A cascade of colorful artisan wares greets customers to Blue Burro Imports in downtown Sisters, pouring out onto the porch and enticing patrons into the store where eclectic Central American discoveries from around the world await. by Jeff Spry
Owned by intrepid traveler Amy Abramson, the kaleidoscopic array of imported clothing, arts, crafts and one-of-a-kind curios originate from the storied small towns and rural marketplaces of Guatemala and Mexico.
“I go to Guatemala once a year and I’ve been going every February,” she said. “The pottery and beaded jewelry there is simply beautiful. It’s like nowhere else in Central America. I always end up going over my budget, there’s so much to see and experience. On this last trip I ended up incorporating Mexico and took a bus up to Chiapas and stayed to do some buying for a week. So from now on I’ll add Mexico as part of my buying trips. I really want to explore more of Oaxaca.”
Inside, her vibrantly-colored store is filled with eye-catching wall hangings, religious candles, rainbow-striped hammocks, embroidered blouses, rope sandals, hand-painted animals, folk art masks, bracelets, hand-woven skirts and a menagerie of small wool animals from a San Juan Chamula village in Chiapas, Mexico.
Whimsical skeletons representing Day of the Dead figurines grin from a front window shelf, overlooking hand-carved wood statues commonly used for religious holidays.
Abramson’s path to Sisters began in Washington, then to Portland. A visit to Sisters during the Sisters Folk Festival lured her to settle into small town life her bedside the Three Sisters Peaks in 2010.
Blue Burro opened its doors in May 2013 and since then her customer base and inventory have grown, expanding into new and interesting territoryand keeping her travel bags packed.
“Originally,the attraction to Guatemala was the textiles and handicrafts you can find there. I quickly realized just how rich in culture Guatemala was, with the indigenous people and the embroidery and weaving that they do. Within that first or second day I was there I knew I had a lot to learnand saw how incredibly talented the people were.”
Spending time in Blue Burro admiring the time and patience infused in every piece of merchandise is to be taught interesting fragments of the area’s rich and varied culture.
“Huipils are the brightly-patterned blouses worn by the indigenous women of Guatemala,” Abramson explained, pointing to a framed photo of a gathering of village women. “Sometimes the embroidery work can take months and they’re very personal. Each village has their own particular fabric design and pattern. All my coin purses, bags and vests are made from assembled pieces of these traditional huipil garments.”
The name of her unique import emporium is derived from a burro mask found on one of her treasure hunts to Central America, which hangs prominently on a wall in the store.
Blue Burro Imports
161 North Elm St. Unit B