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The Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1898, p.16:



From Our Own Correspondent.

    BABAHOYO (Ecuador,) March 23, 1898.--For the past two days I have been sailing along the Columbia River of Ecuador. The Guyas is to this country as the Columbia is to the United States. It is the biggest river of the Pacific Coast, and just now, in the rainy season, which lasts here from December until May, it has converted the country for miles into a vast lake.
    Where we entered it from the Pacific, just opposite the island of Puna, where Pizarro landed, the river is sixty miles wide, and as we sailed up it to Guayaquil we seemed to be passing through an inland sea. The waters were of the color and thickness of pea soup, and upon the fast-flowing flood were patches of green, great trees and other debris which were floating down from the Andes to the sea.

    At Guayaquil the river is more than a mile wide, and twenty-six feet deep, furnishing a good and safe harbor for the largest of the Pacific ocean steamers. The river there is filled with shipping, and there are hundreds of dugout canoes, great rafts and cargo boats used by the natives to bring their wares from the interior for sale.


    I left Guayaquil two days ago and in the little American-built steamer Pulgmir took an all-nights sail up the Guyas into the interior. I am now far away from the coast, almost at the foothills of the Andes. Chimborazo [an extinct volcano, highest peak in Ecuador] frowns down upon me, and I can almost here the rumbling of the Cotopaxi [volcano].
    I am in the city of Babahoyo, or Bodegas, a city which, like Bangkok, is almost all afloat upon the water. The whole island is flooded, and many of the houses are so built that the people live in the second stories and go from one place to another in canoes. The town proper, which contains about eight thousand people, has streets which are now little more than rivers, and in coming from the boat I hired an Indian to carry me to the high lands of the shore on his back.
    As I went my whisky flask, which I always carry for medicinal purposes, fell out of my pocket into about five feet of water, and I hired another Indian to dive for it... I made him happy by giving him ten cents for his trouble.

    The business part of Babahoyo is a few feet higher than the rest of the place, and just now the stores are free from water, though in crossing the streets you must hug the buildings and balance yourself on the logs and bamboo bridges put across from sidewalk to sidewalk. The houses are all of two stories, the ground floors being taken up with cave-like stores, and the second stories forming the living quarters.
    There are, of course, no pavements or modern improvements. Babahoyo had not a sewer, a gutter nor a water closet in it. Its only bathroom is a floating shed upon the wharves of the river, in which you may dip yourself down into the water with the serious danger of losing a leg by the nip of an alligator. There is not a fire place nor a chimney in the whole town. There is not a glass window, for the houses are ventilated on the second floors by means of lattice work running about the ceiling. The whole front walls of the stores are thrown back in the day time, and the ground floors are as open as those of Japan.

    The houses now on the water, a few weeks ago were high and dry. The ground floor was then used for the chickens, donkeys and cattle. Now these are either on platforms higher up or are living with the families on the second floor, which is built upon piles so high up that the floods do not reach it.


    There are hundreds of houses here which can be reached only in canoes, and the marketing is done in boats... The poorer houses consist of little more than one room, about six feet above the ground and reached by a ladder outside. The houses are thatched with broad, white leaves, tied to a framework of bamboo cane. The floor is of cane and the cracks in it are so many that the women do not need to sweep, the dirt of the household falling through upon the ground or into the water.
    As to modern conveniences in the way of waterclosets, these are practically unknown among the natives of Ecuador. Even in the capital, Quito, a city of 50,000 or more, the streets are used by the common people for such purposes, and every family of respectability, when traveling, carries its own conveniences with it.
    In the houses of the common people there is no privacy whatever, men and women, boys and girls, wives and maidens, all herd together, sleeping in the same clothes they wear in the day time, lying indiscriminately upon the floor or in the hammocks which form the chief articles of furniture of their houses.

    The cooking is done in clay pots on a fire box filled with dirt. The fuel is largely charcoal, the pots being raised upon tiles or bricks to allow room for the coals beneath.
    The chief food of the tropical ports of the country is the potato, or the yam, known as the yucca, and plantains, or large bananas. Much rice is used, being cooked with lard, the most of which comes from the United States.

    Though this whole region where I am now is filled with fine cattle, the people do not seem to know anything of butter. The chief customers for it are foreigners, and the article most sold is the Italian butter, in one and two-pound tins. It sells for $1 a pound in this money, or about 50 cents in American gold. I am told that at this price there is not a great profit to the Italian butter makers...


