En la provincia de Imbabura habitan tres grandes grupos indígenas Otavalos, Natabuelas y Caranquis, son cerca de 70.000. La habilidad y técnica artesanal de muchos de estos grupos indígenas tiene raíces prehispánicas.
Three main Indigenous groups live in the province of Imbabura: Otavalos, Natabuelas and Caranquis. They number about 70,000. The artisan ability and techniques of many of these Indigenous groups has prehispanic roots.
The Otavalos are known around the world for their weaving patterns and textiles which pre-date the Spanish conquest. During the Spanish colonial period, Otavalos were forced to labor in textile workshops called obrajes in order to pay tribute taxes to the crown. The textiles were used to clothe workers in mines in Bolivia. Much of this production dropped off in the early nineteenth century because of competition from cheap industrial fabrics imported from England. In the twentieth century, Spanish looms began to replace the traditional backstrap looms. In the 1950s, a tourist trade began to flourish and the selling of textiles in a Saturday market became a significant part of Otavalo culture. A large influx of foreign tourists began to descend upon the town, and textile designs and types of fabrics began to change in order to cater to this market. The Otavalos began to market their products themselves in Colombia, New York, Europe, and around the world. Although the Otavalos retained their Indigenous customs, dress, and beliefs, the Ecuadorian elite respected them because of their entrepreneurship.