Tropical plant

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Who lives in the Amazon?

Forest Panorama


That's right!

In the centuries since Columbus discovered the the New World, many Europeans have migrated to South America. Most of the people living in South America today have both European and indigenous ancestors. Until recently, however, few of them lived in the Amazon. They preferred to live in established cities along the coasts and in the Andes mountains.

But in the past few decades, more and more mestizos have moved to the Amazon. They were having trouble finding work in their hometowns and saw opportunity in the Amazon. Many went looking for agricultural land. Others took jobs in oil fields or other industries.

Let's look at what's been happening in Ecuador. Ecuador is on the west coast of South America. About a third of the country lies within the Amazon. Since the 1950s, Ecuadorians (mostly mestizos) from the Andean highlands and the western coastal plain have been migrating to the Amazon. The population of the Ecuadorian Amazon has increased from about 60,000 people in the 1950s to 350,000 people now. By clearing forest to build homes, plant crops, and extract petroleum, these people have had a dramatic impact on the rainforest.

Settlement in the Ecuadorian Amazon 1960 to 1990
Animated map of Amazon settlement

What kinds of problems might this migration into the Amazon create? Explore some of the impacts on Quichua life and the land in Making a Living.

Frog eating insect

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