Ecuador *Ecuador Day #8, October 18, 2008: The Market in Otavalo and a Reflection on the Need for Micro-Loans
Today is Saturday. In the morning I spent a couple of hours in the feria (market) of Otavalo. The market is world famous and, as a result, extends for many blocks on Saturdays. Yet, I was saddened to see that most items are artesanias (handicrafts), not the art that I saw in Cuzco, Peru last year, and the quality of most items is not high. I am told that the quality of the goods was much higher about twenty years ago. I did find and purchase three hand-knit bags that I wanted – paying $53. I probably could have gotten them for less, but I don’t have the heart to bargain hard for something handmade. The señora from whom I purchased them said she spends about three days on each. I hope that she made them or that, at least, a substantial portion of what I paid does go to the person who did make them. I have been cautioned by people here that many vendors in the market claim to make the goods they sell, but that is not true.
Comments on the need for micro-loans in Ecuador: My host told me he took a loan for several thousand dollars from a bank [name omitted from blog]. The interest was about 100% for a year. Such interest rates would be unfathomable for most of us in the United States. Then, month after month my host had to wait in line for nearly a day to make his monthly payment. He says the rates and the time-consuming payment process are typical. He and others told me told that there are no laws setting limits on interest rates on loans made to individuals and small businesses in Ecuador.
I plan to learn more about interest rates and the need for prohibitions against usurious rates in both countries I have studied these past two years (Ecuador and Nicaragua). If anyone reading this blog can direct me to such information, I will be grateful. Both countries need such laws and, once enacted, they must be enforced. The fact that loans are prohibitively expensive for people trying to run small businesses in Nicaragua and Ecuador shows the need for micro-loan programs such as those run by Grameen Bank, KIVA, and various other non-profit organizations.
Copyright ©2008, by Paulette L. Stenzel8