Legal, Social and Cultural Environment of Ecuador sample essay
The Republic of Ecuador is a country in South America, which is known worldwide for its bananas and cocoa. It has a unique ancient history, beautiful mountainous landscapes and amazing nature, as well as all necessary modern facilities for active rest, sports and recreation. Despite long periods of political instability, Ecuador remains the only country in the continent which has never had a serious domestic military conflict. Finally, Ecuador, with its qualified workforce, developed infrastructure and promising industrial outlooks, is a country of great opportunities for modern businessmen and investors.
The population of Ecuador is expected to exceed 14 million people in summer 2008 (CIA, 2008). Modern social and cultural environment of Ecuador has a great deal of ethnic, social and regional distinctive features. Ethnic composition of the country’s population is the following: 65% are mixed people of Spanish origin (mestizo), 25% are Amerindian indigenous population, 3% are black African American population and 7% are people belonging to other ethnic groups (mainly of European origin) (CIA, 2008).
Also, active migration is a factor which impacts social development of Ecuador to a great extent. The Northern coastal regions of the country are called “black provinces of Ecuador”, which are inhabited by the population of African-American origin (the descendants of African slaves) and considered to be among of the most crowded African cultural settings in South America. People living in these regions of Ecuador are mainly occupied in agriculture, farming, trade and commerce, and the higher social classes of these regions consist of rich immigrants and plantation owners.
The Northern Sierra is dominated by mestizos and cholos, mixed groups of Spanish and local origin. For long period of time Sierra was controlled by white Hispanic elite and, due to enormous discrimination against indigenous population, aborigines had very limited opportunities for developing own social traditions and cultures. Now, Sierra is a famous tourist destination, where local population is employed in services or trade and is well-adopted for international cultural patterns. The Southern Sierra is a mixture of rural and urban cultures, which is an artistic center of the nation.
Finally, the eastern Amazonian regions, known also as El Oriento, are inhabited by unassimilated ethnic groups of indigenous Amerindian population, including Cayapas, Colorados and other cultures. Also, several local tribes with primitive social culture, (including Aucas, Cofanes, the Jivaros, Secoyas and others) occupy the lowlands of the Amazon Basin (Herrera, 2002). This region was traditionally isolated from economic and cultural European influence and massive exploration of some distant areas of the Amazon Basin stared only in the late 1960s.
The country’s cultural traditions and heritage are very rich. Numerous archaeological evidences prove that the representatives of early human settlements, such as Valdivian or the Vega cultures, had some sophisticated aesthetic taste, as well as created various advanced technologies of pottery, ceramic and textile works. The traces of social traditions and customs of early pre-Hispanic cultures can be found in modern lifestyle, ceremonies, handcrafts or other cultural components of Ecuadorian social life.
A great contribution in cultural and social development of modern Ecuador was made by famous Inca culture, which was developing in the thirteenth-fifteenth centuries. The Inca Empire was one of the most advanced world’s civilizations, population of which could achieve high level of social welfare and organization, technological and scientific advancement, industrial and cultural development, etc. Therefore, a number of modern forms of arts, architectural ideas and technological innovations (for example, mummification and others) were borrowed from this early culture.
The period of Spanish occupation of South America had quite controversial impact on cultural development of the nation, because some historians consider this period of time to be dominated by oppression and tyranny, but other specialists point on cultural progress and integration of local cultures into global society (Herreira, 2002, 22). Nevertheless, Spanish colonizers influenced social, economic and cultural development of the country to a great extent. They established urban culture, opened a number of silver and gold mines, started exporting various industrial products overseas, and so on.
Family is one of the most important social values of Ecuadorians. Traditionally, men are the heads of the family and important role models for their sons, but women run the household and play major role in the process of upbringing and educating the children. Family ties in local societies are traditionally very strong; nevertheless, every member of the family tends to have some personal independence. For example, it is quite common for husband and wife to spend leisure time separately. In addition, such institution as compadrazgo (having or becoming godparents) is very important in social order of the nation.
Urban population of modern Ecuador is mostly represented by middle-class and working elites: businessmen, officers, teachers, managers, etc. Overwhelming majority of middle and upper social classes are white people, who demonstrate a certain level of social discrimination against other ethnic groups, especially indigenous societies. Ecuadorian elites can enjoy numerous social benefits and high living standards. Lower middle social classes are ethnically more diverse at the expense of immigrants. Modern life of rural people is quite difficult.
Amerindians live in small cabins with small windows or without any windows. Women cook in special separated places outside of their houses, and the food is prepared mostly from plants and fruit. Many families can not afford eating meat every day. Usual dress-code of male Amerindians includes short trousers and poncho, and women wear white long shirts and long skirts. Both men and women like wearing hats of different styles. Women frequently wear strings of beads, necklaces, bracelets or earrings, made of different inexpensive metals.
Prevailing religion in Ecuador is Roman Catholicism and more than 90% of population is adherents of this branch of Christianity, which is traditional for Spanish culture. Over 2% of population is Baptists and Protestants, around 5% are the followers of local beliefs (including Inti and others). There are also people who combine several religious traditions and ideologies. It is estimated that there are more than 1,300 various religious societies and groups exist in Ecuador (Nations Encyclopedia).
Catholicism and Catholic religious practices are less popular in the countryside, that is why different missionary activities are important part of social life of local population. The Gospel Missionary Union is an organization which promotes the ideas of Christianity and there are societies promoting Evangelism and Protestant ideology. In the end of the twentieth century, a great deal of indigenous people became Christians, and this conversion seriously impacted their social life, helping to establish closer relationships with other ethnic groups and especially with the groups of immigrants.
