Row after row of colourful scarves, blankets, backpacks, gloves and hats fill markets in almost every city and town in Peru; all hand woven out of Alpaca wool. I visited a small community of women in the Sacred Valley who make various hand-woven products and are aided by the Planeterra Foundation.
Planeterra is a non-profit organisation founded by G Adventures that ‘helps empower local people to develop their communities, conserve their environment, and provide supportive solutions to local problems’. I visited the Peru Women’s Weaving Co-op which helps the communities surrounding Cusco and Machu Picchu who unfortunately don’t benefit from tourism as much as the aforementioned locations.
I began my journey on an hour-long bus ride out of Cusco and up the winding hills of Pisac where we stopped to meet this tiny community of women and children.
All dressed to the nines and ready to teach us about their weaving culture and heritage.
We were taken through the entire process of weaving, beginning from hand-spinning the wool, dying the wool and participating in a weaving demonstration. As modern day chemicals and colourants aren’t as readily available in remote areas such as this, these women use natural dyes from vegetables and other natural sources.
On display are the variety of Alpaca and Llama wool before being spun, after being spun and finally, dyed
This little girl completely stole my heart! Peruvian children are some of the most adorable I’ve ever seen! All with dark almond-shaped eyes, thick black hair and flushed pink cheeks.
Once you are taken through the steps of weaving, you are free to wander around, speak to the women and take your photos. The women and children are so welcoming to guests but make sure you brush up on your Spanish if you want to make any conversation!
At the end, the women display all their goods for travellers to purchase. Haggling with sellers (in markets across the country) is expected and actually welcomed. I got myself a beautiful white and light grey scarf which I will post a picture of very soon.
43 women belong to this co-op today, encouraging them to showcase their cultural heritage and intricate weaving skills. It also enables them to help provide for their families and benefit from tourism that avoids negative social and cultural impacts. It’s nice to see something positive alongside the poverty which affects so much of South America.
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