    Landing at Babahoyo, I was for a time at a loss how to make myself understood by the natives. There was no one who spoke English, and my pure Castilian Spanish did not seem to be understood. At last, however, I met a German storekeeper, a Mr. Kruger, who told me there was an American living in the city. This was Mr. Klein, a carpenter, contractor and undertaker. I soon found him among his coffins. He left his work and devoted himself to me for the day.

    Together we went to visit one of the biggest plantations of Ecuador. This belongs to Mr. Augustine Barrios, a man who owns thousands of cattle and horses, and who sells something like 300,000 pounds of chocolate beans every year.
    The platation is now all under water, and we had to take a canoe to visit it. Our canoe was about thirty feet long and not over thirty inches wide. It was a dugout, and was poled and sculled by two lusty brown-skinned gondoliers, one of whom sat at each end of it...

    We rowed for miles among the treetops, now grazing a great black alligator, and again chattered at by monkeys, who made faces at us as they scampered away. The trees were full of strange birds, which fluttered and cried as we went by. Now we get a shot at one, a gallareta, a beautiful thing as big as a pigeon, with a bill like blood, long legs of golden yellow, and a plumage of royal purple...
    There are wild ducks and other birds which I have never seen before, and Mr. Klein tells me that he often bags a deer on the highlands, or has a shot at a wild hog or a leopard.

    The ride is beyond description. Under us there is twelve feet of water, where a few weeks ago it was all dry land. The trees make a thick arbor-like shade over us... loaded down with orchids, each of which in New York would bring a sum equal to the wages of the average workingman. Insects are plenty, bugs and ants of every description fall upon us as we float onward, and Mr. Klein tells me how a great snake once dropped down into his boat from the brances above... There are rubber trees, trees loaded with alligator pears, and here and there a great palm...
    Now, a canoe with a family of Indians passes us, and again a great cargo boat loaded with cocoa is shoved along on its way to the markets.


    Nearly all the land along which we have been traveling belongs to the millionaire planter whom we are to visit. When we get out of the forest we come directly into the grazing lands of his plantation. The grass is now under water, and the herds have been taken to the high lands on the edge of the Andes. We are in a wide waste of waters, above which here and there the tops of the wire fences are seen... We pass a butcher-shop resting on the water where are killed the animals which furnish the meat for the planter, and go by a great barn which is also on piles surrounded by water. We sail over the front gate and land amid a lot of long steel cocoa boats on the second floor of the house, which is a great three-story building roofed with red tiles.

    Here we are met by the owner, and made to feel at home. He orders a breakfast to be prepared for us, and puts wine and cognac before us. His two pretty daughters are now called in to entertain us, and together we all drink to the better relations of our continents and our countries. The young ladies drink brandy, and when I pull out my flask we all drink in that famous fluid which comes from Kentucky.
    Later on the old man sends an Indian servant out to climb one of his cocoanut trees to give us a drink of cocoanut milk, and then directs his men to guide us in canoes to the cocoa orchard and to other parts of his estate.


    I talk to him as to the profits of farming. He says he keeps no accounts, but that he leaves all to his foremen and overseers, and that all that is over the expenses is profit. This year he will harvest 300,000 pounds of cocoa, which at 10 cents profit a pound will net him $30,000 from this source alone.
    He tells me he loses a great deal every year because he cannot get laborers to work for him, and still I am told the men on his plantation owe him $260,000 in silver...

    It is said that slavery no longer exists in Ecuador... but it is really in force through the debt laws and habits of the peons or laboring classes which cause them to keep in debt to their masters. The wages are so low that once in debt it is almost impossible to get out.
see also: Colombia News - Venezuela News - Peru News - Brazil News
Growing Cocoa in Ecuador, 1899

All of Ecuador
is one time zone at GMT-5,
with no Daylight Savings time.

