We visited Hacienda Zuleta in Imbabura province and were warmly greeted by the passionately dedicated owner Fernando. His wealthy and influential family had owned nine large haciendas in former days (it was a feudal system exploiting the peasant labour), but he has been developing a far more sustainable and equitable business model. He makes several types of gourmet cheeses at the hacienda, they also raise horses and farm organically; we were treated to for a truly wondrous lunch at the hacienda (which also offers tempting accommodations: if you ever get the chance to visit, don’t miss it).
Fernando has over the years become a collector of and expert in the traditional women’s embroidered yoked blouses and household linens, and has been working to reestablish this fine style of embroidery and encourage the teaching of fine needlework traditions to various women’s groups to create beautiful embroideries based on traditional motifs and then to develop a market for them. He was very emphatic that Zuleta embroidery is in a class on its own and we could (and did) appreciate the difference when we visited the Otavalo market the next day.
We topped off our day with a visit to a local family, three-generations of which are needleworkers, and they were very happy to show us some of their techniques (including a neat fringing method) and in return we were happy to show our appreciation of their work by making purchases.