"Local men and women, their long black hair tied back beneath felt hats, come to Otavalo on Saturdays to buy chickens, pigs, and vegetables. Meanwhile, tourists test their Spanish and bargaining skills at stalls vending colorful and inexpensive knitted sweaters, hats and gloves. There are also hammocks, woven backpacks and hats galore." (Jones, 1994). This is the Otavalo that tourists see when they arrive- local Indigenous men and women in their traditional dress, the crafts that they sell, and an opportunity to interact with the locals. The market has been described as picturesque by visitors due to the combination of friendly Indigenous vendors in their native dress, as well as the beauty of the natural surroundings. Outsiders who visit only the main tourist section of the market, Poncho Plaza, see a very limited aspect of Otavalo culture and way of life. Many come only for the day to buy crafts in the artisan market, and do not see the rest of Otavalo.
Having been to Otavalo myself, I too was caught up in the natural beauty of the surroundings, as well as the crafts and their vendors. I remember first arriving in Otavalo, and being taken aback by the beauty of the market, filled with bright, colorful textiles, set in a perfect backdrop of mountains and volcanoes. With only a few short hours to spend in Otavalo, I had a "typical" tourist experience there- bargaining in the Poncho Plaza, buying hammocks, brightly colored wall hangings, and a few sweaters to bring home to my friends and family. I regret not having more time to see the parts of Otavalo normally overlooked by tourists.
If you would like more information about traveling to Ecuador and Otavalo, follow these links:
-This page was created by Christine Howley-
(Information for this page was taken from: Jones, Lisa. "Charming
Saleswoman Won't Give any Ground." Denver Post,
Travel Section, July 10, 1994.)