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Dye Day and Classes

19 Mar
Truck Bed Filled with Dye Plants and Firewood

Truck Bed Filled with Dye Plants and Firewood

After 6 weeks of hard rains the sun blazed through the fog in late February reminding us that it is late summer. The Club de Artesana members had thought to get a head start on dyeing this year because early rains in September had kept the suyku plant from dying back and the shrubs were lush with leaves and clumps of yellow flowers by late January. Dye day after dye day was cancelled as we shivered in the doorway of the Club workshop watching the chill rain fall.

I Herded the Kids to Safer Terrain (at least in my mind)

I Herded the Kids to Safer Terrain (at least in my mind)

One morning in late February we looked at each other and said, “Jaku (Let’s go)”. The cloud cover was high and didn’t appear ominous, and the road had had a few days to dry. After lunch we piled into the double cab pickup the Club contracted.  Only 1 teen accompanied us, but 7 kids under the age of 6 scrambled aboard thrilled with the idea of an adventure. Damage from the rains was everywhere. The mountains are soft rock and large sections had sloughed off above and below the heavily rutted road.

Prepping Plants for the Dye Pots

Prepping Plants for the Dye Pots

We climbed up and out of the Independencia valley for half an hour to the altitude where the masiq’o flower flourishes. There was very little sign of it. Doña Máxima led the charge down the mountainside yelling “masiq´o” When I caught up with her she was collecting tiny ferny twigs from a shrub I´d never noticed before. I was confused, and pointed out it was not the flowers we´d been collecting for the past 5 years and calling masiq´o. She said the bush was the “true masiq´o” and her sister dyed beautiful colors with it. Due to the extraordinary biodiversity of the area plant identification has been challenging.

Dye Pots Simmering

Dye Pots Simmering

We´d identified the flower we´d been collecting since 2008 with its scientific name, Bidens andicola, at an exhibit in the Center for Traditional Textiles museum in Cusco.

The locals were comfortable on the steep grade, but I wasn´t so I gathered up the 5 little kids not being packed on their mothers’ backs and headed up to the road and to less steep terrain. The weather was perfect as we headed downhill shouting, running, jumping, and enjoying being out of the claustrophobic fog capped valley. The others caught up with us and we walked downhill collecting chilka leaves and suyku leaves and flowers. A couple of the women collected firewood for their home kitchens. Back at the Club workshop we spent an hour preparing the plant matter for the dye pots.

Spinning & Chatting with the Dye Pots Bubble and Boil

Spinning & Chatting with the Dye Pots Bubble and Boil

At the next Club meeting we dyed dark greens from the pots of chilka leaves, light green and gold from the suyku leaves, bronze/green from the suyku flowers, and a medium green from the suyku flowers and chilka baths mixed together. The 3 baths using the ferny twigs of the masiq´o shrub produced bronzy browns. The women wanted more browns so after lunch Doña Martha brought soot she´d scraped from above her kitchen cook fire. It was mixed with the dye bath of suyku leaves producing 5 baths of a reddish brown. As we admired the drying skeins we all felt better about getting such a late start on dyeing this year.

The Quicker Students Help the Slower and All Stay Busy in Class

The Quicker Students Help the Slower and All Stay Busy in Class

The women expressed an interest in literacy classes, which I began teaching once a week. Of the 7 women in the Club the education range is 3 who completed 2nd grade, 2 who completed 4th grade, and the 2 youngest members completed their sophomore year of high school. The 3 who completed 2nd grade speak little Spanish. I asked the women if they recalled when the rural schools were started, but nobody remembered. Doña Antonia said the patrons of the hacienda in Huancarani did not educate girls because they felt they were more useful pasturing livestock. Many of the haciendas were destroyed and their patrons fled to the cities in the rebellion of 1952 that led to the Agrarian Reform of 1953. Doña Antonia said a law was passed mandating education for all, but I’m surmising the attitude of not educating girls continued until the law could be enforced. Manual labor is critical to the farmer subsistence lifestyle, so it is a huge sacrifice for the parents to send their children to town for schooling. Although educating children is now the accepted norm, can you imagine the social conflict that must have taken place to enforce that law?

