Afro-Hispanic settlement patterns configure into four primary adaptive niches manifest in three primary environments. All four niches exist in each environment, and people come and go from niche to niche. The three environments are sea edge, mangrove swamp, and forest. The niches are rural scattered dwellings, rural settlements, towns, and large urbanized towns. Egalitarian social relationships and preferred cousin marriage characterize the rural scattered dwellings, whereas ranked social relationships and work-group specialization characterize the rural settlements. In the latter, prominent men organize profit-oriented activities but their income is leveled by their continuing debt to workers. Ritual life in settlements is especially rich, but it is almost nonexistent in the scattered settlements.
Towns have the trappings of the central administrative apparatus of the nations of Ecuador and Colombia. Activities there are oriented toward the acquisition of money, and the boom-and-bust nature of the coastal economy determines the social strategies and patterns of activities to be undertaken. Towns are economically stratified, although social ranking and egalitarian processes are also present; race relations in towns during economic-boom periods are characterized by distinct White-over-Black asymmetry. The large, urbanized towns (Buenaventura and Tumaco, Colombia, and Esmeraldas, Ecuador), are rigidly stratified with "White" immigrants on top and the Afro-Hispanic population on the bottom. Processes characteristic of the rural dispersed niche and rural settlement are manifest in the lowest economic class. In the early 1990s San Lorenzo and Quinindé, Ecuador, and Guapi, Colombia, have entered the system of the large, urbanized towns. Many other towns are exhibiting similar patterns.