For our first tourist-y excursion since we’ve been in Cuenca, Ecuador, we took a trip east of town to three different artisan villages: San Bartolomé, Chordeleg and Gualaceo. This video covers the first town of San Bartolomé Ecuador, which is famous for its handcrafted guitars.
Be sure to check out our other video from this excursion to Chordeleg Ecuador (Part 2).
We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful Andean scenery, the picturesque town of San Bartolomé, and the interesting people we meet along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.
People & Places
View of San Bartolomé Ecuador
I have a new camera now so my pics are much better than this. iPhone’s just aren’t very good at taking long distance shots ?
This is a scenic, breathtaking view high upon a hill that our guide Wilson stopped at on our way to San Bartolomé. It looked like we had stepped back in time as we looked down on the nearly 500 year old village below.
Amelia Taking in the View of San Bartolomé and the Andean Mountains
San Bartolomé was founded by the Spanish in 1536, 21 years before Cuenca was founded. The Spanish found lots of gold in the rivers and mountains here, making it irresistible to them.
Our Guide Wilson from Polyepis Tours
Wilson from Polylepis Tours studied National Tourism at The University of Cuenca and speaks 3 languages: Spanish, English and Italian. He is very knowledgeable about Ecuador, and conducts tours all over the country. We really enjoyed spending our day with him.
High Altitude Tea Garden in San Bartolomé Ecuador
The lady who owns this little medicinal tea garden grows all of her own tea leaves and flowers. She provides natural remedies to the locals and tourists, alike.
Tea Leaves and Flowers
These were the fresh picked tea leaves and flowers used to make our tea. They were beautiful to look at, and they smelled amazing!
Pink Tea and Cornmeal Bread
We squeezed a little lime in our tea, per Wilson’s suggestion. It didn’t need any sugar due to its natural sweetness and intense flavor. The bread was made with cornmeal and brown sugar, and cooked in her wood oven. Both the tea and bread were delicious.
Indoor Fútbol Played Outdoor in San Bartolomé
This is a very popular sport in Ecuador. In fact, there’s an Indoor Fútbol field (also outdoors) near our house in Cuenca, and it’s constantly occupied. Wilson told us that there are several leagues that all compete for prizes.
We watched them play for about 5 minutes and it looks like a rough sport. This is a concrete “field” so no one was falling down grabbing their shins like in regular fútbol (soccer). There was a lot of contact between the players, making it look like a cross between Rugby and Soccer.
Guitar Fountains in San Bartolomé
The fountains were off today, unfortunately. But it’s interesting to see how intrinsic guitars are in this little Andean village.
San Bartolomé Guitarras Uyaguari
This is the workshop of one of the most famous guitar making families in all of San Bartolomé. The Uyaguari craftsman featured in our video is one of a long line of guitar makers that stretches back 115 years.
Sadly, he may be the last guitar maker in his family. Like many other guitar making families in San Bartolomé, the next generation isn’t interested in the family tradition. They are choosing to move to Cuenca and beyond in search of better opportunities.
Handmade Guitars with Intricate Inlay
These inlay pieces are made by gluing several different colored strips of wood together, and then cutting it into little shapes like these. Tiny matching holes are then painstakingly carved into the guitar wood for the inlay, giving the guitars their distinctive look.
Depending on the intricacy of the design, a guitar can take from one week to over a month to make and the price varies from $100 to $2000.
Yapas are a special gift, or a little something extra, that vendors give to customers to show appreciation. We often get yapas in the mercados from our regular vendors, and even more from vendors we’ve never visited before. They want to encourage us to keep coming back. In the US, we call this a “baker’s dozen.”
This guitar maker gives this handmade ukulele as a yapa when someone orders two guitars. That’s quite a yapa!
View of the Andes from the Uyaguari Workshop
This is the view from the balcony off the Uyaguari workshop. There wasn’t a door or window to the balcony…it was wide open giving an unobstructed view of the Andean mountains and the valley below. The family garden where fruits and vegetables are grown was just below the balcony.
The Craftsman Plays Guitar
To demonstrate the amazing sound of his guitars, Señor Uyaguari played us a short song. You can listen to his brief melody in the video.
Señor Uyaguari and Amelia And JP
He was very kind to take a break from his guitar making to show us his workshop, play us a song, and pose for a picture. If you go to San Bartolomé, stop by the Uyaguari workshop on La Ruta de las Guitarras. You won’t be disappointed.
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We hope you enjoyed our adventure to San Bartolomé Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.
Spanish Words & Phrases
¿Cómo se llama? – What is your name?
Mucho gusto – Nice to meet you
El gusto es mío – The pleasure is mine
el oro – the gold
el té – the tea
yapa – a little something extra to show appreciation; think “baker’s dozen”