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A Cultural Guide to Ecuador

Russell Maddick, a travel writer, spent the last two years traveling across Ecuador, while learning about the people, arts, history, food, and culture.

There are many travel books that tell you where to go and what to see, Maddick says. But they don’t tell you about the people and how the people live. If you are going to visit Ecuador, you want to understand how people think and perceive life.

“You have to be culture smart, otherwise you are just an observer. If you are visiting Ecuador, you want to understand what a typical day is like for an Ecuadorian.”

After writing about other Latin American countries, Maddick decided to focus on Ecuador. The country is like three countries in one, he says. The geography, the wildlife, and culture are vast and can be explored in a short time.

Ecuador was the gateway for the European arts during colonial times. The Quito School (Escuela Quiteña) and its craftsmen worked to produce art to decorate churches and other buildings in the rest of Latin America. Many hotels offer visitors a baroque experience, which is great complement after visiting the old city—the work of native artisans.

Getting to know people can be a tour in itself, says Maddick. As a whole, Ecuadorians are very hospitable. They are always eager to help and to show you how to enjoy the country.

“Infrastructure has improved tremendously,” Maddick says. “It used to take a really long time to get to the San Vicente area in the Chiva. Nowadays, one can travel from place to place, along the coast with plenty of accessibility for domestic and foreign tourists—the new roads have significantly reduced travel times. Quito used to be the go-to place for politics and Guayaquil for business. These days, you can do business anywhere in the country.

In La Sierra, people are a little more reserved, it does not mean they don’t like you; they just like to get to know you well. In La Costa, people are more outgoing and loud; it feels like if you are in the Caribbean. And we cannot forget Cuenca, with spring weather all year round.

Specially, we cannot forget about the exquisite food. “Ecuador is ready to be the next big thing. There are young chefs who are producing the gourmet version of traditional dishes. The food is a revelation to visitors … we could write a book about food alone.”

Last but not least. El Tri—the national soccer team. It’s like cultural glue, Maddick says. Every Ecuadorian has a favorite team, but it was impressive to see how united the whole country was while cheering for their national team during the World Cup.

“I think Ecuador is changing as a country. There are historical differences among the different regions, but it has grown increasingly unified.”

Russel Maddick was a reporter for nine years at BBC, where he reported in Latin American politics and economics. He also lived in Venezuela where he covered arts and travel. His new book: Ecuador – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture will be released on September 2014 and it will be available digitally via