Introduction to 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
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
A Panama Hat
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).
Weaving, Costume and the Market. Quito: Imprenta