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Andean Entrepreneurs

Otavalo Merchants and Musicians in the Global Arena

By Lynn A. Meisch

Publication Year: 2002

Native to a high valley in the Andes of Ecuador, the Otavalos are an indigenous people whose handcrafted textiles and traditional music are now sold in countries around the globe. Known as weavers and merchants since pre-Inca times, Otavalos today live and work in over thirty countries on six continents, while hosting more than 145,000 tourists annually at their Saturday market. In this ethnography of the globalization process, Lynn A. Meisch looks at how participation in the global economy has affected Otavalo identity and culture since the 1970s. Drawing on nearly thirty years of fieldwork, she covers many areas of Otavalo life, including the development of weaving and music as business enterprises, the increase in tourism to Otavalo, the diaspora of Otavalo merchants and musicians around the world, changing social relations at home, the growth of indigenous political power, and current debates within the Otavalo community over preserving cultural identity in the face of globalization and transnational migration. Refuting the belief that contact with the wider world inevitably destroys indigenous societies, Meisch demonstrates that Otavalos are preserving many features of their culture while adopting and adapting modern technologies and practices they find useful.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture


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pp. vi-ix


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pp. xi-xiv

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Chapter 1: Introduction: Globalization and Otavalo Life

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pp. 1-19

On October 8, 1992, a family of indígenas from Ilumán, Ecuador, came into the town of Otavalo in tears, upset by the crash of an El Al Boeing 747 cargo jet the previous day near Schipol airport in Amsterdam, Holland. Radio and television broadcasts brought the news to Ilumán, and it spread like a flash fire through the town and neighboring communities. ...

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Chapter 2: How the Otavalos Became Otavalos

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pp. 20-38

This chapter emphasizes historical developments that I consider crucial to an understanding of contemporary Otavalo (for a more complete account, see Meisch 1997). For example, foreign visitors to Otavalo often question whether the Otavalos have been corrupted or ‘‘lost their culture’’ by making and marketing nontraditional textiles, yet the produc-...

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Chapter 3: Textiles and Tourism Move to the Fore

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pp. 39-80

This chapter examines the growth of the textile economy since 1970 in the context of the Ecuadorian petroleum boom in that decade and a litany of woes in subsequent years. These include recession, hyperinflation averaging 40% annually between 1984 and 1998, over 60% in 1999, and 103% in 2000 (the highest in Latin America), electrical shortages and...

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Chapter 4: In Search of the Noble Savage: Tourism and Travel to Otavalo

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pp. 81-116

International tourism is the world’s largest industry, earning $4.4 trillion annually (Dogar 1998: 41) and employing 212 million people worldwide (Pandya 1995: 42). More than 600 million people traveled abroad in 1997, with travelers from the United States, Germany, and Japan in the lead (Dogar 1998); yet tourism has been neglected by anthropologists, perhaps because ‘‘tourists appear, in some respects, to be our own distant relatives’’ (Crick 1989: 311). ...

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Chapter 5: Otavalo Music at Home and Abroad

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pp. 117-153

In 1994, Hector Lema of the Otavalo music group Quichua Marka told me: ‘‘We have two ways to earn a living in whatever locale: music and the sales of artesanías.’’ Artesanías are still the mainstay of the Otavalo economy, but music has become increasingly important, particularly as a source of income abroad. ...

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Chapter 6: Otavalo Merchants and Musicians in the Global Arena

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pp. 154-199

This chapter focuses on the Otavalo diaspora since 1970, with an emphasis on the 1990s boom in musical production and international travel to sell both textiles and music. Otavalo music has become globalized, part of the world music beat influencing the music made by others, with Sanjuanitos considered emblematic of Otavalo or Ecuadorian music. While...

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Chapter 7: Otavalo Wealth and Changing Social Relations

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pp. 200-226

The ethnic groups in the Otavalo valley have a long history of uneasy and unequal coexistence characterized by almost castelike hierarchical relationships until the years following the abolition of wasipungu. This chapter examines the profound shift in social relations and power that has occurred over the past thirty years, an ethnic earthquake that...

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Chapter 8: Coping with Globalization

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pp. 227-267

Otavalos consider certain traditions, beliefs, and lifeways important constituents of nuestra cultura (Sp. our culture) or nuestra propia cultura ind


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pp. 269-305


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pp. 307-314

E-ISBN-13: 9780292798519
E-ISBN-10: 0292798512
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292752580
Print-ISBN-10: 029275258X

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 42 b&w illus., 3 maps, 4 tables
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture
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OCLC Number: 55889726
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Andean Entrepreneurs

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Subject Headings

  • Otavalo (Ecuador) -- Social conditions.
  • Otavalo Indians -- Industries.
  • Otavalo business enterprises -- Ecuador -- Otavalo.
  • Otavalo Indians -- Economic conditions.
  • International business enterprises -- Ecuador -- Otavalo.
  • Otavalo (Ecuador) -- Economic conditions.
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