  Ecuador News

    What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Quito became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563 and part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717.
    The territories of the Viceroyalty - New Granada (Colombia), Venezuela, and Quito - gained their independence between 1819 and 1822 and formed a federation known as Gran Colombia.
    When Quito withdrew in 1830, the traditional name was changed in favor of the "Republic of the Equator." Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors.
    A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999. Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability. Protests in Quito have contributed to the mid-term ouster of Ecuador's last three democratically elected Presidents.
    CIA World Factbook: Ecuador

Area of Ecuador: 283,560 sq km
slightly smaller than Nevada

Population of Ecuador: 13,755,680
July 2007 estimate

Languages of Ecuador:
Spanish official
Quechua & other Amerindian languages

Ecuador Capital: Quito

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    Here, near the coast, peons get about $8 a month, but in the interior they do not receive over half this, and one-tenth of their earnings goes to the church. The planters give their laborers twelve ounces of meat, fourteen ounces of rice or beans, a little lard or salt, a day. Each also gets a hat, three coarse cotton shirts and three pairs of cotton pantaloons a year, and a house, such as I have described above.

    Their hours of work are from sunrise to sunset, and if a man skips a day this is charged to him. The women and children must work as well as the men, and if a man runs away he is straightaway put in prison for debt and stays there until some other planter is willing to pay him out and take him into his service.
    Even should a man get out of debt, the conditions are such that he is soon in again... If he would get married, the priests will charge him $6 for performing the ceremony, and if he wants a hog or a donkey it is only by going into debt that he can get them...

    Wages in Guayaquil and along the coast are much higher than in the interior. In the cities common workers get 75 cents a day; carpenters from $1.50 to $2; masons, painters and blacksmiths about the same, and men servants, employed by the month, from $10 to $12, with board. Tailors and shoemakers receive from $6 to $12 per week, and printers, bakers and barbers the same.
    Living is in some respects very cheap, but as regards imported articles, exceedingly dear. I paid $1 a pound for canned meats, and a camp bed which I carry with me, which would be worth perhaps $3 at home, cost me in Guayaquil $8 of our money. Chairs, which could be bought for 50 cents at home, cost here $3. They come in pieces and are put together by the furniture dealers. All imported articles cost a vast deal more in the interior on account of the excessive freight rates, there being no means for transportation over the mountains except on mules or on the backs of men.


    This town of Bodegas or Babahoyo is the half-way station on the road to Quito... It takes twenty-four Indians to carry a piano, and the cost of the freight is greater, by the time they reach Quito, than the cost of the piano itself. Thus ordinary packages of goods put up in bundles or boxes of 100 pounds each form a load for a mule, and such a load from here to Quito costs from $6 to $7...

    I had intended to have made the journey to Quito, and bought a camping outfit at a cost of $55 to do it. Here, however, I am told that owing to the recent floods it will take at least ten days of mule riding through the mud and rain, and the Brazilian Minister, who has just come through from Quito, tells me that he had to wade part of the way through water up to his waist...
    There is, in fact, only one good piece of road in all Ecuador. This is about seventy miles long, and it runs from Ambata on the plateau to Quito. There is an English stage coach which carries you over it, and takes you from one point to another in about a day and a half.

    Ecuador also has about fifty-four miles of railroad. This is a narrow-gauge running from a station on the river Guyas, opposite Guayaquil, to Chimbo. The road has cars and locomotives which were made in Pennsylvania, and it was built by an American named Kelley. It is now owned by the government, and an American syndicate has, I am told, a concession to complete it to Quito, though the requisite capital, $12,000,000, has not yet been raised.
    The road now runs to the foot of the Andes, and it is said by engineers that its completion is, without doubt, a mechanical possibility. As to whether it would pay or not is uncertain, as is also the question as to how far the government would contribute to its support.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1898 was equivalent to $24.60 in 2007.

The New York Times, September 7, 1913 p.SM14:

What He Saw In Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador--
Strange Reminders of Civilizations Older Than the Pharaohs
and Modern Problems Met with in a New Way.

By Gen. Rafael Reyes.
Former President of the Republic of Colombia.


    As is well known, the Republic of Ecuador in the epoch of its primitive independence formed a part of the extensive empire bequeathed by the conqueror, Huay-Napac, to his sons Huascar and Atahualpa; but the rivalry between these princes led to a violent revolution which continued until the conquest of the territory by Pizzaro, Almagro and de Benalcazar. Until 1717 the country was ruled by a viceroy, whose seat of government was in Lima, and whose juridiction extended over the courts of Panama, Caracas, Santa Fé, Quito, Lima, Cuzco, Charcas, Santiago and Buenos Aries.
    The initial demand for independence in Spanish America was proclaimed by Ecuador, and in 1809 the revolutionary party named the Marquis of Selva Alegre its first President. Ecuador, however, did not then enjoy complete independence, as it was practically a State of the larger republic of Great Colombia, in which was also included New Granada (now Colombia,) and Venezuela, governed by Bolivar until 1830.
    On the death of the Liberator Venezuela and Ecuador seceded from the republic, the latter becoming a self-governing republic under the constitutional Presidency of Gen. Juan José Flores. From that date to the present time, the Republic of Ecuador has had eighteen Presidents, and, as the result of a long series of revolutions, no less than eleven different constitutions.

