Introduction to Otavalo
           Otavalo is located two hours north of Quito in Ecuador's Andean highlands.  About 50,000 people reside in the town from where the famous market took its name.  Surrounded by volcanoes, the market place is in a beautiful setting.  People from all over the world come to see the famous market, where an abundance of handicrafts can be found.  However, unlike other markets, the handicrafts available at Otavalo are not commercialized versions of authentic traditional weaving styles that are found in many other market places.  Rather, Otavalenos pride themselves as successful and intelligent business people who have over the years continued to make a livelihood off their craft skills.
An Otavalo Market
    There are two parts to the Otavalo market, for it is both tourist and traditional.  Otavalenos are responsible for much of the business carried out in Otavalo.  They buy and sell chickens, pigs, vegetables, parts for their looms, dye, and yarns there.  The sections of the market where food and animals are found are rarely visited by the tourists though.  They tend to stick to the handicrafts section of the market, or the Poncho Plaza.  This is where the majority of the tourist transactions take place.  It developed in the 1960's - 1970's and has proved to be very profitable for successful Otavaleno entrepreneurs.
        Crafts that can be bought here are numerous- wool woven sweaters, ponchos, Panama hats (an Ecuadorian creation, despite it's name), hammocks, woven tapestries that depict scenes from the Ecuadorian countryside, purses, jewelry, clothing, to name a few.  Some of these are traditional crafts, but others have evolved to fit the wishes of the tourists.  Because of its success and popularity, other artisans from around Ecuador come to Otavalo to sell their crafts.
A Panama Hat
Photo Credit:
        One unique aspect of the Indigenous peoples of Otavalo is that although they have very successfully entered a prosperous money economy, they have continued to maintain their ethnic identity.  This identity is rich and deep, and many Otavalenos still speak their Quichua, their native language, and wear their traditional dress.  On top of that, Otavalenos have forged their own way, not relying on outside development organizations to help them turn their craft production into an successful economic business.

                  (Information for this page taken from:  Meisch, Lynn.  (1987).  Otavalo:
                       Weaving, Costume and the Market.  Quito:  Imprenta Mariscal.)