Zaruma is a town located in the southern province of El Oro (meaning literally "the gold") in the western range of the Andes mountains in the country of Ecuador, Zaruma is a lovely hilltop town with steep twisted streets, painted wooden buildings, and fabulous views of the surrounding landscape. The town is situated at around 1150 meters above sea level and enjoys a dry, mild, and generally sunny climate year round The name of the town comes from the combining of two Quichua words, "saramaiz" and "uma" which together mean "maize cob".Located above a reservoir of precious metals, the land of Zaruma has been exploited for its abundant mineral resources since before the arrival of the Spanish. Except for the Aboriginal Period, which consisted of small scale mining, the extraction of metals has caused periodic migrations into the region and sustained the local economy through times of boom and crisis.
Due to it resources in gold, the town was awarded in 1595 by King of Spain Philip II, who gave it the official name of "Villa Real de San Antonio del Cerro de Oro de Zaruma" (Royal Town of St. Anthony of the Gold Mountain of Zaruma). Mining, during colonial times, was a tremendous source of wealth for the Royal Audience of Quito Ecuador (the collective name of the colonial settlements in the region) and the Spanish monarchy. After this period, a number of foreign and domestic companies continued the unjust extraction of metals, leaving the people and land wounded and scarred.
The center of Zaruma consists of a large main square and an adjacent church. Next to the beautiful main plaza is a gold museum that gives you the entire history of the various gold operations up to the current day and visitors can often see these operations going on today from rock-crushing facilities to other types of operations. Despite the fact that a good deal of the available gold has already been mined, small-scale extraction activities still make up a major operation in and around Zaruma. Upon request, it is possible to visit one of the many roadside mining operations to observe the entire mining process and many locals bring gold-bearing rocks into the town to be crushed and passed through sluices to wash off the mud.
Fifteen minutes from the city of Zaruma there is another colonial mine named "El Sexmo" which now has been opened for the public, known for its colonial architecture and for having been founded by Alonso de Market. "El Sexmo" is currently one of the main attractions of the city, as in ancient times took out a gold nugget weighing three pounds that was sent as a curiosity and a gift to the King of Spain.
With time, the Zarumeñans have taken more control of the industry and turned mining into a fairer means of income generation for labourers. Gold mining is still a major employer here among the noticeably white skinned, blue eyed inhabitants of direct Spanish stock. Mining in Zaruma, has provided a link between southern Ecuador and northern Peru, contributing to the development of routes for transport, economic relations, technology, social and cultural enrichment, and strengthening of bonds between other counties and provinces.