May 10, 2015
Yesterday I left Quito after a wonderful 6 day visit and now I’m in Otavalo, a market town about 2 hours north of Quito by bus.
My favorite activity in Quito (and in most cities) is people watching and one of the best places for people watching in Quito is La Plaza Grande in Old Town. Here’s a pic I took sitting in the Plaza. Just a typical weekday afternoon. I wish we had more central gathering places like this in the States. I could sit mesmerized all day if it weren’t for the cadre of young shoe-shine boys who will approach me every few minutes to point out how filthy my shoes look.
Even better people watching in Quito takes place walking the streets where small stores and people sell fresh fruit, sandwiches, ice cream and other sweet treats, lottery tickets, clothes, artwork, etc. I’ve seen a few old hombres crouching on the ground next to a scale, presumably offering the opportunity to weigh yourself for a nickel or two.
One interesting tidbit: I have yet to see a single beggar in Quito. Signs of poverty are everywhere but I haven’t witnessed anyone asking for a handout. They are all trying to earn.
Here’s a short video I took while walking down one of the bustling streets in Old Town Quito. Nothing remarkable. Just a quick slice of Quito. I’ve been reluctant to brandish my phone too much as I’ve been told to keep it out of sight to avoid putting a (larger) target on my back for thieves. I’ve also witnessed tourists offending locals by taking pictures without permission. I don’t want to be one of those tourists. The video is a bit jumpy I’m afraid.
Indigenous people, mostly Quechua I’m told, blend into the city landscape in fairly sizable numbers selling fresh produce, roasted nuts and textiles of various sorts. The vendors are mostly older women and their assistants are typically young girls. Sometimes the women have babies on their back or toddlers by their side holding hands. I assume the men and boys are working elsewhere. I don’t know. I’d like to learn more about how the economy functions for these street vendors. Regardless, it’s fascinating to see indigenous people within an urban landscape dressed in traditional garments that don’t seem to have changed much since Pre-Conquistador times. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
In Otavalo the small city (pop. circa 90,000) is swarming with indigenous people who are in town to sell crafts at the market in Plaza de Ponchos. It’s a visual feast. Today I purchased a few gifts and convinced one of the vendors, my new friend Amelia, to take a picture with me as part of the deal.
Tomorrow I’ll be heading up into the nearby highland villages for a homestay with an indigenous family. Promises to be a fascinating experience!