But She Is Advancing.

    ...The territory of Ecuador, embracing a population of less than 3,000,000 inhabitants, is rich in mineral resources and produces large quantities of gold, silver, lignite, marble, coal and petroleum, while the manufacture of hats from the toquilla palm, or jijijapa fibre, (incorrectly described as Panama hats,) constitutes an important industry. Ecuador also contains a number of sugar estates capable of great extension, and other industrial establishments devoted to the production of shoes, cigars, cigarettes and textile fabrics, but the lack of railroad communication has hitherto been the chief factor in limiting the output of these industries.
    Guayaquil, which is the principal port, is also a city of some importance, owing to its population, its commercial movement, and its general up-to-date appearance, while Quito, the capital, which is connected with Guayaquil by a railroad belonging to an American company, is distinguished by the artistic character of its buildings, its monuments, and above all, bu the quality of its society, which ranks high in Latin America.
    One of the great difficulties of the country is the absence of roads and highways for vehicular traffic, there being little else than mule tracks for transport between one town and another; and in some parts of the republic there are merely fords in the smaller streams during the dry season and primitive suspension bridges across deep gorges and swift mountain currents.

Same Bridges Pizzaro Crossed.

    These bridges are constructed from a species of hard fibre and are exceedingly dangerous to cross, rendering it necessary to bring frequently into use short river channels along the coast. Railroad construction is, however, now proceeding at various points, and with its gradual extension and the increase of revenue from commercial expansion, resources will be available for the making of new roads and highways for local transport.
    Notwithstanding the fact that the Indians and mestizos form the bulk of the population of Ecuador, caste sentiment is very pronounced among those who claim pure white descent, and, as in Chile, the latter are the governing classes. The mestizos, who are generally traders and artisans, are uneducated and indolent, possessing similar characteristics to those of the civilized Indians to which type they really belong. As in Peru, there are still many tribes of wild Indians who inhabit the forests and stoutly resist any effort to civilize them and administrative measures to subject them to obediance to the law.
    Education is very backward and confined chiefly to the better classes, as, although primary instruction for children from six to twelve years of age is obligatory, there is an insufficient number of public schools, and even at those established the attendance is irregular and not enforced. A programme has recently been laid down for an entire reorganization of the educational system, and with the assistance of the authorities of the Universities of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, it is hoped that considerable improvement will be shown in the future.

Ecuador's Backwardness.

    Much of the backwardness of Ecuador in all that pertains to modern progress owes its existence to the lack of financial resources as much as to the want of means of communication; and it is to the fact that Ecuador has no credit in the great financial centres and is thus unable to effect necessary reforms that progressive measures have been regarded with indifference, which may be illustrated by the statement that Ecuador, despite the adoption fifty years ago of the metric system, still exclusively uses the old Spanish weights and measures.
    The extreme poverty of the people and the other circumstances here described have combined to produce a lack of public spirit and of civic ideals typical of states whose inhabitants labor under continues depression and of others where the rapid accumulation of wealth frequently results in a forgetfulness on the part of the people of their duties and obligations as citizens.
    In the case of Ecuador, however, there is a sentiment of ardent patriotism beneath this apparent apathy, and I have little doubt that, more than in any other of the Latin republics on the Pacific Coast, when the Panama Canal is opened, a new era will dawn upon the isolated little republic and bring, with its material advance, corresponding improvement, morally, intellectually, and socially. The national resources are sufficiently abundant and the possibilities presented are great enough to justify this belief.
    It is merely a question of time for the country to emerge from its present comparative obscurity and to be placed on a footing of equality, from the standpoints of progress and order, with her sister republics. Ecuador is at present a poor member of the Latin American family, but her prospects are bright and give early promise of a happy realization.

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