Finding an Angel in Otavalo

Posted by on Dec 15, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

Finding an Angel in Otavalo

Carved Angel

In my wanderings around Otavalo yesterday, I came across several angels on a vendor’s table near Plaza de los Ponchos (the largest indigenous market in South America) and perhaps the most well known attraction for tourists in Otavalo. The angels were simple, carved from wood and hand painted.  I was attracted by their simple and somewhat rustic elegance.

For some reason I walked by the first time and decided I would come back in a few minutes after I found something to eat.  I was very hungry and decided to buy mango slices from a woman selling them from her mobile cart. The mango was wonderfully sweet and perfectly ripe. Just the right little something to keep my stomach from complaining.  I returned to the table and asked how much the angel cost.  There were large and small versions,  the larger being about 6 inches tall. I wanted a large one and thought I might buy several, but the vendor said $12.  I know I could bargain and get the price down, so I gave him the long face and said in Spanish, Oh, it’s very expensive for me. When he said $10, I kept my sad face on.  Then he asked me how much I wanted to pay.  I said $5 and he said $6 and I said I’d think about it, and so he said okay, $5.  So that’s how you bargain.

The vendors are savvy at sizing you up and they make most of their money on those who do not know the bargaining culture.  I remember when I used to be afraid to bargain, but I’m feeling much better at it theses days.  It comes with learning enough of the language to communicate, and you don’t need to know very much, but you do have to know your numbers in Spanish at the minimum. It is an interesting art that is a part of life here.  You never want to insult the vendor or ignore the value of the person’s work, but on the other hand, you have to realize that they are playing a game with you as well as making their living.  Each encounter is fluid and the vendor will usually start out at double or a little more than double what they will sell the item for and still make a profit.

I think $5 was a good price for the angel, and I will long remember the experience of bargaining for it.  I wonder if I can get two little ones for $7 or $8?  I’ll let you know if I do.





One Comment

  1. Great lesson in bargaining…as a tourist i never go below 50% of price offered because i feel that it would be insulting and, after all, i do not wish to do any harm, just want something to demonstrate a craft or an art…may sit in a box at home for years to come. 🙂 But living there as you do requires you go deeper…i can see that.

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