Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Frenzy of Otavalo Markets (Ecuador)

Every Saturday morning Otavalo awakens from its week long slumber to launch a giant market bazaar selling crafts of all descriptions along with animals, meat, vegetables, fruit, grains and hardware. A similar market has been conducted for a remarkable four thousand years providing a central meeting point for Indian villages from miles around. A cacophony of sounds from the noises of frenzied trading to the various calls of chickens, sheep, pigs and cattle greet the early arrivals when most of the local trading is done (the animal market winding up before the majority of tourist buses arrive in the mid-morning). The women and men have long animated conversations catching up on village news and goings-on before the onslaught of travellers.

Nearby villages use age-old techniques to produce superb high quality tapestries, tablecloths, hammocks, shawls and textiles along with musical instruments (including the haunting and ever-present Andean flutes), jewellery, carvings, leatherware, pottery and paintings. The various colours glisten in the equatorial sunshine, the brightly coloured textiles almost blinding in the mid-morning sunshine.

The OtavaleƱos men look distinctive in their dark ponchos with their pigtail dangling from below their felt hat. The women are striking with their intricately embroidered light-colored blouses, long dark skirts and shawls, unusual folded headwear and numerous gold and beaded bracelets and necklaces.

The centre of action is Plaza de los Panchos which becomes a maze of pathways between the rows of tapestries and clothing. While it is crowded, the stall holders let you wander in peace appreciating the detailed craftwork and general market activity. While hard-bargaining is expected for the crafts (but not the food), it is conducted in a friendly, relaxed manner and there is little hard-selling.

Otavalo makes a wonderful morning journey from Quito where even the most resilient of non-shoppers are likely to end up with a backpack full of Ecuadorian crafts and clothes from this most spectacular artisan market with a carnival feel.

10 comments:

Barbara Weibel said...

I was just in Ecuador, as you know, and Otavalo was one of the things I missed. Probably purposely; with no home I try not to get into positions where I am tempted to buy things I have no place to keep. But I can enjoy it vicariously through your article!

Mark H said...

@barbara: I managed to buy nothing except a cold drink but it is an exciting market (especially in the early hours before it is overrun with westerners...like me.

information technology said...

nice market

property in jaipur said...

good job

Heatheron her travels said...

I didn't get to Otavalo when I was in Ecuador but my friends who did came back with some great souvenirs

Mark h said...

@heather: I think a lot of folks make it their souvenir location. Lots of interesting things in the market though a fair bit is straight targetted at tourists and a bit tacky.

BTD said...

I've been to Ecuador and belive me it's worthed every single penny.

Mark H said...

@BTD: I agree - Quito, Cuenca, Banos and the rainforests all great places to visit and very economical when I travelled there.

Where to stay in Bangkok said...

Lots of interesting things in the market though a fair bit is straight targeted at tourists and a bit tacky.

Mark H said...

@bangkok: The market seems to be split between goods for the local population and those targetted at tourists. I agree that some are a bit tacky though some are certainly excellent examples of the indigineous weaving and artworks.

 
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