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Otavalo Market

Paul 2007-01-21
Photo: IMAGE 008
We're in Otavalo the day after the enormous indigenous market (we're told the largest in South America).

I sit here on the grass, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Simon Bolivar park, people watching. We're taking a rest after our hike up the local peak where we got a view of the large Laguna San Pablo. As I'm playing with my phone, it hits me: TyTN has a camera built-in! Well, this is the first ever blog post with a photo from the phone. Wish I would have thought of it sooner.

At yesterday's market, we bought a few handicrafts, including Joanne's new hat, which she's completely enamored with. How cute!

The sight of the indigenous people of the Sierra mountain area of Ecuador selling their tapestries, carvings, woven and knit goods are truly stunning. It's really unfortunate we didn't have a camera with us to share some of it with you all.

I'll try to paint it for you: They are a short, stout people with dark complexions and long thick black hair that both the men and women wear braided or pony tailed, usually under a Panama hat (which is unfortunately named, it originates in Ecuador with their culture). They wear blankets over their shoulders, under which the women wear lacy white embroidered blouses and decorative necklaces. The men's collared shirts stand in stark contrast to their often crisp white calf length pants. Astonishingly for rugged mountain folk, they wear the flimsiest little shoes, barely with a sole, and just a string around their heel to keep them from falling off.

Oh, and the women carry loads two to three times their body volume, and perhaps twice their weight, hunched over with the enormous burlap bags tied with a single rope around the bag and their shoulders. The men are rarely seen carrying anything.

Earlier Saturday morning, we rose at the ungodly early hour of six thirty (we can remember getting up even earlier when we worked, but our bodies, now used to a solid eight hours of sleep were unforgiving in their exhausted complaints from the sudden rousing at sunrise after just five and a half hours to sleep off the bottle of wine from the late dinner the night before - I know, I know, woe are we, hold the sympathy, please).

We made our tired uncaffeinated butts over to the animal market. There, we found hundreds of squealing pigs on leash, as many docile cows and a few enormous, intimidating bulls, also on flimsy leashes often held by a small child alongside hundreds upon hundreds of indigenous people of all ages buying and selling their livestock.

In a sea of animals, mud, shit, and brightly clothed people we stood, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and crisp air awed by the organized chaos of a real-deal market. Suddenly, a pig bit me for no apparent reason. I'm still alive. And now I have a story to tell and a shit stain on my jeans where its snout got me, which a moment before was smearing a pile of steaming dung around. Yum!

Most of the grass grazing scrawny-looking hide and bones cows go for $250, while the alfalfa-fed "normal" looking cows (which there weren't many of) go for $400. Pigs are a quarter the cost, and all go into a tortured squealing frenzy as one leash comes off and the new owner's leash comes on and they are dragged off towards the horizon by their proud new owners. It's at once fascinating, sad and engrossing to see.

We don't often think or see the steps that lead to a plate of meat at dinner. For us, it was our first exposure to just one of the steps involved in husbandry. Nice to have the blinder's off.

Later in the day, the crafts market (artisanas) opens and the main streets are lined with stall after stall of indigenous handiwork. Bargaining is the norm, and items generally cost half as much as the stated price. At first, we hesitated to offer less than half of the asking price and bargain up to half, but this is expected. After the first few purchases, the transactions were smooth and fun. Our best deal: the $4 hat you see in the photo went for $1.25. Sweet!

Now that I remember about the phone's camera, you can look forward to a few impromptu (low quality) photos until a replacement camera arrives in a couple of weeks.

There you have it, mobile blogging from high in the Ecuadorian sierra. A big "Olah!" from both of us to all of you.


Permalink by Gug   |  January 22, 2007 01:15 PM

I definitely got the pictures! So interesting. Thanks OX

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