Ecuador


Saquisilí Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Nora and I were closing the week-long Quilotoa loop, a gorgeous hike in Ecuador around the Rio Toachi Canyon. We timed it so we would end up in Isinlivi a day or two before the Thursday animal market in Saquisili. Located off the Pan-American Highway, Saquisili is a 25-minute drive from Latacunga.

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Since arriving in Ecuador, I became hooked on weekly markets in towns along our way. Dynamic, noisy, they usually start at daybreak and dissipate by noon. Saquisili Thursday market did not disappoint. Comprised of 8 markets scattered throughout the small town, “it is mainly for locals from the highlands who come to buy pots and pans, electronics, herbal remedies, livestock or produce” (Wikipedia).

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Even getting to Saquisili was an adventure in itself. The bus from Isinlivi left at 3:30 am. The manager of the hostel we were staying in, another hostel guest and I got up at 3 in the morning to catch the bus. Nora stayed behind to sleep in. We agreed to meet in Latacunga. When we walked to the bus, I was surprised that the bus driver put our backpacks in a storage compartment in the back of the bus, not underneath the bus on a side, as I was used to. I soon learned why. During the 3-hour drive to Saquisili, people would flag down the bus along the way to go the market. They were bringing all kinds of wares to sell, which were loaded in the side compartment. One such stop yielded a rancher who loaded 3 live sheep. I was glad my backpack wasn’t in that compartment. We arrived in town around 6:30, just as the animal market was entering the full swing.

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

By 10 am, many animals were sold and trucks loaded with cows, bulls, pigs, llamas and sheep were emptying out of town. It was time for me to leave as well. I took a bus and was in Latacunga an hour later, just in time for the Mama Negra Festival.

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market

For more photos of Ecuador’s markets, please see my Portfolio or Image Archive.

Saquisili Thursday Animal Market


Fishermen of Ecuador 1

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

On a recent trip to Ecuador, Nora and I detoured from traveling down the High Andes to spend a week at the coast. We picked Puerto Lopez, a charming, small fishing town. Our beach-front lodging at the edge of town was surrounded by trees with hammocks and a tree house for guests. It was a quite and idyllic setting that lasted for three days. Early on the fourth, bulldozers showed up and promptly uprooted the vegetation around the house and began flattening the sand on the beach. They shook the ground and spewed exhaust fumes from dawn to dusk, transforming a charming landscape into a large, featureless parking lot. It was just our luck that the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, decided to visit this town the same week we were there, and he chose a spot right next to ours to make a speech.

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

But seeing the president was not nearly as interesting to me as observing the commotion that occurred every morning along the beach. With first light, around 5:30 am, tired fishermen would beach their wooden skiffs. Fishing almost every day, up to 24 hours at a time, a couple to a dozen fishermen in a skiff, this is not a job for light-hearted. Soon after, wholesale buyers would show up, carrying wads of folded hundred-dollar bills. A good fishing trip can be quite profitable.

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

In a short time, a quiet beach turns into a pandemonium of sights and sounds. With more fishermen returning, a fish market springs up, catering to individual and wholesale buyers. The air fills with people haggling for prices and fishermen recounting their fishing trips. Onlookers gather, lazily commenting on the quality and quantity of catch. Coffee and breakfast vendors, pushing their carts, soon follow, offering hot drinks and light breakfast to the hungry. The impromptu market peaks around seven or eight and tapers off by late morning.

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

Puerto Lopez fishermen offloading and selling catch

To see more photos of these fishermen, please visit my Fisheries Portfolio and the Fisheries Image Archive.

Have you been to Central or South America and found interesting fishing towns or communities? Please share your experiences in the comments. I would be interested in hearing about them.


Indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Andes 1

The Quilotoa Loop

On a recent trip to Ecuador, I spent time exploring communities of the Andes Mountains. Ecuador is a small country in South America, but it is also one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. In less than a day, you can travel from the lush tropical jungles to the Andes Mountains or the Pacific Ocean coast.

Prominent inhabitants of the Ecuadorian Andean communities are the indigenous peoples collectively called Quechua (Kichwas in Ecuador). They are several indigenous ethnic groups living mostly in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia who speak a Quechua language.

A funny anecdote about the woman below. Nora and I were on our second or third day of the Quilotoa Loop hike. We stopped at the edge of the Rio Toachi Canyon, evaluating how long it would take us to descend the canyon and ascend to a town on the other side.  A lone woman was working her small field along the trail. When she saw us with our heavy, bulky backpacks, she waived us to come closer. The woman was holding a hatchet in her right hand. As we approached, she stopped working, dropped the hatchet and reached out for Nora’s arm to draw her closer. She put her arm around Nora and asked me to take a picture of both of them. She looked happy when I showed her the photos on the back screen of my camera and allowed me to take a few more photos of just her.

The Quilotoa Loop

From Wikipedia: “Many indigenous women wear the colorful traditional costume, complete with bowler style hat. The hat has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was brought to the country by British railway workers and are still commonly worn today… The traditional dress worn by Quechua women today is a mixture of styles from Pre-Spanish days and Spanish Colonial peasant dress. Younger Quechua men generally wear Western-style clothing… Older men still wear dark wool knee-length handwoven bayeta pants. A woven belt, called a chumpi, is also worn which provides protection to the lower back when working in the fields”.

The Quilotoa Loop

The Quilotoa Loop

The Quilotoa Loop

Zumbahua Saturday Market

Zumbahua Saturday Market

Zumbahua Saturday Market

Zumbahua Saturday Market

Zumbahua Saturday Market

Zumbahua Saturday Market


The Animal Market – Otavalo, Ecuador 2

“Like every other tourist in Ecuador, we went to Otavalo. Otavalo, two hours north of Quito, nestles in a densely populated, fertile farming region of lakes and volcanoes whose slopes are parcelled up into patchworks of green fields. The town itself is famous for its market. Traders come from all over South America, peddling every conceivable tourist handicraft…”´

“Saturday was market day in Otavalo. In fact, there were three markets in Otavalo. While the tourists  bought their alpaca rugs and ponchos in the plaza, the locals crowded into the market at the other end of town to buy food, jeans and Metallica T-shirts.”´

“And then there was the animal market. Out in a grassy clearing on the edge of town, sharp-eyed farmers and their solid, no-nonsense wives inspected an assortment of cows, pigs, horses and donkeys. One by one, the animals were sold and led away quietly.”´

“Only the pigs seemed upset. Their new owners – and their wives and children – dragged the reluctant swine through the dust by ropes tied around their necks; a tug of war with the pig bucking and digging in its trotters and honking and squealing. It took a half-dozen people to heave a large animal onto the back fo a truck – lifting it by the tail and ears – from where it continued to honk in distress.”´

The Otavalo Animal Market is to be experienced through all three senses. It’s a cacophony of sounds, human and domesticated. It’s the smells of animals and their fear. It’s a sight of hundreds of peoples selling and buying, bargaining and appraising. Or just gawking.

It starts at dawn, sprawling across both sides of the Panamericana, the busiest highway, the central link connecting South American countries. Traffic comes to a halt as people dash across the highway with animals in tow. Large busses stuffed with children, chickens, mothers, guinea pigs, piglets and other wiggling creatures honk their way through crowds.

It was an interesting experiment trying to photograph the people at the market. Most older women would either yell or wave me off. They were categorically against any picture-taking. Men and younger people didn’t mind it so much, but it was the women who were doing most of the selling. I had to resort to shooting from waist, with my camera hanging on my neck strap, while looking innocently the other way.

´The Gringo Trail: a darkly comic round trip through South America. Mark Mann.