Cercado – A visit to an Indigenous Community

Way back in December of 2020, a local expat (Urku Deborah May) who is intimately involved with the local Indigenous community, posted a request to help a young boy with getting his first ‘Zamorros’ – a celebratory pair of chaps – used in the Indigenous ceremony of Inti Raymi – the Fiesta Del Sol – held during the summer solstice.

I offered to help and ultimately purchased one for this young lad, Axel.  Today, we visited Axel and his brother and mother in their home high up on the side of Cotacachi Volcano in the community of Cercado.

Getting there was an experience in itself.  We hired a ‘camioneta’ to take us to Cercado.  This is basically a pickup truck with a canopy in the back with a seat…..

We climbed on board, paid $3.00, and hung on for the 20 minute, bumpy ride up the mountain.  Once you leave the main streets of Cotacachi, the roads become cobblestone, dirt, or rocks pretending to be cobblestone, and are in extreme disrepair.  Lots of fun!!

We arrived at the home of the local head of the community, Pedro, and took a tour of the small village.  Not many ‘Gringos’ have visited this area as it is extremely poor with not much to see.  There is a local church, a school, a large soccer field where children were playing, and even a small store on the main road.  The homes were actually very neat and well kept.  Everything is built on the side of the mountain.  There was a class being taught in one of the school buildings where a local artisan was teaching how to make clay pottery.  Each house had it’s own field where they grew their own food – corn, beans, and squash – and everyone seemed to be raising chickens.  Totally self sufficient.

We were then taken to Axel’s house and introduced to his mother and brother.  They live a very simple life in a 4 room house with running water, and electricity.  It was very clean.  We were served a glass of blackberry juice – my favourite – and welcomed into their small home.  Axel’s father, Raoul, was at work at a flower plantation so we never got to meet him.  We were told of their living and working conditions and asked a few questions which Deborah was able to translate for us.  These people are extremely poor according to North American standards, but happy with their lifestyle.

Axel and his brother put on a small dancing exhibition for us – what they do when celebrating Inti Raymi..Super cute!

After this little dance, we were shown the machine that Axel’s mother uses to make small bracelets that she sells at the Indigenous market.  We think she sells at the market in Otavalo…  We purchased a few as souvenirs and she then gave us one each and tied them on our wrists.

It was an enjoyable visit that not many here get to experience.  We presented gifts to the family that we brought down from Vancouver.

We then wandered back up the street to visit another craftsman, Jose. He was the man that made sure the water works in the village were maintained.  They have several sources of water, one for irrigation and another for drinking water.  Both sources come from the mountainside of Cotacachi Volcano.  He had several machines in his home that produce the lovely wide bands that the Indigenous women wear to hold up their skirts.

Jose buys his threads locally in Otavalo and sells his products at the Indigenous market there three days a week.  We purchased some of his bands to take home.  Giselle has an idea for them….

We then learned that there is actually great bus service to this community – a bus every thirty minutes!  As we left Jose’s home, one was coming down the street.  30 cents each and we were on our way back to Cotacachi!

I would like to personally thank (Urku) Deborah May for taking us up to this community.  It was a very interesting learning experience for both Giselle and myself.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting some of the people that make Cotacachi such a lovely place!