3 nights in Cuenca, Ecuador’s well-preserved colonial city in the south. A large grid of old buildings, many churches and religious institutions and some grand public buildings. Many bars and classy cafes.
The main museum, the Museo del Banco Central Pumapungo was excellent. An entire floor showing the clothes, tools and handicrafts of a range of native peoples. The museum shop didn’t reflect the designs and ideas of the past, instead setting off in its own direction. The display ended with a collection of shrunken heads and a notice saying that the Ecuadorian government doesn’t permit this sort of thing anymore.
The local folk art museum had a decent collection too, but it was entirely Indonesian. The archaeological museum has an impressively large collection of anthropomorphic pots but not much else. But there were various craft markets, local markets to visit. We were invited to an evening reception at the otherwise empty modern art museum.We turned up later for a presentation and display of some op-art in the ex-asylum building.
Cuenca is the centre of the Panama hat industry and one of the largest producers has a museum next to the bus station. Not being in a group they let us wander around on our own. Most of the actual weaving takes place in villages but there was woman on hand to show us. Otherwise the processes of washing, dyeing, forming (in old steam machines) and finishing took place here.
A large shop ended the tour with a bewildering collection of panama styles and a collection of more modern designs in a range of weave densities from $40 to >$300.
The guidebook had tails of busy Sunday markets in local villages. We took a bus to Gualaceo and found lots of busy streets but no market. Quite a few women in the thick skirts and colourful belts that indicated their village but no obvious crafts on sale. Ended up taking taxi to a local makana (scarf or shawl) weaver. They showed us their dyes, their backstrap loom and their ikat technique.
Walked back to a row of BBQ stalls set up for the Sunday visitors. They had some pricey and large guinea pigs (cuy) over the grill with large stakes stuck up their bottoms. A woman came up to check the crispiness of their skin and the meat on their thighs. A convention piece of pork and chicken finished us off.