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Panama hats, Babylonstoren shop | © flowcomm /Flickr
Panama hats, Babylonstoren shop | © flowcomm /Flickr

11 Awesome Things You Didn't Realize Ecuador Gave the World

Picture of Vibeke Johannessen
Updated: 1 November 2017

Ecuador might not have gained a lot of international attention for its inventions and products, however, its people have made a difference throughout the world. Here are 11 awesome things you didn’t realize Ecuador gave the world.

“Panama” hats

What, you thought the Panama hat actually came from Panama? Well, you’re not too far off. Ecuadorian hatmaker Manuel Alfaro first made the hat in his homeland before moving on to Panama, where he made a fortune off the design. In 1904, US President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed in Panama wearing the hat, forever branding it (with the wrong country).

Theory of Evolution

If not for Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos Islands, his groundbreaking theory that species adapt to their environment to be able to survive may never have developed. His observation of Galapagos’ tortoises and finches were key in his famous thesis, The Origin of Species.

Ecuavoley

Ecuavoley (similar to volleyball) was invented in Ecuadorian neighborhoods sometime in the early 20th century, and boomed in popularity in the 1950s, and is played today in countries like Colombia, Spain, and the United States.

Collapsible hammock stands

Ecuadorian inventor Graciela V.O. de Cuadros was granted US patents (in 1980 and 1991) for her collapsible hammock support, a design that has spread all over the world to make chilling anywhere that much easier. Not everyone two conveniently planted trees in their garden.

Cacao (and Pacari)

Cacao | © Vibeke Johannessen / Courtesy of The Viking Abroad

Cacao | © Vibeke Johannessen / Courtesy of The Viking Abroad

While cacao, the crop behind chocolate, is found in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, some studies show that cacao trees originated in the high Amazon and have been used by people in the area for more than 5,000 years! Notably, Ecuador produces 63% of the world’s fine arriba cacao flavor, famous for its and purity and use in manufacturing chocolate. Multiple International Chocolate Award-winning Pacari chocolate (meaning “nature” in Quechua) is 100% organic, Fair Trade, and kosher, as well as the first chocolate manufacturer to receive biodynamic certification.

Umbrella Newspaper

In order to keep its readers during Ecuador’s rainy season, street newspaper EXTRA started printing issues with a plastic, waterproof front page, which could then be used as a shield against the rain. Needless to say, using a newspaper as an umbrella meant that EXTRA sales skyrocketed.

HandEyes

Invented by Ecuadorians Álex Aldás,  Diego Aguinsaca, Carlos Canacuán, and Fabricio, HandEyes is an electronic aid for blind people that prevents accidents and stumbles. Using a sensor to determine the distance of nearby objects, the device vibrates or sounds to warn the user of their surroundings.

FAYAC Sphere

After 10 years of research and study, Ecuadorian Fabian Ayala Córdova invented the FAYAC Sphere, a three-dimensional puzzle constructed on Fibonacci’s, Facioli’s, Kepler’s, and da Vinci’s mathematical theories. The award-winning was also used in the 2011 movie I Am Julia.

Hand of Hope

Invented by robotics students Verónica Barros and Cristian Ramírez at the Technical University of Loja, Hand of Hope is a robotic prosthetic that mimics arm movement with six different positions and grips. Barros and Ramírez collaborated with artist Gabriela Punín, who developed a synthetic skin to emulate a real arm.

Buen vivir

Formulated by indigenous organizations living alternatively, buen vivir (meaning “good living” in English) is an ecological lifestyle promoting peace and harmony with nature instead of a need for economic growth, and the principle has inspired environmentalist movements around the world.

Worldwide attention to domestic violence

Ecuadorian woman Lorena Bobbitt became world famous after a 1993 incident in which she cut off her husband’s penis; in the trial, she justified her actions as a result of his abusive behavior. Bobbitt’s case brought worldwide attention to domestic violence, creating a new feminist movement.

Bonus!

Ecuadorian Roses |© Vibeke Johannessen / Courtesy of The Viking Abroad

Ecuadorian Roses |© Vibeke Johannessen / Courtesy of The Viking Abroad

They may not have originated in Ecuador, but orchids, roses, and bananas certainly have strong ties to the country. With over 4,000 species of orchids endemic to Ecuador alone (out of 30,000 worldwide), it’s no wonder it’s called the country of orchids. Similarly, Ecuador’s climate is great for growing roses, so the 60+ different species growing here are exported all over the world. Finally, Ecuador is top producer of bananas, exporting more than 4 million tons annually.