of their ancestral traditions.

The state has even respected the right of some groups to wish to remain in their territories far from modernity.

Some ethnic groups of the Ecuadorian Amazon

The Shuar

Their communities that live in the eastern falls of the Andes. Its characteristic activities are agricultural production, especially cassava, manufacturing of high-quality traditional textiles, and livestock since the 1960s and 1970s. They are part of the linguistic group of the Jíbaros.

The Achuar

They are also part of the linguistic group of the Jíbaros and extend to the Amazon of Peru. They are characterized by the ability to navigate rivers and the manufacture of blowguns. Its traditional drink is chicha de yuca.

They are basically hunter-gatherer communities, although they are also engaged in agriculture, but much less so than the Shuar.

This has allowed the conservation of the environment in a better state than in the territories of the Shuar.

The Huaorani

They are groups that have strongly protected their territorial rights against urbanization, expansion and construction of roads.

Currently they have been reduced to inhabit an area of ​​1,605 km² from 20,000 km² previously.

Its divisions and displacements have been caused mainly by the oil industry, which has made some members of this ethnic group economically dependent on it.

For this reason they have been labeled as violent and savage protectors of their territories and traditions.

They live mainly from hunting and agriculture; whose technique has guaranteed them to always have rich soils for planting where they traditionally used to migrate between seasons.

The Siona-Secoya

They are two groups with quite similar languages ​​from eastern Ecuador and live in the areas near the Aguarico, Eno and Shushufundi rivers. They also inhabit the Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve.

The Quichua of the Ecuadorian Andes

They are the most numerous native ethnic group and their traditional territories are mainly found in the inter-mountainous valley and in the páramos.

Their language is the second most widely spoken in Ecuador and is the current mother tongue of other ethnic groups in the mountains and even in the Amazon.

Their rural schools teach the Quichua language as part of the program, a fact that has made them a group that is highly recognized and respected as a national heritage. They are dedicated to raising animals and planting ancestral products such as potatoes and corn.

Other Quichua communities in Ecuador are the Salascas, warrior descendants of the Incas from Bolivia and a group known for their lack of interest in relating to Euro-Ecuadorians. The transmission of his story is purely oral.

There are also the Saraguros, one of the last communities to integrate into the Western lifestyle, which prior to 1962 were completely independent and self-sufficient peoples. They lived from agriculture, collecting water from the rains and the energy of wood to make fire.

Currently they have education, health, culture and agriculture systems adapted to modernity, but they retain their characteristic clothing of black poncho, black and white embroidered hats and handmade sheep wool jewelry.

The Otavalo are another Quichua group of the sierra, located in the northern part and famous worldwide for the industry of handicrafts and textiles. This has allowed them to advance and develop as a community without sacrificing their traditions.

Coastal ethnic groups

The Tsachila

Called “colorados” for their custom of painting their bodies and hair red, they live in the falls of the western hills of the Andes in northern Ecuador.

From them derives the name of the main city of the region where they live, Santo Domingo de los Colorados.

The Chachi

Chachi crafts. Source: Jen, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

They are a group that has managed to progress in the economy of modern markets through the production and sale of handicrafts and musical instruments.

The Eperara

Meeting of eperaras. Source: Chiripua, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

They are a community similar to the Chachi, but differ in language and fishing activity.

The Huancavilca

Sculptures of the Huancavilca people. Source: Sageo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

People descended from fishermen and ancestral navigators who are believed to have traded to Mexico. It is an ethnic group with traditions similar to the Eperara.

The Awa

Young people of the awa ethnic group. Source: Klaus Schenck, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It is a small community that has been threatened by logging companies that cut down the forests of northern Ecuador. They combine blowgun hunting and raising poultry and pigs to survive.

The group of the Montubios

Common straw objects of the Montubios. Source: Jen, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite being a mestizo group from the coasts, they are considered an ethnic group different from all others since 2001. They are famous for their activities such as horse rodeos, cockfighting and music.


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