In a continuation of last week’s post, this week we took some 25 women from the communities of Chaullacocha and Chupani to the renowned weaving village of Chayhuatire, which has been weaving for an international market for over 20 years. The women had chosen to visit this village through consensus at their respective weaver’s associations meetings.
These visits are part of Threads of Peru’s further improvement of these women’s weaving skills – the visits not only act as a reward for their work during the year but inspire them by seeing weavings better than their own, and by learning about alternative dying and weaving techniques.
When we arrived at 6.30am at the agreed pickup point, there were already 10 women assembled – they must have been up before dawn to be there at that time! The other 15 women appeared on small specks on the horizon, hurrying – almost running- towards the agreed pickup point. An hour later there were no more figures trotting towards us, and we headed off. One of the girls in our car exclaimed with excitement, “I got a window seat!”
In Ollantaymbo we collected some more women, most notably Narcissa from Chupani who ran alongside us until we realized who it was and let her in. We didn’t recognize her immediately, because she was dressed in typical campesino clothes from the Valley, a floral skirt and sweater. When she climbed in, I exclaimed “Where is your lillkla and pollera (traditional skirt)?” She smiled breathlessly, or perhaps a little ashamedly, and indicated she had her clothes with her. Sure enough, later she looked like all the rest, with her llilkla (cape), traditional hat, and a red bayeta skirt. It’s a sad reflection on society that she was dressed in “Valley” clothes. Sure, she was still identifiable as a ‘campesina’ (rural person) but she was not identifiable as remote indigenous – for her fellow Peruvians – and no doubt the hoards of snap happy foreigners that flood through Ollanta and would make life uncomfortable for a person dressed in traditional clothes.
We now had our full complement – 8 women and 1 man from Chupani, 12 women and two teenagers from Chaullacocha and some 6 breastfeeding babies scattered throughout the two cars. In Calca we stopped for snacks at the market, and as the women got out of the car a group of Peruvians were heard to ask, “Where are they from?” knowing that they were Peruvians, but from a completely different world. For me, the day’s personal highlight was being sufficiently trusted by Virginia from Chupani to hold, then wrap her baby and then put it on her back as she fixed it in place using a manta.
The weavers of Chayhuatire were awaiting us, resplendent in their typical dress, which they don’t wear on a daily basis but do wear for special occasions. In Chayhuatire both men and women weave, and they also use wooden looms in addition to the backstrap loom. They were going to do a dying demonstration, but as it had been raining torrentially in the week up to our visit, there was no dry wood to be able to boil the pots.
Their president is quite a character and made a lengthy presentation in Quechua about their organization and weavings. In short, they use a combination of natural wool, cono wool (machine spun) and alpaca and they dedicate all of their time to weaving (as opposed to other pursuits, like agriculture)
Pictures tell a thousand words, and the photos here show the women fascinated by and extremely enthusiastic to see the Chayhuatire weavings
After a delicious Chairo soup lunch, the Chayhuatire people were insistent and proud for us to visit the local rock paintings. Our party of some 45 brightly dressed indigenous people made quite a sight as we scrambled up the hill to see the llamas painted on the rocks. On the way back, the women dug and picked around in the plants, digging up cactuses and picking leaves…
Our trip home involved another stop at the Calca market for the women to do all important shopping (like women worldwide, they shopped excitedly, not only for food but hairclips and trinkets)… We arrived at the drop off point, from where some of the women had a 3 hour walk, at dusk.. With adjustment of their loads, held in mantas on their backs, along with their babies… they commented on the freezing cold and then they were off, scampering down the mountainside. As we drove off, I looked back and I could see them in the rapidly failing light, walking at a deadly pace in Indian file, their pollera skirts moving in rhythm, wiggle-waggle.