Ecuador: Rich and Poor

An Ecuadorian couple walks along an avenue in downtown Quito. The wealthier part of the population lives in northern Quito, where high-end shopping malls and restaurants are common. Image by Kate Riley. Ecuador, 2014.

Because of its Spanish colonial roots, many of the streets and avenues of Old Quito are quite narrow and wind up and down the mountain. A statue of the Virgin Mary can be seen atop the mountain in the distance. Ninety-five percent of the nation is Catholic. Image by Kate Riley. Ecuador, 2014.

The Church de La Compañía de Jesús is one of the most famous landmarks of Quito. Construction of the Baroque-style church began in 1605 and was finished 160 years later in 1765. Image by Adrianne Haney. Ecuador, 2014.

The city of Quito is full of parks and plazas open to the public. Here in Plaza Grande, residents are welcome to sit outside Carondelet Palace, where Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa lives and works. Image by Adrianne Haney. Ecuador, 2014.

People in Quito wave green flags, the color of President Correa's party, to show their support. Image by Kate Riley. Ecuador, 2014.

An indigenous mother and her daughter sit on the steps outside a church in Old Quito, the poorer, more populous part of the city. About 7 percent of Ecuador is comprised of native Amerindians, who are usually distinguished by their traditional dress. Image by Kate Riley. Ecuador, 2014.

A view of a local school outside of Quito. The scenery is typical of rural areas in Quito province. Image by Kate Riley. Ecuador, 2014.

In Ecuador a single lane sometimes turns into three and cars rarely stay in their designated lanes. Tractors and slow-moving buses also frequently clog the flow of traffic up the steep, two-lane highways. Image by Adrianne Haney. Ecuador, 2014.

A couple walks through the market in Otavalo, Ecuador, about 100 kilometers north of Quito. The market, located in the Imbabura province, attracts thousands of tourists yearly and is known for its colorful handmade, scarves, blankets and clothing, many made from alpaca fleece. Image by Kate Riley. Ecuador, 2014.

A woman shops for vegetables in the Otavalo market. In addition to tourists, local residents browse the stalls, buying street food and other goods for their households. Haggling is common practice in markets like these. Image by Kate Riley. Ecuador, 2014.

Ecuador is a geographically diverse nation—it borders the Pacific Ocean to the west, includes the Galapagos Islands, is bisected by the Andes Mountains and overlaps a section of the Amazon. And because of several active volcanoes, lush, fertile land is common. Image by Adrianne Haney. Ecuador, 2014.

Life in Ecuador is stratified. Shopping malls, shiny cars and tall apartment complexes abound in north Quito, while just a few minutes outside the city, cinder block buildings with no windows, makeshift farm fields and unfinished roads vie for space. Riding through the countryside, one can see the run-down homes of the indigenous population marked by colorful flags hanging from roofs. But it's to nearby Otavalo, with its cafes and markets, that tourists flock.

This socioeconomic segregation is reflected in Ecuador's schools—in the amount of resources for private versus public schools as well as the quality of education and funding. However, the completion of new highways is making small rural villages more accessible. This nationwide development as well as a new education accreditation system should lead to school improvements — changes that will help close the gap between those on top and those who are not.