A Girl's Journey to Ecuador

Ecuador in the 1930s

When Ina and her family arrived in Ecuador, the small Andean country, always poor, was in the midst of a deep economic and political crisis, caused in part by the collapse of the cacao market during World War One. Ecuador’s economy had long been based on the export of commodities, making the country vulnerable to global market instability. Trade in “luxury” items like cacao fell during the war and the recession that followed, but Ecuador also suffered from a cacao plant disease that stunted its harvests at the same time that quality cacao from Africa flooded the market.  Politically, the period of the 1930s was one of unprecedented instability as established power brokers, some those who had gotten rich on cacao, lost favor. There were more than ten heads of state in Ecuador between 1930-1940 as the government was reconstituted several times and as leftist labor groups sparred with conservative elites.

Immigrants and refugees from Europe were welcomed to Ecuador as it was hoped they would help spur on economic development.  New arrivals were required to have particular skills that were needed to modernize the economy, or business plans that included employing Ecuadorians.  Ina’s father worked in a bank in Germany, but in Ecuador he opened a carpentry shop making sewing boxes and tables and employing several local men.

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