By: Aboya Omot and Maribel Ramos
Ecuador is known for having one of the highest representations of indigenous cultures and lifestyles in South America. We’re both really struck by the way indigenous people embrace economic development and urban comforts while keeping their traditional way of life – in various parts of the world. Indigenous people have easy access to good supermarkets and varied cuisines.
Yet some of them choose to grow most of their vegetables and plants they need for their consumption, and trade any extras at the Sunday market for things they don’t grow .One way that people of indigenous ancestry express their cultural identity is through traditional dress. Oftentimes local citizens can derive what province a local is from just by looking at their distinctive apparel. You can expect to see many distinctively dressed Otavalenos in Ecuador, especially in the Quito area. The Otavaleños are indigenous people native to the Andes mountains and are largely concentrated around the small town of Otavalo which lies around 80 kilometers north of Quito .
Men usually dress in white, calf-length trousers, a poncho, and a fedora or felt hat. Another interesting thing that the Otaveleños men also sport is the Shimba, a long braid that they usually grow to reach their waists. The Shimba is such an important marker of the Ecuadorian indigenous identity that the Ecuadorian army does not require men to cut the Shimba off. Now women often dress similarly, but their colors are often opposed to the men. Whereas for the men the Shimba holds a great significance, for the women it’s jewelry that holds a greater cultural significance, Otavalo women in particular wear necklaces of gold beads with red coral bracelets.
Not only are they known for their distinctive dress and hair but they are also known for their famous Otavalo market. The Otavalo market has been held every week for hundred of years and is recognized as one of Ecuador’s best indigenous markets .