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Gualaceo Ecuador – Orchid Farm & Textiles (Episode 17/Part 3)

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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 third town of Gualaceo, Ecuador, which is famous for its orchids and textiles.

Be sure to check out our other videos from this excursion to San Bartolomé Ecuador (Part 1) and Chordeleg Ecuador (Part 2).

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful Andean scenery, the picturesque town of Gualaceo, and the interesting people we meet along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places

Bridge Over the River in Gualaceo

Wood Bridge Gualaceo Ecuador

Our guide, Wilson, assured us this rickety looking one lane bridge over the river was perfectly safe. I’m pretty sure it was older than it looked, and it looked ancient. Nevertheless, we did survive the crossing that’s used by lots of cars, people and dogs on a daily basis.

Cañari Indigenous Woman in Gualaceo Ecuador

Woman in Gualaceo Ecuador

I captured this Cañari indigenous woman walking down the street with her navy blue plaid macana draped over her shoulder. They were the originators of the Panama Hat, and still wear them along with their colorful skirts and sweaters.

This woman is probably a little more than 4 feet tall. The average height of women in Ecuador is only 5 feet, but most of the indigenous women are much shorter than that. Amelia, at 5 feet tall, is a giant standing next to them!

Rosero – The Traditional Drink of Gualaceo Ecuador

Rosero Gualaceo Ecuador

Rosero is the traditional drink that’s only found in Gualaceo Ecuador. It’s made with corn flower, fruits and spices. It has a thick, creamy texture like a smoothie and it’s a little sweet, but not too sweet. We enjoyed it with a piece of bread.

Both pieces of bread and both cups of Rosero cost us a total of $1.30 and they were well worth it. Both were delicious!

Ecuagenera Orchid Farm in Gualaceo Ecuador

Ecuagenera Orchid Farm Gualaceo Ecuador

Ecuador is famous worldwide for its orchids, especially the high altitude orchids that grow in Gualaceo. Ecuagenera is an orchid farm on the edge of Gualaceo that offers tours of the farm, but the tour was closed on Sunday. We did get to enjoy the store, though.

It’s impossible to describe how wonderful the store smelled when we walked in. I didn’t realize how amazingly beautiful and aromatic orchids are. Some smelled like extremely potent flowers, some smelled like chocolate, and some smelled like rotting meat. They seemed otherworldly. Now I understand why orchids have such a huge fanbase.

Here are some pictures of the orchids we saw:

Orchid Gualaceo Ecuador

Orchid Gualaceo Ecuador 4

Orchid Gualaceo Ecuador 2

Orchid Gualaceo Ecuador 3

Orchid Gualaceo Ecuador 5

Orchid Gualaceo Ecuador 6

Orchid Gualaceo Ecuador 7

We’re looking forward to returning when the tour is open so we can see the whole farm and learn more about orchids. We highly recommend stopping by to experience this truly remarkable flower.

Macana Workshop Gualaceo Ecuador

Macana Workshop Gualaceo Ecuador

Entering the workshop where they make macanas, the traditional scarves of the Cañari Ecuadorian women, was like stepping back in time. The indigenous people have been making macanas in this way for over 1,000 years (more than 500 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue), passing the trade down from generation to generation.

Like the guitar and ceramic artisans, this is also a dying trade. The current generation is losing interest in the family tradition and moving away in hopes of finding better opportunities in Cuenca and beyond.

Macana Color Dye Pots in Gualaceo Ecuador

Macana Color Dye Pots Gualaceo Ecuador

These ancient pots are still used to make the dyes that give each macana its unique and colorful look. In this photo, the artisan is demonstrating how they make the color indigo from indigofera plants found in abundance in tropical climates like Ecuador.

They use all sorts of native plants, rocks and even baking soda to create every color in the rainbow.

View from Macana Workshop in Gualaceo Ecuador

View from Macana Workshop Gualaceo Ecuador

Since the climate is so temperate and consistent in Ecuador (at least it used to be), many places don’t have windows or doors like this macana workshop. This is the view from the device being used in the next photo.

That may look like a river running down the valley, but those are actually greenhouses for roses. Ecuador is the world’s 3 largest exporter of cut flowers, and roses make up over 70% of those exports.

Ecuador has the perfect year round climate for growing beautiful flowers, which are very inexpensive here. We nearly always have one or two dozen roses in the house, and they cost only $5 per dozen.

Macana Weaving in Gualaceo Ecuador

Macana Weaving Gualaceo Ecuador

The men have traditionally been the weavers of macanas because it takes a lot of body weight to get the weave taught. The women do the embroidery and a finishing technique called “nailing,” which requires long fingernails to add the loosely woven decoration to the ends of the macanas.

Macana Yapa in Gualaceo Ecuador

Macana Yapa Gualaceo Ecuador

Amelia was very happy to receive this handwoven bag as a yapa with the purchase of her handwoven macana, shown below. A yapa is a little something extra that merchants give to customers as a sign of appreciation. Think of it like a baker’s dozen. We often get yapas at the mercado in the form of extra fruits and veggies from our favorite vendors.

Amelia’s Macana from Gualaceo Ecuador

Amelia's Macana from Gualaceo Ecuador

It seems like Amelia is either hot or cold these days so she was happy to get this beautiful handwoven macana for the cold times.

