Afro-Ecuadorians: History, Traditions, Arts, and More

meeting afro-ecuadorians while traveling in Ecuador

If you travel to Ecuador’s stunning mountains and coastal areas, you will likely meet the culturally rich community called Afro-Ecuadorians.

For a long time, these individuals have been overlooked and marginalized. Their ancestors faced difficult times during the Spanish conquest and slavery.

But now, people around the world are starting to notice and appreciate their rich culture. Afro-Ecuadorians are finally getting the recognition they deserve, and their colorful heritage is becoming more visible.

In this post, we gathered information about the Afro-Ecuadorian’s captivating history and endeavors to preserve their cherished traditions.

Afro-Ecuadorian’s History

The history of Afro-Ecuadorians is characterized by their resilience and relentless fight for freedom. During the era of slavery, they displayed numerous acts of rebellion and resistance. 

Some managed to escape and sought refuge among free Black communities on the coast, while others in the Chota Valley rose against their owners between 1710 and 1820. Some even sought legal recourse through the colonial justice system to pursue emancipation.

During Simon Bolivar’s campaign for South America’s independence, many Black individuals joined his army, hoping victory would grant them freedom. However, it took nearly half a century after Ecuador’s independence in 1809 for slavery to be officially abolished in 1854. 

Regrettably, the emancipated Afro-Ecuadorians didn’t receive reparations; instead, the government compensated their former owners. This situation left many Afro-Ecuadorians with nothing and compelled them to continue working for those who once held them in bondage.

The assimilation of Afro-Ecuadorians into Ecuadorian society has proven to be challenging, with racism and prejudice still prevalent among white and mestizo Ecuadorians even today.

Despite their long and difficult struggle for freedom, Afro-Ecuadorians continue to endure social and economic obstacles, showing the continued struggle for equal rights and recognition in their homeland.

Nevertheless, their unyielding spirit and significant contributions to Ecuador’s cultural heritage establish Afro-Ecuadorians as an integral and indispensable aspect of the nation’s identity.

Afro-Ecuadorian Communities

Afro Ecuadorians in traditional clothing

Afro-Ecuadorian communities are spread across different regions of the country, each with a unique culture. One significant place is the Esmeraldas Province on the northern coast, known for its lively music, vibrant dances like the “Currulao,” and delicious seafood dishes that reflect Afro-Ecuadorian traditions.

Another important region is the Valle del Chota in the Imbabura Province, where Afro-Ecuadorians have a strong presence. They celebrate their heritage with music, dance, and traditional rituals during the famous “San Juan” festival, which also highlights their agricultural heritage, especially sugarcane cultivation.

In Guayas Province, the city of Guayaquil is home to a lively Afro-Ecuadorian population. Their influence is seen in the city’s unique music styles like the “Marimba” and “Caderona,” as well as their diverse and mouthwatering cuisine loved by locals and visitors.

Besides these central regions, smaller Afro-Ecuadorian communities can be found throughout Ecuador, contributing to the country’s rich cultural diversity. Exploring these lesser-known enclaves offers travelers and culture enthusiasts a chance to discover captivating history and experience warm hospitality from Afro-Ecuadorians.

Afro-Ecuadorians in Esmeraldas

Due to the fact that many Afro-Ecuadorians live in Esmeraldas, they faced social, political, and economic neglect. The government didn’t invest as much in the province’s education, public infrastructure, and business opportunities.

However, things are starting to change, and Esmeraldas is getting more focus from the country and tourists. Additionally, Afro-Ecuadorians constitute a significant part of the national soccer team, helping them gain more recognition and appreciation.

Afro-Ecuadorian’s Music

Afro-Ecuadorians have left a significant mark on Ecuadorian culture through their musical talents. One prominent music style that highlights their influence is Ecuador’s garrulous and marimba. These rhythmic melodies showcase Africans and their descendants’ vital role in creating this captivating music.

In the province of Esmeraldas, a unique branch of the marimba genre has emerged, known as the marimba salsa. This musical innovation blends traditional marimba tunes with contemporary influences from the vibrant salsa culture. 

The fusion of traditional and modern elements in the marimba salsera represents a powerful statement of cultural pride and resilience. Afro-Ecuadorians celebrate their roots, preserve their traditions, and assert their place in Ecuador’s diverse cultural landscape through their music.

Preservation Efforts for Afro-Ecuadorian Heritage

The Afro-Ecuadorian community is deeply committed to preserving its cultural heritage, passing down age-old customs, music, dance, and rituals from one generation to another.

Community gatherings and oral storytelling are central to these preservation efforts, where elders’ wisdom is shared with younger members, ensuring that cultural knowledge remains alive.

Additionally, Afro-Ecuadorians have embraced technology and social media to showcase their art, music, and cultural expressions to a broader audience. Through digital platforms, they can share their traditions, history, and talents with fellow Ecuadorians and people worldwide.

Tourism also played a significant role in promoting Afro-Ecuadorian culture. Visitors worldwide are drawn to the rich tapestry of their traditions, supporting local artisans, musicians, and performers. 


The journey of the Afro-Ecuadorian people demonstrates their tenacity and commitment to preserving their own cultural heritage.

As global awareness grows, Afro-Ecuadorians finally receive the recognition and appreciation they deserve.

Afro-Ecuadorians have boldly embraced their diverse cultural background, taking pride in their roots. Their enduring spirit and contributions to Ecuador’s cultural tapestry solidify their place as an integral part of the nation’s identity.

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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