Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Why Ecuador?

I love to research places to travel to. South America has always been high on my list of places to visit - it seems so near, yet so exotic. Several countries were of interest - central American ones like Belize and southern ones like Argentina and Uruguay, but Ecuador won out. Why?

Well, first of all, I've met a wonderful couple, Gary and Merri Scott, who have spent over 12 years visiting, living in and investing in Ecuador. Their newsletters (www.garyascott.com) have made some of our most interesting reading over the past 3 years. They show a genuine love of the country and the people.

With my past involvement in arts and crafts, just reading about the craft centers of Ecuador was not enough. Placenames like Otavalo, Peguche, San Antonio de Ibarra, Cuenca and Chordeleg called to me. I found websites that told about the history of these places, and why each town had its own craft.

The crafts of Ecuador are among the most admired in South America. In each center, indigenous creativity and the ancestral inheritance are combined.The crafts vary according to the province or area.

For example in the North part of the country the craftsmen create beautiful products such as sweaters, coats, gloves, caps, shawls and tapestries with multi-coloured wools and cottons. Otavalo is one of the most important places in this artisan field and its famous crafts market is a cornucopia of color and delights. Here you can find all textiles, jewelry made of tagua and silver, leather, and paintings.

Just north of Otavalo, you'll find the lovely village of Cotacachi - known as the leatherworkers center. This is the place to buy beautiful leather coats, jackets, hats, belts and luggage at amazing low prices. Or how about a custom saddle, at a tenth of what it would cost in North America?

More to the South in Manabi Province the Toquilla straw is woven into elaborate hats, internationally known as "Panama hats". These hats are lightly woven and are comfortable to wear in either hot tropical climate or summer.

In the city of Latacunga in the Cotopaxi Province mud and clay are the main elements used to create elaborate pottery. Cuenca is another center of amazing pottery craft.

In Quito, the capital, a major Artisan market named Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal offers a broad selection of handicrafts. Both tourists and locals can choose from colorful Indian textiles to wooden carved figures, from paintings to jewelry, from Panama hats to wood birds along with many other crafts. The biggest selection of Ecuadorian painting is located in the parque El Ejido where artists gather together every weekend. This is an outdoor market where you can find painting of varying styles, along with all other crafts and arts.