Few fragments of the indigenous popular poetry in Quechua, which arose in that part of the Inca empire that today forms Ecuador, are preserved, including the song Prigione o morte di Atahualpa. During the Spanish rule, cultural activity was monopolized by the clergy. Among other things, the Jesuits introduced the teaching of literature and the humanities (1585). A significant example of the courtly and mannerist poetry of the colonial period is the anthology Ramillete de varias flores poéticas (published in Madrid in 1675). Only bishop Gaspar de Villarroel (1587-1665) is noted in the prose, one of the first chroniclers of Spanish America to emphasize the narrative element. The eighteenth century is also rather poor in sincere literary values, at least until the last decades of the century, when it begins to welcome French influences. In the new cultural climate stimulated by the Enlightenment is inserted the desire for emancipation from colonial power, of which Francisco Eugenio Espejo de Santa Cruz (1740-1796) was one of the first spokesmen with the satirical dialogues of the Nuevo Luciano (1779) and with the first Ecuadorian periodical, which he founded.
According to thefreegeography, the heroic moment of the war of independence is present in all the literary manifestations of the early century. XIX, as in the rest of Latin America, and finds its most notable expression in the neoclassical poetry of José Joaquín de Olmedo, a fighter with Bolívar and his cantor. The romance is manifested in Ecuador after 1850 with some important figures, although still tied to European models, like Julio Zaldumbide (1833-1887), imitator of Byron and Lamartine, Juan León Mera (1832-1894), best known for the novel Cumandá or a drama among savages, an example of Indian fiction; and above all with Juan Montalvo (1833-1889), who, promoter of an active participation in political and social problems, inaugurated a literature of a critical and polemical type. Also thanks to this singular voice, Ecuador begins to become aware of itself and this will be the basis of the literature of the twentieth century, with which the country reaches the international level. Indeed, after the modernist experience of the beginning of the century. XX in the lyric (A. Borja, E. Noboa Caamaño, MA Silva, M. Fierro) and in the prose (G. Zaldumbide), Ecuadorian literature of the thirties is characterized by political-moral commitment, which is expressed in a narrative Indianist of protest, of an exceptional level for the drama and vigor of representation, even if not always for the stylistic and formal values. This address finds its followers in the “Guayaquil group”, of naturalist tendencies (J. de la Cuadra, E. Gil Gilbert, AF Rojas, J. Gallegos Lara, J. Fernández), and in the major Ecuadorian narrators of the twentieth century: Demetrio Aguilera Malta (1905-1981), who is also one of the very few Ecuadorian playwrights, Alfredo Pareja Díez-Canseco (1908-1993), Alfonso Cuesta y Cuesta (1912-1991) and Jorge Icaza (1906-1978), whose famous novel Huasipungo (1934) remains the most representative work of this exceptional flowering. A little on the sidelines are Pablo Palacios (1906-1946), author of short stories and novels with a humorous tone, and Adalberto Ortiz (1914-2003), who in the novel Juyungo is sensitive to the search for new techniques. Unlike fiction, poetry did not give big names, with the exception of Jorge Carrera Andrade (1903-1978), one of the most significant Latin American operas of the twentieth century. At the beginning of the 1940s a new intellectual movement of progressive inspiration spreads, relying on the Ecuadorian Casa de la cultura and the magazine Letras del Ecuador, directed by Benjamin Carrión, while in the 1960s the group of poets “Tzántzicos” was formed and attracted attention, embodying a strong indigenist contestation and in which the work of Ulises Estrella stands out in particular, but which obtains in rather modest results, both in lyric poetry and in the theater. The second half of the twentieth century is characterized by the proliferation of magazines and poetic groups around which the most influential personalities of Ecuadorian contemporary literature grow.
One of the most original writers is Jorge Enrique Adoum, poet of Nerudian descent and pugnacious essayist, alongside whom we must remember, among others, Pedro Jorge Vera (publicist, poet, playwright, narrator), the essayist Galo René Pérez, founder, among the ‘other, Madrugada, the poet and narrator Alfonso Barrera Valverde, linked to the “Umbrales” group. On the other hand, a member of “Presencia” is Carlos de la Torre Reyes, journalist, novelist and historian (La revolución de Quito del 10 de August de 1809). Also close to this movement are Renán Flores Jaramillo and Filoteo Samaniego, poet and art critic. The group “Caminos” remains to be mentioned, with authors such as Atahualpa Martínez Rosero, a poet who recovers native influences, Marco Antonio Rodríguez, Guillermo Ríos Andrade, Félix Yépez Pazos (Mano a mano) and others. Among the theater authors are mentioned Simón Corral, José Martínez Queirolo and Santiago Ribadeneira, and among the younger writers Vladimiro Rivas Iturralde (El legado del tigre, 1997; La caída y la noche, 2001), Jorge Velasco Mackenzie and Eliécer Cárdenas (Polvo y ceniza, 1979; Háblanos Bolívar, 1983; Que te perdone el viento, 1993; El obscuro final del Porvenir, 2000.