|Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2015-01-28 17:37:36 | Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador|
Keywords: market, Traditions
|I like to visit small town markets because they really showcase the reality of the local people and on certain days or events, they are also filled with indigenous people coming to sell their produces are wares. In some cases, however, the market has been transformed into a touristic circus. It's unfortunately my impression of the famous handicrafts market of the little town of Otavalo, in Northern Ecuador.|
Yes, the colours are
great, the people is amazing and the food is usually good too. But
it's obvious that this is a show for the tourists these days. Since
the prices are still much lower here than in Quito or Guayaquil for
the same articles, it cannot be considered a tourist trap. But it
was turned into a Disneyland of handicrafts. It's not bad in itself,
and it helps the whole city to live better with the weekend tourists
flocking from Quito. But overall, if you're looking for the
authenticity, that is way gone, with the original and traditional
designs which were replaced with others mainly aimed at pleasing
tourists rather than showcasing the culture elements.
During the week, the
Plaza del poncho in centre Otavalo is still filled with crafts shops
offering you everything you envision as 'typical' Andean crafts. I
suspect many of them are mass-produced (although they don't show the
“Made in China” label), but most of it is really handy work...
and some artisans are actually working within their little stalls in
between the rare customers of the weekdays.
When a 'gringo'
actually strolls in the market on weekdays, he's constantly called up
by every vendor who can see him. They actually learned a few words
in English to at least give you the name of their products (scarfs,
however, the market takes a whole new dimension. First, the crafts
are exposed in many streets around the Plaza, which include of course
tons of vendors who are not there during the week. On many
occasions, those new vendors offer you items that are not sold during
the week by the 'resident' vendors of the Plaza. You will see for
example music instruments, art pieces beyond the 'traditional'
Then, on the South
side of the Plaza, you will find a small food market. First, with
spices, then with the regular market stuff like chicken and veggies.
Then, there are the food stalls offering you all the local
specialities (and a few carts offering Colombian items like papas
rellenas). It's the good occasion for you to try the local food,
because it's hot (which is rarely the case with street vendors in
Ecuador) and you can smell it.
All kinds of crafts can be found.
If you like to walk,
the open-air market expands for at least 10 streets North/South and 4
streets East/West, with all streets being blocked by vendors and
their stalls. Beyond the crafts, the market converts into a regular
market in the streets. It's basically a giant flea market where you
can find virtually anything you want. It's nice, but it's not
different than the regular markets or 'centro commerciales' you can
go to every day of the week, in every city of Ecuador.
If you walk more,
you can get to the animals market on the other side of the
Panamericana highway. There you will mostly see sections reserved
for bovines, pigs and horses. Then, you will encounter any and every
kind of farm animals at various stages of development. You will of
course encounter also something you wouldn't expect... guinea pigs.
There are vendors there, offering these to become 'cuy' (cooked
BBQ-style), because it's popular in Ecuador. There are also a few
food stalls plus more generic flea market stuff.
Tourist guides will
tell you go as early as 6 AM for the beginning of the market time...
but since the mass of tourists arrive from Quito only around 9 or 10
AM, many vendors aren't set up before 9.
Overall, it's a nice
experience, but diluted by the overly commercial aspect of it. I
personally much preferred seeing the crafts market on weekdays and
being able to actually take my time to admire the work without being
pushed by the sea of tourists. Then, visit a normal city market
later. The only real bonus of the Saturday is the animals market.
But if you're on the hunt for souvenirs and crafts, the selection is
better on Saturdays.
Part of the animals market.
Día de Muertos
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