Art Therapy and Counseling in Otavalo, Ecuador: the Andes, roses and cowboys

Otavalo mosaic

Otavalo is two hours north of Quito, high in the Andes mountains. It is located just off the pan American highway that goes straight to Columbia, which is three hours east of Otavalo. The Otavalo people are one of the largest indigenous groups living in Ecuador. They are known for their handicrafts, textiles and fabrics, leather goods, coffee, chocolate and roses. There are rose gardens and greenhouses that line the road and flowers are for sale everywhere! Roses are so abundant in Otavalo that the locals can buy a dozen roses for one dollar. The flowers are big business and are shipped daily to the United States, Europe and China. In fact, roses are so important to the Ecuadorians that there is a special room at the airport just to store the roses before they are shipped out!

Our first stop in Otavalo was an open air market. We shopped and purchased sweaters, hats, scarves, figurines and jewelry from local crafts people. It was challenging and fun to haggle prices with the purveyors. Our Spanish improved by having this opportunity to speak with villagers that do not speak any English.

After the market we visited a local family of musicians who showed us how to make traditional Ecuadorian flutes. After the demonstration, the father and his two sons entertained us with a lovely song. We also visited with the family and purchase some of their handmade instruments.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the leather market where leather jackets, boots, purses, wallets and cowboy wear is sold. In Ecuador there are actual cowboys that ride horses, so they need saddles, whips, chaps and other leather supplies.

Our final stop for the day was at a fair trade coffee shop to taste local coffee. It was delicious! We were also able to taste chocolate bars with interesting ingredients like chili peppers!

Tomorrow we are back at the school to work with the older elementary kids and finish the murals.

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