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IN THE INDIAN MARKETS

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IN THE INDIAN MARKETS


In modern cities almost everyone is familiarized with supermarkets, where without mediating any word one chooses what to purchase, pays and leaves. On the other hand, in the indian markets, people greet each other, converse and even bargain the price or request a discount to obtain the merchandise at cheaper prices.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards the Andean towns used to exchange their products. If somebody obtained an abundant crop of tubers or fruits he would exchange the production for vessels, saddlebags or hats.

Currency didn't exist in those times, but to exchange products -what they needed for what they had in abundance- was a necessity. The indian markets were born this way. From then on, towns far from the main cities of Ecuador have kept the tradition.

Visiting the indian markets is getting to know the identity of the towns. The tradition stays alive, men and women negotiate, trade and bargain the prices; others converse, they narrate histories, talk about the weather, the rains, the earth or the lost calf. The fair is crowded with people, a confusion of voices, a mosaic of colorful products.
Days of fair are the most prospective for the community, especially the merchants who wake up early and dress their best clothes, to exchange their products with sagacity and enthusiasm.

Labyrinth of ponchos

Is Saturday morning. Women wearing embroidered blouses, black hand knitted skirts and a shawl over their shoulders, offer a great variety of handmade products in the market of Otavalo (county of Imbabura): a narrow labyrinth of positions where blankets, tapestries and wool murals with Andean motives are exhibited among other products.

The market that is located in the Plaza El Poncho, is a great attraction for the tourists of diverse parts of the world who are annihilated when observing the quality of the blouses, skirts and dresses, made by the skillful hands of the dressmakers of Otavalo.

As the merchants and buyers stay the whole day, in one of the ends of the square they prepare aromatic and tempting pottages. After making a good deal or an excellent purchase, there is nothing better than a sumptuous and overwhelming meal.

But Otavalo is not the only Ecuadorian population that gets dressed of agitation and bustle during the days of fair. For example, in Riobamba (capital of the county of Chimborazo), they carry out the indian market of La Plaza Concepción, where you may find traditional hats, belts and even very old jewels.

The market is like an immense box of surprises... because in one of the corners, those "remendadoras" (patchers) do not stop hitting the pedals of their old but invincible sewing machines, in a titanic combat against the indiscreet ones that try to copy their designs

That is not everything. In the Plaza Dávalos, the women of the community of Cabuya -following a tradition that goes back to the colonial time- spin the fiber that is extracted of a cactus called American agave, to transform it into strings, soles of canvas shoes and sacks of vegetables.

Salespersons on a horse

There are not highways, not even asphalted roads, but that apparently is not important for those "merchants" of the town of Guamote (at 51 kilometers of Riobamba) who don't doubt in "opening a road" every Tuesday, accompanied by their faithful and indefatigable mounts, until arriving to the place where the traditional fair of Tuesdays is developed.

Mounted on energetic or starving horses and heading a retinue of llamas loaded with agricultural products, the peasants arrive to Guamote to sell or to exchange the products extracted from the Pachamama or Mother Earth; plus, in the fair, some splendid handmade white hats (Panama) can be purchased.

By horse or by creaking automobiles, the Ecuadorian natives find the way to get to the fairs... and in Ambato (capital of the county of Tungurahua) the natives offer ponchos, blankets, ikat shawls, belts, beads and fitting blouses; and on Thursdays the street Mariscal La Mar de Cuenca (county of Azuay) is invaded by cheerful artisans and farmers.

The influence of the Indian markets is even felt in Quito, the capital of the country, because in the surroundings of the Church of San Francisco or in Sucre street, there are improvised kiosks from the rural merchants.

Either by necessity or by tradition, the indian markets continue subsisting in the Andean countries. The farther from the cities the easier the traveler finds authentic markets, where the native language shrouds commercial transactions in secrecy between buyers and sellers. Do you feel like visiting them?

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