Craft Markets and local music.

Otavalo Travel Blog

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This morning we visit the colourful craft market of Otovalo where we wander round the stalls looking at the different textiles many made with local plant dyes. The indigenous Otavaleño people, who make up approximately 50% of the town’s population, have been weavers since pre-Incan times. In colonial days, their skills resulted in many of them being forced into the equivalent of the sweat shops of today.

On weekends, the craft market begins early, with stallholders setting up at around 6 am. A large animal market is held at the same time on the outskirts of the city, trading cattle, sheep, pigs, llamas, chickens, rabbits and masses of guinea pigs, turning the town into a sprawling marketplace.

We are told that this is probably the best place to do some souvenir hunting, perhaps buying a locally made poncho or Panama Hat to take home.

After the market we visit the environs around the town of Otovalo and nearby San Pablo lake.

The largest natural lake in the country. A secondary road circumnavigates the lake. Along it are several native villages and a number of upmarket inns. San Pablo is a popular weekend destination for wealthier Ecuadoreans looking for water sports, good food, or just a place to get away.When we arrive the rain starts to bucket down. It's a quick walk around the lake before we head on to lunch.

After lunch we visit the village of Peguche, where its local families are famous for their traditional Andean music, played using several different types of hand pipes. We visit a weaving shop here too. We learn about the history and process of weaving in the area.

All shades of red, orange and pink thread is made from the colorant cochineal.

It's made from the bodies or eggs of a small South American insect, Dactylopius coccus, that lives on cactus. The insect produces the pigment to keep other insects away. Cochineal was worth its weight in gold to the ancient peoples, given as tribute to emperors and revered in Mayan and Aztec cultures.The conquistadors prized it because the dye was of better quality than European dyes.

Exported  for use in coloring fabrics, cosmetics and foods such as drinks, jellies and jams, pies, tomato products, maraschino cherries and cough drops. It is still used in cosmetics today because it is natural, non-toxic and water soluble, more stable than synthetic colors.

We leave the weavers and head back to Otavalo for our night stop.

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photo by: Ils1976