Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Arts and Crafts of Ecuador - Tapestries

Otavalo is one of the most important and spectacular textile markets in all of Latin America. Otavalans have been textile workers for nearly a millennium, even before the Incan invasion.

After the Spanish conquest in the early 1500’s, weaving workshops or 'obrajes' were set up with hundreds of workers. By 1720, this form of slavery was abolished, and workers began to own their property. In the Otavalo area, the techniques and patterns of woven textiles were passed down through families. This village became the largest colonial tapestry and carpet center in South America.

The market in Otavalo is full of tapestries of all colors, sizes and designs. Some are geometric, some with ancient designs, some depict the people and animals of Ecuador. Be careful in your choice - not all are of the same quality.

Nearby is Peguche, the village of the weavers. Although smaller and less well known, the weaving quality is finer. Here you will find tighter weaves, richer and greater varieties of patterns. The rugs and tapestries found here no longer compete at the low end of the market.

Master Weaver Jose Cotacachi of Peguche at work.

Why Tapestries?

  • Tapestries are art
  • Tapestries are interior decoration
  • Tapestries tell a story
  • Tapestries are tradition

Ecuadorian tapestries are evolving – weavers are becoming better and some are famous. In Quito galleries, I found absolutely stunning tapesries, large, detailed and with amazing color. You may pay up to $3000 for one there. Why not go to the source - visit Otavalo and Peguche. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

When you take home an Ecuadorian tapestry, you are taking home an ancestral tradition, transmitted generation after generation from the first ones who learned to weave to the present generation.