The indigenous women use these to keep warm, to protect their skin and heads from the hot mountain sun, to carry their babies and to tote heavy or bulky items, like fresh produce, straw, cardboard boxes, etc. I’ve even seen a woman carrying a 6 foot tall tree on her back wrapped in a macana!

It’s common to see a teenager walking down the sidewalk scrolling Facebook on their mobile phone, while passing an indigenous woman carrying her baby on her back wrapped in a macana. With the blend of modern and ancient visible on every street, Ecuador is a truly remarkable place that seems to exist outside of time.

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We hope you enjoyed our trip to Gualaceo, 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 Jardín Del Azuay – The Garden of Azuay (Province)
el puente – the bridge
pan – bread
me gusta – I like it
el algodón – the cotton
yapa – a little something extra (think baker’s dozen)

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Chordeleg Ecuador – Miniature Ceramics & Filigree Jewelry (Episode 16/Part 2)

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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 second town of Chordeleg, Ecuador, which is famous for its miniature ceramics and filigree jewelry.

Be sure to check out our other video from this excursion to San Bartolomé Ecuador (Part 1).

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful Andean scenery, the picturesque town of Chordeleg, and the interesting people we meet along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places

Miniature Ceramics in Chordeleg Ecuador

Miniature Ceramics Workshop in Chordeleg Ecuador

Our first stop in Chordeleg was at a miniature ceramics workshop. This craftsman has been making these figurines and pottery for more than 26 years. He learned the trade from a well known expert in the area.

Like many family trades, this one is also in jeopardy. There used to be a lot of ceramic artisans in Chordeleg, but only a few remain. Just like in San Bartolomé where guitar craftsmanship is taking a backseat to other opportunities in Cuenca and beyond, the same thing is happening to the miniature ceramics family tradition.

Filigree Light Posts in Chordeleg Ecuador

Earring Lightpost Far Chordeleg Ecuador

Earring Lightpost Chordeleg Ecuador

These filigree-style light posts are all over the center of Chordeleg. This is their trademark style for jewelry design as you can see in the photo below.

World’s Largest Earring

World's Largest Earring Chordeleg Ecuador

This giant filigree style earring is about as tall as Amelia. It’s estimated worth is over $100,000! It was made many years ago as a competition with San Bartolomé, who had already made the world’s largest guitar.

Filigree is a style of jewelry design that uses tiny strands of metal, usually silver or gold. Most of the jewelry we saw in Chordeleg was made from silver filigree.

Amelia in Jewelry Analysis Paralysis

Amelia Jewelry Shopping Chordeleg Ecuador

There are over 70 jewelry stores in the tiny village of Chordeleg and most stores have very similar types and styles of jewelry. Our guide, Wilson, introduced us to a shop owner (probably for a cut of sales), but Amelia couldn’t decide. There were just too many things to look at and she felt overwhelmed.

The filigree jewelry and sculptures are truly beautiful. We went on a Sunday so unfortunately, none of the craftsman who make the jewelry were available for a demonstration. We want to go back during the week when the shops are less busy and hopefully a craftsman will be available to show us how they make these amazing designs.

Town Square in Chordeleg Ecuador

Town Square Chordeleg Ecuador

It was cloudy all morning during our tour of San Bartolomé and on the drive to Chordeleg, but the sun came out just when we arrived. The square in the center of town was full of beautiful trees and blooming flowers. A lot of people were sitting on benches enjoying the sun and the view.

Church Square in Chordeleg Ecuador

Church Square Chordeleg Ecuador

Church was in-service when we arrived and we could hear the people singing inside. The doors were left open, and we saw several dogs running in and out of the church.

Chordeleg is high up in the Andes Mountains at nearly 8,000 feet. The air is crisp and clean, and it feels like you could reach up and touch the clouds.

European Street Corner in Chordeleg Ecuador

Street Corner Chordeleg Ecuador

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re in South America because so many of the places we’ve visited in Ecuador have such a European feel to them. Looking at this street corner with the flower covered balcony and Spanish architecture, it felt like we were in a Spanish village…and I guess we kind of were.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our trip to Chordeleg, 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
¿Se que país viene? – From what country did you come?
Estados Unidos – United States
¿Sí le gusta Cuenca? – Do you like Cuenca?
Pequeña ciudad – Small city
Quinientos mil habitantes – 500,000 inhabitants
Tiene Cuenca – Cuenca has

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

San Bartolomé Ecuador – La Ruta de las Guitarras (Episode 15/Part 1)

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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.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places

View of San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

Amelia Enjoying the View of San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

Our Tour Guide Wilson from Polyepis Tours in Cuenca Ecuador

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

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

Tea Leaves and Flowers in San Bartolomé

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

Tea Time in San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

Indoor Fútbol in San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

Guitar Fountains San Bartolomé Ecuador

The fountains were off today, unfortunately. But it’s interesting to see how intrinsic guitars are in this little Andean village.

San Bartolomé Church

San Bartolomé Guitarras Uyaguari

Uyaguari Guitar Workshop in San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

Handcrafted Guitars by Uyaguari in San Bartolomé Ecuador

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.

Ukulele Yapa

Ukulele Yapa from the Uyaguari Workshop in San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

View from Uyaguari Guitar Workshop San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

Uyaguari Playing Guitar San Bartolomé Ecuador

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

JP Amelia Uyaguari San Bartolomé Ecuador

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.

Share the Love

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”

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video