5 cool things you can find in Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market is the largest market in Ecuador, and is a great place to get to learn about the people of the Andes. Located in a valley in Imbabura, Otavalo is also a great base to visit the surrounding lakes, mountains, and villages. The market is open every day but if you can make it on a Saturday, you get a chance to visit the livestock market too. It is normal to haggle prices here, but keep in mind that you’re probably more well off then the people who live from selling goods at the market.
Alpaca rugs and clothes
Traditional methods of weaving are still used in the Andes, where alpacas have been reared for more than 5000 years for their wool. Alpaca fiber is difficult to work with, as it is fine and more “slippery” in texture than both sheep’s wool and llama fiber. It’s also hard to dye as it takes longer for the colors to penetrate it. Alpaca fibers are strong and much warmer than other wools and is second only to mohair in strength. At Otavalo you can find jumpers, ponchos and colorful rugs made from dyed alpaca wool.
Alpacas are shorn once a year, and the wool is then spun into yarn before it is washed and dyed. Some items such as the rugs are still woven by hand, while other such as the items of clothing are now made in factories. If you’re planning on spending some time in the Andes, these jumpers are the warmest thing you will ever wear. They are perfect for freezing cold nights in the Andes (and winter in general).
Even if you may not buy these yourself, Otavalo has lots of different stalls and shops that cater to Otavaleño indigenous fashion. The women traditionally wear white blouses with large sleeves embroidered with colourful flowers, a long wraparound wool skirt held in place with a matching embroidered belt, and closed sandals. The men wear loose trousers, shirts and bowler hats with ponchos for the cold.
The area is famous for its leatherwork which specifically comes from a small village nearby called Cotacachi. The cows are reared here and the leather treated here too. A lot of the leather things are quite old fashioned, but there are some younger designers appearing who have combined the elders knowledge with modern styles.
Food and spices
You can buy all sorts of local delicatessen that mostly reflects Andean specialties. Some of the cooked foods you can buy include Hornado or roast pig (a whole one), llapingachos or potato cooked in pork fat, and mote pillo a local type of boiled corn and served with pork and more toasted corn. Special ingredients you can buy includes a million types of corn, the most particular of which is choclo morado or purple corn. You can also find numerous types of spices and herbs for making teas and cooking.
Art and decorations
The local artisans paint bowls, plates, frames and more in bright colours which match those on the woven tablecloths. Some depict Andean scenes which have condors flying over indigenous people working the land, or scenes of celebration. You can also find small sculptures with scenes carved into them, sometimes in the figures of guinea pigs. Other items you can often find are traditional masks depicting animals or festive figures also painted in bright colours.