Peru Report, Fall 2023

This October marked our first public tour to Peru since Covid. It was well worth the wait for the seventeen travelers and for me as a new ATA Board member, visiting Peru’s weaving communities for the first time, to see all that ATA support has accomplished there. Over eleven days, we traveled to the Sacred Valley and Cusco, absorbing Peruvian culture expressed through fiber arts.

Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

In Mahuaypampa, the weaving community hardest hit by illness over the past few years, the weavers greeted us with showers of flower petals, garlands, and music. Since last year, ATA donors have supported construction of a new weaving shelter there. To celebrate, few of our participants had the honor of breaking a hanging clay gourd adorned with flowers and filled with chicha (corn beer). After literally and figuratively christening their new toilets and sinks, blessings were declared with the sprinkling of water and chicha, and with smiles all around.

Weavers from Accha Alta visited us at our hotel in Urubamba. They demonstrated weaving techniques including tapiz (tapestry), a technique reintroduced to them by the weavers of Pitumarca thanks to an ATA grant in 2020 and ticlla- watay, a pre-Columbian technique being revitalized with grant funding from ATA. The weavers were thrilled with gifts of reading glasses, although the new glasses also highlighted some weaving glitches they were not as happy to see!

Our group was treated to a tour of these new spaces, weaving demonstrations, a traditional Andean meal, and, most memorable, a hands-on natural dye workshop. We worked beside local weavers, old and young, to create a rainbow of spun merino yarns. Many CTTC interns, a program funded by ATA donors, were initially active in Chinchero and chosen for their budding leadership skills. These young weavers thanked us for providing materials, and tools that made it possible for them to learn and weave the past two years.

The weavers of Chahuaytire surprised us with an alpaca fertility offering. Sadly, climate change is impacting this high mountain village through an unprecedented drought. Alpaca have had a higher incidence of miscarriage, so this fertility offering was full of hope and poignancy. There, as in other communities, weavers welcomed us with sweet eagerness and words of greeting in their native Quechua. The association leaders and young weavers’ leaders expressed their deep appreciation for ATA support over the years.

 In Pitumarca, we were welcomed with a dazzling array of dancers in extraordinary traditional costumes. This weaving association specializes in many techniques— scaffold weaving (ticlla), tapestry (tapiz), braiding, knitting, and three-color supplementary and complementary techniques. During the past two years, they were one of the groups committed to revitalizing the Paracas/Nasca cross knit- looping technique, an ATA-funded initiative. A Paracas/Nasca bent-back figure was chosen for this year’s official t-shirt at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, and their pride in that was visible.

There is clarity and peace in this land and its people. We were in awe of their creativity, their quiet resolve, the patterns they remember in their heads, the young weavers sitting beside their parents and grandparents, masters who are patiently passing on traditions to a new generation. These communities are determined to keep their culture and weaving heritage alive in a rapidly changing world. We were honored to be welcomed into their world.

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