Early Thursday morning, the Saquisilí Market in the Cotopaxi Province, slowly fills up. Indigenous people, keeping warm in wrap around shawls or blankets, drive down the Ecuadorian Andes and set up their stalls, or simply spread out their wares, in one of the plazas downtown.
This highland market, just south of Quito, is one of Ecuador’s largest. It's a social event just as much as a place to sell or buy food, animals, household items, or a sweater. Come along.
Check out the niftily designed items such as pans made out of old drums, buckets contrived from old (tractor) tires and conveyor belts, sieves fabricated from plywood to make cheese, and handmade kitchen utensils such as these knives.
Two plazas are reserved for live animals, one for bigger ones, among which sheep, llamas, and pigs. On the second plaza they sell ducks, cuy (Guinea pigs), pigeons, and poultry. While an impressive sight and indeed a very local type of business, it may be good to keep in mind that animal welfare is nobody’s particular concern.
Products in Bulk
One part of the market is for wholesalers. Vendors sell bags weighing 25 or 40 kilos of potatoes, onions, rice, and carrots, crates with tomatoes, enormous bundles of leeks, and bananas. From here the produce is taken to smaller markets in other villages or towns.
At another section you can buy onions, bananas, or carrots by the bucket; no scales are used. You will also see people, usually older women, sitting on the ground, selling their surplus produce: piles of five potatoes, a couple of cabbages or tiny heaps of peppers.
One plaza has a kind of food court with stalls where you can enjoy boiled, fried, and barbecued Ecuadorian highland dishes. Try local specialties such as thick stews with chunks of meat and potato that may be served with choclo, the typical highland type of corn. Such a meal will quickly warm you during the colder hours of the day.
One way to know eggs are organic is because the selection never consists of the same color. On the contrary, the colors are quite varied ranging from white, brown, and beige to light blue and light green.
Don’t forget to drink your dose of healthy liquid; in the highlands you’ll quickly dry out. Enjoy a mixture of beets and carrots, a colada de avena con naranjilla (oats, naranjilla, fruit, cinnamon, and sugar) or the bright-green alfalfa juice.