The Otavalos are a people and culture indigenous to the Valley of Otavalo, in the Province of Imbabura in Northern Ecuador. In 1495 the Otavalo area was conquered by the Inca Empire and in turn conquered by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1535. The Otavalos are a very prosperous community of skilled textile weavers, who gather to sell their products at the market in the city of Otavalo as they have done for centuries, as regional markets have played an important role in Indian life, providing regular gathering places for trade and socializing. Today, increasing numbers of Otavalos have also been traveling overseas to sell their handcrafts in Europe and North America. The Otavalos are proud of their cultural heritage, hard working people who have managed to overcome poverty without changing their way of life, their traditions or their dress, while at the same time taking advantage of technological advances.
A major aspect of the Otavalo Indian ethnic identity is their native dress. For men this consists of a blue poncho, white shirt and calf-length trousers, a fedora-type hat and their hair combed in a long braid. Women dress in embroidered blouses, blue skirts and shawls plus several layers of golden necklaces and red bead bracelets. Both men and women wear "alpargatas", a type of sandal. Otavalos speak Kichwa, their native language, even though today most also speak, Spanish, English, French...
Otavalo is currently considered one of the most important tour destinations in Ecuador, due to its ancestral cultural heritage, enriched by millenary traditions, myths, legends and customs together with Andean landscapes of outstanding beauty: mountains, lakes, waterfalls and rivers, that, as per the Otavalo Cosmovision, possess life and energy.