Well, at least that’s why some people were there. We, not knowing international laws on transporting livestock, stuck to just browsing at the Saquisili market (though at only $1 each, Jeff was tempted to buy a chick, set it free, and see what happened). Held every Thursday, the Saquisili market is one of the biggest and most important markets in Ecuador. Along the Quilotoa Loop, a rural region home to primarily indigeneous families, the market is the main source of practically everything for people in the area.
In order to really experience the market, we got up early and headed out to Saquisili in time for the animal market, which is well on its way to shutting down by 8 a.m. when the rest of the market is just getting underway. From the bus, we followed the scent of livestock and found ourselves in a large area packed with people and their animals—sheep, goats, llamas, cows, and pigs. Who was buying and who was selling was nearly impossible to distinguish, but with some close observation we did see one transaction go down.
After a close inspection of the sheep, which involved grabbing them by the legs, flipping them over, and feeling around their breast area (all accomplished in less than 5 seconds), and some bantering over price, a couple walked away with two sheep for what we think was $120.
Tiring of the sheep, we headed to the pig section of the market, which was much, more noisier. I could only wonder how anyone can stand to work in a slaughterhouse. These pigs weren’t facing the hatchet (well at least not yet) but they sure did scream bloody murder as they were taken off of or loaded onto trucks.
From the pigs, we made a brief stop in the cow area, but weren’t nearly as entertained here, as the cows did nothing but chew their cud or nibble the grass.
In addition to the animal watching, we also did a good bit of people watching. The indigeneous people here amaze me. I think they can carry absolutely anything on their back. And watching them work in whatever conditions—mud and muck almost always present—while wearing skirts and shawls and hats and stockings makes me feel a bit self-conscious about how much thought I put into having the “right” clothes for whatever activity I’m doing.
As the animal market drew to a close and all the families settled in for hearty lunches (yes, it was only 8 a.m., but I imagine many of these people had been up since 3 a.m.), we headed for the seven squares of the town, in which vendors were selling just about anything you could want.
We saw women selling sugar cane and men sewing.
We saw huge bags of grains and pastas, baskets full of guinea pigs, some seriously silly looking chickens, worn (but not yet worn out) shoes, all the fabulous fruits and vegetables that they grow in Ecuador, blocks of sugar, and much, much more.
It was a fascinating look at local culture, and though we didn’t buy anything—except food (red bananas, small plums called claudias, mandarins, fried corn and cheese patties, fry bread, popcorn balls, and a grilled banana), I think it’s our favorite market experience so far.