The efforts of the members of local societies are directed on preserving their cultural traditions, including their languages. Traditional Spanish is widely spoken in Ecuador, but a great number of people speak Amerindian languages, including Awa, Quechua, Shuar, Chapalachi, Paicoca or Tsafki dialects. These dialects are very similar in their linguistic structure because they all originate from the speeches of ancient Incan groups. However, each dialect has different accent, specific terms and idiomatic expressions.
Visual arts are very important elements of modern culture of Ecuador, because art helps to achieve harmony of social urban life with environmental or spiritual needs. Painting, sculpture, literature, theater and music are in great demand not only among the country’s intellectual elite, but also among the less advanced population. There are a lot of museums and galleries throughout the country, where a variety of artworks is exhibited. Photography and filmography are new modern trends in national art. Education plays an important role in national culture, as well.
Ecuador has very high literacy rate, which exceeds 85% and is one of the highest in South America. Recently, several important reformations were made in educational sector, including, in particular, launching of bilingual education (Spanish and English) starting from secondary academic level. There are more than 50 universities in the country, which are provided with up-to-date learning facilities and offer a lot of academic programs on such popular fields as business administration, management, finance, economics, tourism, ecology, and so on.
Besides, national cuisine is an important element of Ecuadorian culture. It varies from one region to another, but generally can be characterized by spicy meals and a great deal of agricultural products used for cooking. Typical dishes include a special potato soup Locro, special meals made of meat called Cuy, Mammey and Seco de Chivo, a sort of pancakes filled with potato Llapingachos, banana desert Chifles, as well as an assortment of drinks (Chicha, Naranjila, Canelazo, and many others).
Finally, like all the nations of South America, Ecuadorians are found of sports and leading active and healthy life-style. Soccer attracts huge public attention and Ecuador National Soccer team has several achievements on the world’s stage. Other popular sports are tennis, boxing, shooting and swimming. Such activities as rafting and beach-volley are extremely popular among the tourists and local youth. In addition, Ecuadorians enjoy an old Spanish traditional entertainment called bullfight and the world’s most known toreadors regularly participate in annual bullfighting festivals in Quito and other cities.
Ecuador is a Unitarian state and its higher legislative branch is unicameral Parliament (Congresso National). The members of the Parliament are elected by direct public vote for a 4-year term. Usual laws can be adopted by simple majority of the present members of the Parliament; organic (constitutional) laws can be adopted only by the majority of total number of the Parliamentarians. The President of the country has the right to veto the laws adopted by the Parliament, which can be overruled by 67% of the Parliament members.
Legal environment of the country can be characterized by a great deal of imperfections and conflicting regulations. Current legal structure of Ecuador is shaped by more than 50,000 various decrees and laws, which frequently contradict each other or can not serve effectively for protection of civil and other rights of the population. Judicial system is currently under the influence of serious corruption and such factors as outside pressure on judges, bribing, unavailability of the courts or delays in processing, are very common practices in Ecuador (BDO International, 2002).
Generally, the legal system of Ecuador belongs to American group of Latin traditional system of laws. It is based on the principles of civil culture of former dominating nation – Spain. Constitutional law is similar to the one of the U. S. and civil and criminal laws were influenced by French analogs of the codes. Since the times when the country gained its independence, legal development of Ecuador has been typical for this region. In 1860 a copy of Chile Civil law was adopted, and in 1957 current Code of Commerce was adopted.
Current Constitution of Ecuador came into effect in June, 1998. According to Article 272 of the Constitution, it has the highest juridical power and dominates any other legal norm. All the laws, decrees, regulations, statutes, resolutions, orders, declarations and other legislative acts have to be correspondent to the effective constitutional norms. However, constitutional law in Ecuador, as well as the ones in the majority of the countries in this region, can be characterized by serious lack of stability.
It is also important that the latest Constitution granted special rights to indigenous Amerindian ethnic groups. Labor code of the country was greatly reformed in 1991 in order to make it “more flexible” in regulating labor relations. A series of innovations, unfortunately, limited the rights of the employees of small enterprises to join unions, because minimal number of founders of such unions was increased from 15 to 30. However, a new labor code granted them the rights for collective negotiations or for strike.
In 1964 the first law of agrarian reform was adopted, which limited latifundist property and granted the right for private property to peasants. In 1977 a decree stimulating exploration of the lands in the Amazon Basin (“colonization”) was adopted as an alternative one for land redistribution law. Other agrarian laws limit the prices for renting the lands for share cropping, stipulate minimal wages for seasonal agricultural laborers, etc. Criminal Code of 1938 is the main set of criminal laws.
It is based on “neoclassic” Belgian and French codes. Crimes and penalties are differentiated depending on the type of punishment envisaged in the Code. The capital punishment was abolished in Ecuador in 1906 and this is stated in Article 1 Clause 23 of the Constitution. According to the constitution, every citizen of Ecuador must be provided with typical democratic guarantees of criminal justice, including judicial review of lawfulness of the detainment, etc. However, not all the guarantees and regulations are strictly observed.
Finally, in terms of modern tendency to globalization, the majority of legal aspects of international activities, such as export-import relations, barriers for foreign trade, establishing international enterprises, as well as all the issues connected with standardization, certification, labeling, etc. are regulated by the norms of laws and national standards. Special laws also regulate property relationships, including the issues of copyrights, patents, trademarks and know-how (Trade Representative Office, 2005).
“Doing Business in Ecuador. ” BDO International. Brussels, Belgium: Romero Arteta Ponce, 2002. “Ecuador. ” Country Studies. The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. 18 Apr. 2008
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