The Ecuador Chronicles - 2011-34
Ecuador - A Beautiful Country of Beautiful People
Ecuador - Not a Rich Country, Children in Need;
Ecuador - How Food gets to the Table
This week we are pleased to feature another great Chronicle from Shelley Winchester. Shelley brings some young Americans to Ecuador for a first hand view of Ecuadorian culture. This is a deeper look than most visitors get - more than just the usual attractions. But let's let Shelley tell the story.
by Shelley Winchester
This Little Piggy Went to Market
I’ve been to many types of markets in Latin America, such as textile, arts and crafts, and food markets, to name a few . But the most unusual and fascinating one I’ve been to was the Otavalo animal market.
A colleague and her two daughters, Mary Anne and Elsa, came to visit me during my stay in Quito this summer. One of the girls had done a project for her Girl Scout troupe, collecting over 500 pairs of socks and underwear as donations for the shelter for abandoned and abused children where I work. I rented them an apartment for 10 days in the same building where I live during the summers. I showed them around Quito and they went to the shelter with me every day for a week.
The girls had both been students in my advanced Spanish class in Albuquerque, New Mexico in which they had studied Ecuadorian culture. I had given them literature about Otavalo and the large textile market there, so I thought a trip to visit it while they were in Ecuador would be worthwhile along with visiting the countryside and rural Ecuador.
To get to Otavalo we took a two-hour bus ride through the Imbabura valley. We had reservations at a beautiful hotel in Otavalo and I had made arrangements for a driver to take us to sights around the area. We spent the afternoon visiting Cotacachi village and the nearby lake as well as Peguche falls, all common tourist stops. The next day we went to the animal market.
This market (in existence since pre-Hispanic times) opens every Saturday at dawn. I explained to Mary Anne and Elsa that the animal market is not a place where people go looking for pets and that they should not view the animals in that way. The animals are bought and sold as food or for use as beasts of burden. As we walked up a hill to the highway we could hear the squealing of pigs and smell the animals. First, we saw Otavaleños toting chickens that were hung upside down by their secured feet. Piglets were thrown into gunnysacks and slung over buyers’ shoulders. Guinea pigs (a local delicacy) were pulled out of sacks and examined by perspective buyers. It was a bit of a cultural shock, and it was obvious that we were some of only a handful of tourists there. We walked through crowds in mud while snapping pictures of locals who socialized, bargained, and bought and sold their animals as they have done for centuries.
We returned to the hotel for breakfast hoping we didn’t smell like the farm animals. The girls weren’t sure they would ever get the smell out of their jeans. They said that although they thought the market was slightly disgusting, it helped them better understand the culture of the countryside where so many people in Ecuador live.
After breakfast we set out to the textile market that Mary Anne and Elsa had read about in school and that we had originally planned on visiting. The girls bought wool scarves, purses and miniature stuffed animals made out of alpaca fur. They were also able to practice their Spanish and bargain with the friendly vendors.
The girls’ overall view of Ecuador was positive. They noted that most people live modestly. Their opinion was that the city was as beautiful as the countryside and that Ecuadorians were very friendly and helpful. The time they spent volunteering in the shelter didn’t seem like work to them, even though they disinfected toys, scrubbed walls, and changed diapers! Mary Anne and Elsa ended up falling in love with the children and definitely want to continue to work towards improving these abandoned and abused children’s lives in the present and future.
Elsa, Mary Anne and their mom Lillie sampling the local food at a restaurant in colonial Quito
Visiting the monument on the equator
Playing in the yard with the shelter kids
Elsa and Sofi
Lillie playing with Britany and Jose
Sofi enjoying some one on one time with Mary Anne
Britany styling Lillie's hair
Visiting Lake Cuicocha near Otavalo
Selling chickens at the animal market
Locals on their way to buy, sell and trade
This was hard for the girls to see
Selling ropes to tie up the animals
This boy seems quite pleased with his purchase
Checking out the guinea pig, an Andean delicacy
And amidst all the animals, a man selling tooth brushes!
The vibrant colors of the textile market
Elsa and Lillie practicing their Spanish
Shelley - What a Great Chronicle!
Shelley - you have done it again! You are doing good works in Ecuador and providing a wonderful experience for some young Americans. As I recall, you first visited Ecuador as student - which eventually led you back to Ecuador and all these adventures.
The link to Shelley's Web site is below. Take a look and think about making a contribution - I just made one myself. It is easy. And check out Shelley's other Chronicles.
Here is the Link to Shelley Winchester's Web Site - Los Jovenes del Futuro. Take a look to learn more about Shelley's Work, and perhaps make a donation.