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People have been living in what is now Ecuador since paleolithic times. Many civilizations have come and gone over the millenia. Valdivia, Machalilla, Chorrera - to name but a few. There are museums in every city we've visited that proudly display artifacts from these times.

The Inca were relative latecomers to this land. They showed up around 1470 and they were in control here only about 60 years before the Spanish arrived. But they did a lot in those years. They introduced new methods of agriculture and new crops. They changed the social structure in communities they inhabited. They introduced the language of Quechua (Kichwa) which about ¼ of Ecuador's population still know and use today. They built roads to extend markets. (Ironically it was these same roads which made it easier for the Spanish to conquer them.)

The Spanish arrived in 1532 under the leadership of Francisco Pizarro. As with all the conquistadors, he was looking for the fabled riches of El Dorado. Catholic missionaries soon followed and tried to convert, with some success, the people that survived the diseases they brought along. But as often happened, the new religion became merely a veneer covering more ancient beliefs. Just ask this Shaman on the right.