One day Joe was walking through the Historic Center of Cartagena with Louis, a university student who was attempting (in vain) to teach Joe Spanish and also help him find interesting photographs in the city. As they wandered through the Plaza de San Pedro, Louis pointed to a neatly dressed man seated under a tree. “See that gentleman over there? That is how all business keepers use to dress — what we would call business casual now.” The man had well pressed clothes — a dress shirt and dress trousers.
Today Two Who Trek takes a look at individuals working in Cartagena. There are businesses that employ many people, such as banks and manufacturing facilities. But our focus is on the people who fend for themselves — in short, the individual entrepreneur. What are some of the jobs that people do on their own to survive, to put food on the table? We found many interesting examples.
Staying cool in the heat
Clothing should be practical and aesthetically pleasing. In Cartagena, the available options meet that criteria and more. Here, clothing flows and the textures and patterns make it fun to wear.
People of the Americas have a long pottery-making tradition, predating the European arrival. The oldest known ceramics were found in communities along the Ecuadorian Pacific coast and were made 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. The time-honored process is still essentially the same. Dig up some clay, mix it with water, form it into objects and fire it in an oven or kiln.
In the studio of Eduardo Vega, today’s ceramic pottery is functional and exquisitely formed. After studying in Europe, Vega returned to Cuenca and developed a unique style, deeply rooted in Ecuadorian history. Continue reading
Two Who Trek let the wool get pulled over their eyes
One day at school Two Who Trek and their teachers were talking with other teachers and students when an idea started to take place. Why not play hockey for a day? Because there are no ice rinks in Cuenca, we all decided to play hookey instead, head to a neighboring town, and take a tour of place where artisans make woolen products by hand. We picked a date and decided to rely on public transportation to get there rather than take taxis.
Riding on the public bus system is an event all its own. Travel light and have lots of change. For less than $1, you can be transported from the center of old town Cuenca to the outlying towns. See vendors boarding the bus, selling everything from chocolate bars at 3 for $1, to an organic panacea of uncertain origin for curing most physical maladies. The vendors give you a sample of their wares as they walk through the bus aisle and give their speech. If you choose not to buy, politely and firmly return the merchandise when they are at the end of the presentation. Continue reading
Two Who Trek learn about hat tricks
Call it a hat or a sombrero but it is not a Panama Hat! Traditionally made from a high grade of straw called paja de toquilla, these hats are called Montecristi after the Ecuadorian town of the same name. The misnomer referring to Panama dates back to the 1800s when the Spanish began exporting the hats from Ecuador via Panama. In the 19th century, Panama Canal workers used these hats to protect themselves from the strong equatorial sun.
There are many excellent tallers or artisanal workshops creating sombreros del paja toquillas in Ecuador. Two Who Trek visited two hat-related places in the Cuenca area. Continue reading