9 May 2008

THE OTAVALO ART MARKET

     Otavalo is famous for its arts and crafts market.  It´s arguably the biggest arts and crafts market in South America.  The Otavalo have a long history of trade and marketing that predates the arrival of the Inka in the late 1400s.  They had traveling salesmen way be fore that, and have continued ever since.  Today they travel all over the world to markets their arts.

     The market is set up every day for selling.  That´s an amazing process that involves two to three hourse of work.  EVERYTHING has to be brought to the marketplace.  What´s selling, as well as everything necessary to display it.  Imagine installing a store every morning and packing it up every night.  Another two to three hours.  I worked in a stall today that did all that, and made not one sale.  And all of this setting-up, breaking down, and storing overnight costs money. 

     But Saturdays are the big day days.  The market expands beyond the square that it normally inhabits, and spreads into adjoining streets which are shut down to vehicular traffic.  Those streets are filled with pedestrian traffic from all over Ecuador, Colombia, and the rest of the World.  My small hotel is now overun by a group of about 20 Germans on a group tour.  They´ll be at the market tomorrow.

     This all sounds great, but it´s a lot  of hard work for the Otavalos.  Yesterday I visited a family that makes sweaters.  Every fall, it seems, we have travelling salesman (not Otavalo) who sell us these same terrific, bulky, keep-us-warm-in-the-winter, artsy sweaters for $35 to $40.  And they´re a great deal at thet price.  Only thing is that the people who make them, and live in conditions that make our poor look affluent, make 25 cents a sweater.  That´s the beauty of capitalism. 

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