Ecuador houses the remains of both the Inca Empire and the Spanish colonial period and descendants of indigenous peoples, Spanish colonizers and African slaves cohabit in its diverse environment. With an economy based originally on farming and subsequently on the exportation of bananas, it has come through various periods of upheaval, with rapid growth coming after the discovery of oil and its exploitation, and a prolonged recession due to the natural disaster of the El Niño hurricane which blighted the country.
The current President, Rafael Correa, who has been ruling the country since 2006, belongs to Latin America’s left-wing wave of political leaders, such as those in Bolivia and Venezuela. Correa has followed their reforms in nationalizing private companies. However there have been widespread protests against these policies andeven indigenous people, who make up a quarter of Ecuador's population and who originally supported Correa, were compelled to protest against new laws regulating mining and water management. In 2010, Correa had tear gas fired at him and was trapped inside a hospital for more than 12 hours by protesting policemen, before being freed by army forces.
Ecuador occupies a unique position in the South American cultural world and its literary output is celebrated for its social realism. Jorge Icaza is one of Ecuador’s most famous writers. His most significant work is the novel Huasipungo (1934), in which he portrays the degraded situation of Indian people in Ecuador who are enslaved by employers and by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Joaquin Gallego Lara with his novel Crosses on Water (Las Cruces Sobre el Agua) also portrays a violent moment of Ecuadorian history; the Massacre of 15th November 1922, in which supposedly hundreds of workers were executed by the police under the orders of the President. The Ecuadorean state never recognized this crime, while the labor movement still considers the 15th a commemorative date. The novel denounces the situation and the injustices that the workers suffered during the twenties in Guayaquil. In the theater, the writer and playwright José Martínez Queirol, also uses drama as a way to carry out social protest and question the ‘good manners’ that society dictates. The aim of his plays was to show the marginalized side of society, highlighting the tragicomic aspects to make the audience think about their own life and the society in which they live. He was awarded the National Theater Prize four times with plays such as Requiem for the Rain and The Ones Against the Others.