The Otavalango Museum, or Living Museum of Kichwa Culture, has been open on a limited basis for about two years. The museum is a project of a group of Kichwa people who purchased the old San Pedro textile factory outside Otavalo. The factory, where many of the new owners worked as children or adults, was part of an hacienda. As such, it has a dark history in terms of indigenous labor and exploitation. This makes the museum even more interesting, as some of the former workers now own the old factory, and can present their own version of culture and history. At this point, reservations to visit the museum usually have to be made in advance, since this is a "living museum" with weavers, a shaman, and guides. Many Kichwa families have donated items that are on display. The exhibits are much broader than the history of the factory, and include Otavalo Kichwa rituals of birth and death, traditional medicine, agricultural practices, and various weaving techniques. Several of the larger old buildings are currently unused, but interesting nevertheless as remnants of the old factory. I also recommend a short hike up the "pyramid of stones," which is a high point above a wall of stones where the factory manager used to look out over "his Indians." As I was told, workers who showed up late or didn't properly do their jobs were sometimes thrown into vats of dye, or pulled around the plaza by their ponytails. Rene Zambrano, one of the group of owners, does an especially animated job of guiding. He worked at the factory as a child, and is familiar with much of the history. In addition to the number provided, information is available from Washo Maldonado at the SISA complex at Calderon and Sucre (also well worth a visit for lunch, dinner, or a drink on the upstairs terrace).
Currently, the museum doesn't have an entrance fee, but donations are welcome to help support the project. There is also a shop with various items for sale, many of them made by the indigenous owners of the museum.
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