No Products in the Cart
are Otavalo Indigenous people, as are the people they work with. Their first language is the ancient Inca language of Quichua, though most speak Spanish also. Otavaleños put a high value on travel and learning, so it’s not unusual to meet Otavaleños who speak three languages, as well as to meet those who only speak their indigenous tongue. They are a fascinating mixture of traditional indigenous culture and worldly curiosity, thriving in the gorgeous Andean town of Otavalo.
As to José: it’s best left in his own words, translated from Spanish:
“My name is José Lema Lema, of the community of Quinchuqui, a very old community of Otavalo and a cradle of artisans and travelers of the world by tradition and history. I come from this community and my entire family were artisans and merchants by tradition. I grew up in the midst of this, and thus in the year 1974, at the age of 13 years, as soon as I finished my primary education, I began to work with my parents in the capacity of helper.”
Having traveled all over Ecuador selling handicrafts, in 1985 Jose decided to try his luck in the United States. He landed in New York with no English and knowing nothing about the country, but after many setbacks, he began to figure it out. Realizing he needed more production than his own family could provide, he began farming out the work to other families in nearby villages such as Carchi and Azuay, providing an important source of cash income for rural indigenous campesinos with little other opportunity to get currency. If you are in the Eastern United States in the Fall, you may see Jose and Lucila selling their sweaters.