I’m not much of a shopper; I don’t like malls, department stores or even small retail shops. Not terribly attached to material goods, these stores hold little interest for me. But, give me an indigenous market in a foreign country and I’m all over it.
These markets offer so much more than “stuff.” In addition to the traditional wares they are selling, these markets are filled with culture, character, unique people and local foods.
So it was a no brainer that while visiting Quito, Ecuador for a two week stay, my family and I jumped on a bus, for a two hour ride, to seek out the world famous Otavalo Saturday Market. Otavalo is the capital of Otavalo Cantos, an indigenous town in the Imbabura Province.
The town is surrounded by three volcanoes: Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda and has a population of about 90,000 inhabitants. That number, however, swells on Saturday, when people from all over come out for the biggest market day of the week, at the biggest indigenous market in all of South America.
The area is known for their textiles so a large part of what you will find at the market is textile based. Still that offers a large selection of goods: Alpaca blankets, capes, shawls, sweaters and jackets. There are also plenty of stalls selling shirts, skirts and pants.
Or you can just buy bolts of cloth to make your own attire. But if clothing is not your thing, fear not, there are still plenty of other wares to buy: slippers, purses, jewelry, wall hangings, hammocks, dolls…And of course you will want to purchase a bag to carry home all of your loot; I did!
I challenge anyone to head out to Otavalo and come home empty handed.
Even if you’re like me and shopping isn’t your thing, even at an indigenous foreign market, a trip to Otavalo is worth it for the sights, sounds and smells. It’s local foreign culture at its best. Women in their Andean attire, locals bargaining the price of a chicken down in Spanish, families shopping for their weekly goods and the smells of food that will call you to lunch even if you’re not hungry.
One stall frying whole fish certainly caught our attention. Sitting at a wooden picnic table covered with a plastic table cloth, we dined on some of the best fish I ever had. Nothing fancy, just incredibly well prepared fresh food.
Posted By Lisa Shusterman