As I wandered around the market stalls taking my photos I began to realise that all the women were dressed in a similar style, rather different from the indigenous people I had seen in Quito. This is the traditional dress of the Otavaleña. It consists of white blouses, with coloured embroidery (usually of flowers) and flared lace sleeves, worn with black or dark skirts. They wear their hair long, but instead of plaiting it, as I had seen the women of Quito do, they tie it back with coloured braid in a loose ponytail. They usually have many strings of gold beads around their necks, and strings of coral beads around their wrists. Many of the older ones fold a cloth over their heads, known as a fachalina, like those in photos three and four.
The men traditionally wear white trousers, cut off just below the knee, with dark blue ponchos and felt hats. Their hair too is worn long. We saw relatively few men in this costume compared to the number of women wearing the traditional dress, but many had the long hair and felt hat, albeit often combined with modern jeans and t-shirts.
Incidentally, you need a long lens to capture photos like this, and a bit of cheek, as most stall-holders and local shoppers are not over-keen on posing for photos, and those that are willing (usually those you have bought from) tend to do so quite stiffly so you don’t get a natural look and a sense of the bustle and activity of the market. None of the photos attached to this tip were posed, even those that look a bit as if they might have been!
My cousins took me up to this famous spot. It is on the way to the Condor Park. The Lechero is a very very old tree. They say its hundred of years old. Local shaman come here too because there is a certain positive energy found here. It is located on a hill that overloks the Lago San Pablo and there is also a couple of legends here. The first one is that when you come here for the first time you have to make a wish and hug the Lechero and your wish will come true. The other is of an Indian couple, She was from one tribe and He was from another. Romero and Juliet type of story,the family didnt like eachother and fobade them to be together. The lovers desparate went to the local Shaman or witch. The witch said to leave and be together forever but as you go dont turn around or you will never be together. They planned it all out. They were to meet on the hill and walk away together. But just as they were leaving She thought about her mother and her family and she turned to see her family one last time. Quickly as she turned around she was gone. She had become part of the Lago San Pablo. He was desparate, didnt know what to do. In the end he too turned around and he became the Lechero. They will forever look at eachother but never be able to be together again.
El Corazon de Imbabura/Heart of Imbabura
I am not sure if you can see it well in this pictures but at the side on the Taita Imbabura there is a deep crevice. It is in the shape of a perfect heart. You can see this on the side of the mountain and there is a legend that goes along with it. Apparently there was this terrible giant that lived years and years ago. He would go terrorizing the nearby cities in Imbabura. He would laugh that the lakes in this area that got him til about his knees. The people were sick of this giant and decided to lure him to el Lago San Pablo. The giant thinking it was just like any other lake went in not realizing it was so deep. When he began to drown he grabbed on to Taita Imbabura his finger went right through one part of the mountain and thats why there is a whole where you can see right through to the other side. Then when the giant died his heart formed the giant crevice that is in the shape of his heart on the side of the mountain.
As a child my uncle used to go camping and hiking the Imbabura and he got very close to the heart. He said iots a giant crevice that goes deep down into the mountain and its quite intimidating.
Cleaning of the city at night
After all the crowds of people and the vendors pick up shop around Otavalo you might hear music. The dump trucks go around the city everyday a new section picking up the trash that people have left behind. This is done with the help of a smaller truck that goes into places and streets that the big dump truck cant get into. The police also are involved in this whole process. Otavalo is a pretty clean city over all.
About every 15 days or sometimes alittle more depending on the need Firetrucks, police and local vendors will clean the streets with soap and water and brushes and brooms. This would usually happen on a Sunday morning especially after the animal markets on Saturdays.
I was very surprised. It really showed the love and respect for their city as everyone participated in the cleaning. The firetrucks would use their hoses to wash away the soapy streets and the police would help direct them where to go.
