Highland Ecuador

Highland Ecuador

I went to Highland Ecuador last summer to get as close to the native people as possible, take pictures for this show, and avoid our summer’s heat. I found an amazing indigenous market two hours from Quito in Otovalo, and a farming village nearby.

Thousands of local farmers and artisans come to the Saturday market, the largest in the Americas, which fills the Plaza de Panchos, the central square, and spreads down all the surrounding side streets and across the river. The vendors set up before dawn and stay until late afternoon or evening. It’s a social event for most and an attraction for tourists, bringing a relatively high standard of living to these welcoming people.

The colorful textiles and paintings caught my eye and led me toward the jewelry, instruments, leather goods and all sorts of fresh and dry foods. I enjoyed a lunch of roast pork direct from a whole pig, served with corn, potato balls, watermelon and salad and a dinner of chicken soup, rice and vegetables.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature was the huge animal market where, before breakfast, thousands buy, sell, cook and eat mammals and birds of all sizes: cows, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks and chickens as well as doughnuts and creme cones.

In these pictures I tried to capture a sense of the people and place without disturbing them, as the camera allowed a glimpse of life among some of the descendants of the once mighty Incas and their subjects in the Andes mountains of South America.

On the day I was born, my anthropologist aunt went to Chichicastenango, Guatemala, to study and write about its market, since to become the most famous and colorful in Latin America--perhaps an inspiration for me. I’ve included some pictures of it that I took on trips there in the ‘90’s.
Otovalo, at 8000 feet, is a largely indigenous, Quechua speaking town of 90,000, famous for its weaving, textiles and huge Saturday market and is surrounded by the 15,000 foot volcanic peaks of Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda.

The Quechua-speaking Inca civilization arose in the highlands of Peru in the 13th century and spread throughout the Andes: Peru, Ecuador & Bolivia. They built an empire between 1438 and 1533, when the Spanish killed their king, Atahualpa. Inca resistance continued until 1572 when the last Inca ruler, Tupac Amaru, was executed in Peru.

These descendants of the Incas, who have survived the cruelties of Spanish mining and numerous disastrous epidemics of smallpox, typhus, influenza, diphtheria and measles that killed thousands and weakened the Inca culture, continue to live here and retain their local cultures.
Ecuador photos taken with Canon T3i; Guatemala photos with Olympus Stylus.