Monday, March 30, 2015

Oh, Otavalo We Are Happy to Return

It is easy to become slothful in Otavalo. Maybe this is why I wanted to return here. We spent a few days here two years ago. Back then, we went to the condor area, the national park, and all the nature things that are in the surrounding area. I then fell in love with the town; it is too small with only 50,000 people, to be called a city. Being renown all over South America for having the largest craft market, it is especially enviable on Saturdays. Saturday is the superlative day to visit here as the market explodes covering the entire downtown area. It is possible to buy indigenous clothes to souvenirs, to USB sticks and batteries. Your heart’s desires can be quenched easily and usually inexpensively. 

There is only one museum and this is tiny and privately owned. We did not bother, as the looks of it did not entice us to pay $3 each. This city prompts you to take a deep breath and then release all of the tensions from your body. Slow down, you do not need to rush. Take in your surroundings and enjoy. 

Of course, we arrived late on Saturday; the markets were closing for the day. For me, the markets are a major draw, but not for buying things. What appeals to me are the people watching opportunities. Otavalo is famous for its indigenous population; the group is called Otavalos. They have a
distinctive way of dressing that distinguishes them from other indigenous groups one passes on the streets in other towns and cities in Ecuador. 

For men, the traditional dress includes white pants, which always have sharp creases in the legs, looking like they just emerged from a dry
cleaner’s pressing machine. Regardless of the weather, they cover their shirts with a poncho, most are dark in color. Many wear various types of hats, but always with broad brims. 

Women wear dark colored skirts usually black or navy blue with a white blouse covered
with colorful embroidery. For a belt, they have equally colorful embroidered waistbands that wrap around and then tie. Women carry their babies on their back using a large white sheet that resembles an over-sized diaper. The baby is tucked in and the cloth is wrapped around her waist to hold it in place. We have never once seen a baby fall loose.

Both men and women wear their thick pitch-black hair very long and in a single braid. The majority of both men and women wear simple sandal like shoes. You can see an example in the photo of the two men. These only come in white or black. Some of both sexes wrap their braid in another colorful embroidered strip of material. 

The Otavalos are considered to be the most successful group of indigenous in Ecuador as they sell their craft work worldwide. An equal mix of those who made their riches as those who live in poverty, exist here.

We went to dinner at Buena Vista, a restaurant overlooking the famous Plaza de Ponchos. This is the location of the daily craft market. Our pleasant experiences with the restaurant lingered from our last visit, so we returned. We were not disappointed. After dinner, we walked to the central square. There was musical entertainment, speeches, and dancing. It is gratifying to watch the crowds of locals swell taking in the free entertainment. 

Sunday was Palm Sunday. As it turned out, it was a major cultural event. The palm leaves they used here differ from the palms distributed in the US Catholic churches. Woven palm leaves create vases, which they fill with
other greens. We never did figure out what the greens were. These vases sell for $1 already filled.

The town was buzzing with people carrying their vases. When we went into the church, Ron had missed the mass with no other following it. The entire altar was covered with a huge purple sheet. We had no clue as to what this was about. 

I do not need to shop to love Otavalo. The studio apartment we rented is excellent. There is enough space to feel like multiple rooms, though it is only one. It is quiet and the bed is superior. I love getting into it and hate getting out.

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