Otavalo has a new mayor
Otavalo now has its first indigenous Mayor and he is making sure Otavalo is well taken care of. Since Mario Conejo has taken over as mayor the town has improved quite a bit in my opinion. He is concerned with the safetyand cleanliness of the city and recognizes Otavalos potential and its importance not only to the locals but to the visitors of Otavalo as well.
He has done major improvements to the streets here and there are benches everwhere to sit and relax. There are also decorations on the street lights and the town is definately more cleaner now than it has ever been.
I even heard that he is trying to implement a new water system here to improve the towns drinking water.
Dama de Amor
A tradition is Ecuador when someone gets married is to have a Dama de Amor. Kind of like a maid of honor but she will be dress in red (symbol/color of love). This person is usually someone like a family member who might have been influential in getting the couple together or deeply cares for the couple.
In this pictures the dama de Amor is my cousin Soledad for the wedding of her brother David. The wedding was held in Otavalo.
If you are lucky to be in Otavalo during these times you will get to see the traditional festivals. They are very exciting and alot of fun.
The Inti Raymi celebrations by the end of June (On June the 21st), together with the Fiesta de San Juan (On June the 24th) and the Fiesta de San Pedro and San Pablo (On June the 29th).
The three celebrations together are also known as Los San Juanes held by the indigenous people in Otavalo. The celebration starts at the Peguche waterfall with a spiritual private ritual. The smaller villages close to Otavalo celebrate with musicians, dancers and lots of drinking. In Otavalo, the indigenous people celebrate with costume parties in the streets and Plazas. This is a week long celebration.
The last day on the 29th of June, there are other events including fireworks, bullfighting and the magnificent boating regattas on Lago San Pablo, which starts in Cabañas del Lago.
The Fiesta del Yamor and Colla Raimi.- These celebrations are held on September, on the first 2 weeks. A well known and the largest celebration in the province of Imbabura. The yamor chicha (Local drink made of several corn types) is prepared and given to the guests along with local delicacies. There is a lot of dancing, processions, cockfights and local music is played everywhere, all this together with fireworks and other amusing events.
Mojandas Arriba.- (31 October) This is an annual celebration that commemorates the day that Otavalo became recognized and declared a "city" by Simón Bolívar
Making change makes life easier
The dollar goes a lot further down there than you can even realize. I made a mistake by bringing any cash in the form of twenties. It is difficult for vendors to make change even from 10 dollar bills. I recommend bringing as many fives and ones as possible and using bigger bills when buying a lot of merchandise from one vendor.
I found that if a vendor had to make change for a twenty dollar bill it was quite a hassle. They would need to borrow smaller bills from one or two other vendors and pay them back later when they made enough money. I actually felt guilty for making them run around so twice I went small stores in town to make change for me. This was difficult for the stores also. By bringing small change it makes life a lot easier for them and for you.
The indiginous culture
It was interesting to me how the Otavalenos have held on to their culture while many other indian cultures lost thiers.So I asked my family never ending questions about the Otavalenos. First thing you will notice is their dress. The men will always wear white calf length pants, dark ponchos and rope sandals. They will also wear their hair long and in a braid. Their hair is not to be cut short. The woman wear white blouses and long dark blue skirts, shawls and lots of jewlery. The single women wear their hair in a braid and the shawl around thier shoulders. The married women usually wear their hair up and they have to walk behind their husbands and carry everything.
Also most Otavalenos do not like their picture taken because they believe that when you take their picture, you take thier soul. You might finds some people though that will let you take their picture for a price.
- Arts and Culture
Plaza de Ponchos
This is a great place to get your souveniers and if you get there early you might be able to get an even lower price. Here you will find leather goods, llama skin tapestries, pillow covers, blankets, wood carvings, wool sweaters and alot of local food. It does get very crowded on Saturdays which is the main shopping day but you can go any day during the week and you can find many of the crafts that are sold on the Friday and Saturday market.
Fritada llapingachos and mote
Fritada is pork and its cut into cubes and fried with onion and other spices. It is a popular dish in Imbabura. LLapingachos are like a potato pancake, cheese inside and fried lightly.