But For the Sky
13Jul/11Off

Otavalo’s Saturday Market

After 24 hours of buses, immigration lines, checking out a church built into a bridge, and walking across the border from Colombia to Ecuador, we arrived in Otavalo, a town in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, about 3 hours south of the border, on Friday afternoon. We had read that they have a huge Saturday market, including artisan goods from the surrounding area, but also from other parts of Ecuador and even Peru and Bolivia, as well as large animals, small animals, and fruits and vegetables. We set out

Puppy in a Basket

Puppy in a Basket

for the animal market on Saturday morning, which was in an open field on the edge of town, filled with families selling their farm animals' offspring, divided into two sections: small animals and large animals. What we found when we got to the "small animal" section was simply a plethora of tiny, adorable kittens, puppies, guinea pigs (which are eaten and are a specialty in many Andean countries), bunnies, chicks, and baby ducks. They were all way too young to be separated from their mothers, and just piled into boxes and crates. I'm not sure I've ever experienced that much cute overload (or exclaimed "Mister Man!!" that many times) in one morning! The large animal section, only slightly less adorable,

Oink!

Oink!

contained pigs, sheep, cows, and horses. The place was nuts-- full of people making quick and loud deals on animals and carrying them away in bags, on leashes, or upside down by their feet (in the case of the unfortunate chickens); gringos taking photos of piles of puppies and bunnies; small children selling ice cream and fruit; and pigs squealing at the top of their lungs.

When we had had our sufficient fill of holding tiny animals, we headed to the artisan market, which is based on the Plaza de Ponchos, the main square in the center of town. On Saturdays, the artisan market is so large that the stalls spill over into the streets several blocks in every direction from the Plaza, and you can walk for hours and not see the same stall twice. The main draw are the textiles: ponchos, scarves, sweaters, and blankets made of wool, alpaca, or cotton, most of which are handmade in the Otavalo area. Other

Otavalo market textiles

Otavalo market textiles

items include jewelry, leather goods, felt and straw hats, musical instruments, hammocks, artwork, and the usual small souvenirs. I enjoyed not only seeing the colorful array of handmade goods, but also seeing and talking to the people who make them. Otavaleños dress traditionally: the men have long, braided hair, worn under a felt hat, and they wear white pants and blue ponchos; the women wear embroidered blouses, long skirts, and very colorful belts wrapped multiple times around their waists. Native families still speak Quichua at home.

We also spent some time walking through the fruit and vegetable area, checking out the huge selection of tasty produce filling the streets with delicious aromas. One thing there is no shortage of in South America is street food: on every corner a little old lady is cooking up something delicious, or a young mother and her children are cutting up fruit and selling it in bags. There is apparently never a time NOT to eat ice cream, as you can't walk two steps without an ice cream vendor tempting you with his treats (they even come on the bus whenever it stops, carrying multiple cones and popsicles for sale). On the edge of the artisan market were families roasting pigs and serving the meat with potatoes and grains served in small plastic bags to go (everything comes in plastic bag here: water, yogurt, juice, milk, sliced fruit, cooked meat, french fries, ice cream-- you name it, it is served in a plastic bag with a fork, ready for you to eat!) So far in Otavalo we've tried colada morada, which is essentially a blackberry smoothie served hot (delicious!), llapingachos (friend potato and cheese patties, served with grilled meat and marinated tomatoes and onions), and fried potato doughnuts sprinkled with sugar. We also found a spot called "Shanandoa Pie Shop", which had the best strawberry pie we've ever eaten. We were convinced that the shop must have some connection to the US with pie that good and a name like that, so Nick asked the owner if she had ever heard of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and it turns out that she had a friend from Virginia who had mentioned the area once, and she thought the name sounded pretty so she named her shop after it. A slice of home away from home!

Shanandoa Strawberry Pie

Shanandoa Strawberry Pie

Sleepy Cat with Corn

Sleepy Cat with Corn

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Posted by Claudia

Filed under: Ecuador, Featured Comments Off