Cuenca, where our jewelry is made, is a beautiful Spanish colonial city founded at the confluence of four rivers. Declared a World Heritage site to preserve its historic center, many streets are paved with pre-Inca stones from nearby ruins that date from 500 AD. But it is the living culture that amazes and delights. An astonishing number of high-quality artisans and craftspeople, both in small indigenous communities and in the culturally mixed urban areas, are still practicing the traditional crafts, despite the great economic challenges of recent decades.
Artesanías del Ecuador“ is a splendid book published by CIDAP (the Interamerican Center for Arts and Artisans). The author, Pablo Cuvi, offers an overview of the diverse handcrafts that have survived in villages throughout Ecuador. Sadly, the book is out of print, but CIDAP is a vital organization partially funded by UNESCO. Click here for more information.
Here are more favorites from this unique and vibrant culture.
The group Los Huayanay plays traditional instruments including the charango, a plucked instrument made from the shell of an armadillo, and specialize in the pan pipes played everywhere but with their origin in the northern mountains. Their album “Aires de Ecuador” is an excellent example of this music. A lovely audio clip is “Cuando El Indio Llora – (When the Indian Cries).”
Heard everywhere and a sentimental favorite is Julio Jaramillo, a colorful singer with a velvet voice, born in Guyaquil in 1935 but still popular today. In his short life of 42 years, he had five wives, an unaccountable number of children and famous brushes with the law. His success in the ’50s and ’60s brought 250,000 to his funeral in 1978, mostly women. There is a two-disc release from 2011 called “30 Mejores” featuring has all of his hits. The video “Julio Jaramillo Nuestro Juramento” is a good recording of perhaps his greatest hit and has been viewed nearly 6 million times!
“Cañar, A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador” is a wonderful book by American writer, photographer and sociologist Judy Blankenship. She and her husband spend six months of every year in Cañar and have become an integral part of the life of this small town, helping a group of young women access higher education. Ms. Blankenship has just published a second book, “Our House in the Clouds: Building a Second Life in the Andes of Ecuador,” chronicling the construction of the couple’s traditional adobe house and the joys and challenges of living in Ecuador at 10,000 feet.
“Costume and Identity in Highland Ecuador,” edited by Ann Pollard Rowe and published by The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. Though its focus is the marvelous traditional textiles of the Andean indigenous villages, there are abundant photographs of jewelry in use. The essays are an exhaustive record, province by province, of traditional dress.