Imbabura: An Andean Enclave Full of Art

by admin
July, 24, 2017
Read time
4 minutes
There is a small and beautiful region in the Ecuadorian Andes, which crafts have become famous in the world.

The skill and business acumen of the inhabitants of the province of Imbabura -where live about 400,000 people, have been the basis for development of this dynamic Ecuadorian region where artisans rise before the sun to move their looms, turning old sewing machines, using chisels, lathes, brushes; cutting, shaping, creating ... If you travel to Ecuador, do not overlook this privileged territory by nature, and also known as the “Province of Lakes”, where some say the real “Middle of the World” is. We assure you will be inspired by the wonderful environment of a region where a warm and temperate climate, the cold of snow-capped volcanoes, the strength of crystal waterfalls, the beauty of small and picturesque Andean villages, delicious cuisine, will combine offering diverse tourist services and, of course, an artisan vein full of contrasts.

We propose that we continue on this tour Imbabura, with the eyes of an apprentice who dazzles know the secrets that are baked in kilns, workshops carving, old adobe houses with large looms and modern factories garment and footwear. Here, a small sample of all that is created in Imbabura.


This predominantly indigenous city located 110 kilometers (about two hours by road) north of Ecuador's capital, Quito, has one of the largest craft fairs in Latin America. Located in the so-called Plaza de los Ponchos, this market bustles every Saturday with the arrival of hundreds of artisans, vendors, tourists and walkers.

Ponchos, tapestries, all kinds of garments of wool, fine embroidery (most of them made by hand), carved wood pieces, jewelry, stone sculptures, accessories, paintings, toquilla objects, musical instruments ... and more products exhibit in this square, where the “bargaining” (bargain) is a common and accepted practice. Otavalo, home of the Kichwa indigenous ethnic group of Otavalo, and city declared “Capital Intercultural Ecuador”, is a small town, but with cosmopolitan flair, both the traveler and enterprising character of its inhabitants, as the large number of foreigners who visit and who have chosen life as a new destination.

In addition to the restaurants, hostels, nearby haciendas converted into beautiful hotels, streets illuminated with lanterns, clothing stores, Otavalo's main attraction is undoubtedly its market. There comes most tours with visitors from all over the world and tourists spend hours marveling production craftsmen who have learned the craft of their ancestors and teach their descendants.

A craft fair adds another attraction: the animal market. Every Saturday, from 6:00 am, this exotic fair, in which rabbits, guinea pigs, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, horses, cats, dogs and other animals are sold mounted. A scene that hardly seen elsewhere and that seems frozen in time.


Walking through the city of Cotacachi is like walking through a great showcase. All kinds of leather goods (jackets, pants, belts, wallets, shoes, jackets, bags and more) are seen in the windows of dozens of shops in the streets of this town 40,000 inhabitants.

Although many of the models follow the international fashion line in Cotacachi own designs they are also created and that besides the most convenient prices than those of large cities attract thousands of people, especially on weekends, walk its narrow streets looking for the perfect garment or accessory.

But Cotacachi is not just leather. Visitors can also stop your walk to see the main church, with its six chapels, altars with gold leaf and works of art of the “Quito School”, which are displayed inside. Another point of attraction is the viewpoint of the Athens, from where you can see the beautiful lakes of Imbabura and Cotacachi Ecological Reserve, which is the largest conservation area in the western Andes of Ecuador. Spa, lush forests, nature reserves, snowy landscapes with bright are things you will find in Cotacachi, plus the best leather production country.

San Antonio de Ibarra

Beautiful shapes emerge from walnut wood, thanks to the skillful hands of artisans of San Antonio de Ibarra, a small town located five minutes from Ibarra, in the middle of the Andean highlands of Ecuador. Walking through the quiet streets of this village means discovering that many houses are craft workshops where precious wood pieces that have made this place famous are made. Worked with the techniques of the Quito School and covered with gold leaf, these unique works by their color and beauty.

Small and large wooden sculptures, altarpieces and altars for churches and motifs of all kinds are carved in walnut, orange tree, cedar and laurel. In the center of the village, the works done by men, women and even children, are sold in each house.

But there is a street called Ramon Teanga and known as “Street Art” is the place where works of art are concentrated, not only wood but also stone, cement and concrete, with which artists create sculptures monumental size. There, on Saturday night exhibitions and demonstration workshops are held, to promote the work of artisans.

Zuleta Embroidered with pre-Columbian designs on more than one occasion, has sported the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, at international summits and meetings, shirts have a seal of origin: the indigenous community of Zuleta, located to the southeast of the province of Imbabura.

The tradition of skilful work with water, thread, thimbles and fabrics is old, but the office found a space in the 40s, in the hacienda of the Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza Lasso. Embroiderers have the wife of Square created a workshop for women in the area could embroider and then market the beautiful garments, thus extra income for their households.

Dresses, blouses, tablecloths, rugs, towels and other items, with fine finishes that reproduce details of the environment and the indigenous worldview, are created by the skilled hands of more than 300 embroiderers. The garments are displayed, every fortnight, at the Fair Zuleta Embroidery on the premises of the longhouse, held for eleven years.

Many public figures wear these garments embroidered, highly original, but not many know is that in a presidential visit to the Vatican, Pope Francis received two embroidered by the skillful hands of women Zuleta chasubles.

Atuntaqui On the ruins of an earthquake that destroyed the city in 1868, he rose Atuntaqui, population of 21 000 inhabitants, located 10 minutes from Ibarra again.

In its reconstruction and momentum he played a major role installing a textile factory and the arrival of the railroad to Andrade Marin, the nearest town (2.5 km). But it was the first event that marked the new labor and economic dynamics, because it was the first step in the development of the textile industry in Atuntaqui.

The former textile factory Imbabura, a historic building that still preserves inside the old English and German machinery was declared Cultural Heritage of Ecuador. Visit is to know the origins of an activity which currently is the main resource of this population. One thing to understand: every year, the textile fair organized this small town calls almost 150 000 visitors.

This small colonial city whose Indian name means “big drum” and whose architecture and layout footprint Spanish last seen, has a mild and pleasant climate and breathtaking scenery, it is located in the foothills of Imbabura volcano. It’s very quiet pace of life has made many people choose it as a retirement destination. But if that is not your intention, visit it and learn about the craftsmanship of its inhabitants.

Our final conclusion
We could almost assure you that will not leave there without one of the beautiful garments on display in the windows of almost every street in the center of Atuntaqui.
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