Day Trips from Cuenca: Saraguro
(22/05/2012)Visiting Community Tourism Projects in Ecuador is a great way to meet people and learn about local cultures. Here Karen shares her experiences of visiting one project in Saraguro, 3 hours from Cuenca, south Ecuador.
Saraguro is a town, a canton and also an identity for the people who live there. Saraguro people are easily identified by their traditional dress with black hats, long skirts and elaborate jewelry for women, and short trousers with long plaited hair for the men. Local people here have kept their traditions alive, despite the onslaught of Spanish colonials and modern times.
Saraguro Rikuty is a well-organized community tourism network with accommodations, tours and cultural activities in different Saraguro villages. For a recent visit, I phoned the central number and asked to stay with a family with children, as I would be visiting with my young son. I was put in touch with a family in the village of Ilincho.
We arrived at lunch time to the hillside village. Our hosts were ready and waiting for us, with a delicious and fresh lunch of chicken, rice and vegetables.
Luis, Daisy and their two children were excellent hosts; perhaps because they know how it is themselves to be foreigners. They lived for years in Spain, retuning due to the economic problems in Europe. Luis´ parents, though, have been welcoming guests to Ilincho for years and enjoy the chance to share experiences with visitors from abroad.
My 4 year old boy was delighted to follow around after their 9 year old son and play with the puppies, chicks and guinea pigs while I chatted to the grandmother. We decided that traditional clothes were very convenient as they meant that there was no need to think about what to wear in the morning. She also showed my son how the big bundle of fleece, was spun and wove into the clothes that we wear.
We went for a walk above the village to learn about the beliefs of the Saraguro people. Similar to the Incas and indigenous people as far away as Bolivia, the Saragurans believe in the duality of the cosmos and our intricate relation with our surroundings. We went to a Pakuara, or sacred spot, where locals still carry out ceremonies to the spirits.
Luis and his son are musicians and specialize in traditional Andean instruments such as the charango (a kind of small guitar) and zampona (the Andean pipes). We were pretty unsuccessful at playing the instruments but enjoyed trying to learn. In the evening, we went down to the school, evidently the social center of the village. Boys kicked footballs around while the girls, from ages 8 to about 48, started a very serious game of 5-a-side.
Our hosts are very keen to do as much as they can for their guests, and to this end, they have built a private cabin for visitors. We had a very cozy and quiet night in our room with private bath, and woke up to a truly spectacular view of the whole Saraguro area.
Sunday is social day in Saraguro and everyone heads to the main town to gossip, shop in the market,… or maybe buy a cow. We visited the very busy cattle market and narrowly avoided getting knocked over by a runaway pig.
We were very sad to say goodbye to our Saraguro family who had treated us so well in their home.
In Saraguro town there is a community-owned hostel, and guide service. Here you can arrange home-stays, tours to many days to local landmarks, hiking and camping trips, and horseback riding.
At Into Latin America we are happy to support local and community tourism in Ecuador and Peru. Community tourism projects near Cuenca also operate in Chobshi (near Sigsig), Soldados (Cajas), and in different communities near Tarqui (Cuenca).
Contact Karen for more information.