Noemi in Her IER Classroom, 2012

Noemi in Her IER Classroom, 2012

Speaking of education…. Friends who follow the blog rose to the challenge of making sure Noemi Chavez didn’t have to drop out of her medical technical training program, and are probably wondering why there’s been no news of her graduation. Noemi is the young woman from Huancarani who completed her training in December. She is still waiting to graduate. An education reform law went into effect last December, but the interpretation of that law is taking time so the certification of last year’s graduates from technical institutions has been postponed month after month. All the would-be graduates are anxious to get out into the working world, but there is nothing they can do without the certification to prove their education and training. Graduation festivities for Noemi are out of the question because the certification expenses are going to run about $630 plus numerous trips to Cochabamba and La Paz. That is equivalent to 10.5 months of tuition and expenses for the 2-year program! She asked for help to meet the expenses, and I responded that I would put the word out. Please consider helping her over this final hurdle so she can get out into the working world. Thank you.

A hug and thanks to all the PAZA supporters who make it possible to carry on day by day. As you have all learned the commitment to helping women in need to help themselves is long term.  Life in Independencia is once again tranquil.  Dorinda Dutcher, Independencia, Bolivia, March 17, 2014

 

Carnaval and Peaches

18 Mar
Traditional Music and Dress

Traditional Music and Dress

The Carnaval parade was the first Sunday of March. The nearby communities compete for prize money for the best traditional dress, dancing, and music. Each community is led into the plaza to perform by their mayor bearing his or her silver staff of office. The brightly dyed wool polleras (skirts) swirl to the music of the accompanying traditional band of pipes, flutes, and drums.

Warakanaku Competitor

Warakanaku Competitor

Local institutions perform skits in competition for cash prizes. The barrage of water from balloons, huge water guns, and buckets along with foam from spray cans escalates each year decreasing one’s ability to relax and enjoy the colorful chaotic spectacle.

Everyday Modern Polleras (Skirts)

Everyday Modern Polleras (Skirts)

The following day was the warakanaku competition. The 2 contestants have 3 tries to hit his/her opponent’s backside with a peach slung from a traditional sling of braided llama fiber. Few of the contestants were under the age of 50, and most were quite the characters as they walked up to the chalked line sizing up their opponent snapping their slings like whips. When their name was called their feet began dancing to the music while their arm swung the sling from side to side as their eyes took aim before letting the peach fly. The spectators followed the flight of the peach because when it missed its target it would go flying down the street causing comic reactions from pedestrians whose attention had been elsewhere. There was a break in the action as one community of dancers still going strong danced through the plaza, the girls having changed from the heavy traditional wool pollera of yesterday to colorful modern polleras. Dorinda Dutcher, March 5, 2014

 
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Working Towards Social Justice, #5 and Conclusion

14 Feb
My Favorite Bad Road Photo, 2009

My Favorite Bad Road Photo, 2009

A cargo truck picks up everyone and their gunny sacks of produce in Huancarani on Saturday afternoons so they can set up their stalls at Independencia´s Sunday market. Last Saturday, besides the definitive meeting at the Centro Sindical the weavers had to get their children settled and ready for the first day of the school year on Monday. The rains had been unceasing for over 2 weeks, and the hour and a half trip took 5 hours on the muddy dangerous road. Noemi, the nursing tech student I´ve blogged about, and her mother made the trip on foot in the same amount of time and arrived at my door muddy and soaked through. After a hot snack and strategy conference they headed down to the Centro Sindical for a meeting with the authorities. They were joined by 3 other Huancarani weavers and the discussion lasted until after 11pm. The President of the Organization of Women, Huancarani was also in attendance standing firm with her false accusations against me and Doña Máxima.

Doña Máxima and Daughter Vilma with the Huancarani Road Below

Doña Máxima and Daughter Vilma with the Huancarani Road Below

Heavy fog cloaked town on Sunday morning. The authorities had decided that I needed to present my report at the Centro Sindical public meeting. Doña Máxima and her husband had gone to the city to shop for school supplies. Her eldest daughter, Vilma, did an excellent job of marshalling the weavers. The meeting was to end before 10am because of another meeting at city hall. We arrived at 9 and it was almost 45 minutes before the doors opened. In 2010, only 1 weaver accompanied Doña Máxima and I to the Centro Sindical meeting, today I watched a dozen weavers lobbying for support as community Presidents and other authorities showed up.

Doña Narciza Weaving a Rolled Border to Assemble a Ch´uspa

Doña Narciza Weaving a Rolled Border to Assemble a Ch´uspa

Doña Narciza, the top producing weaver, has 2 daughters studying to become accountants in Cochabamba. She supports them through the sales of her weavings because her husband, who controls the income from the family´s cattle and crops, will not give a single centavo of assistance to his daughters. She told every authority she came across why she needs to be able to sell her weavings. She stated that if I am forced to leave town she is going to bring her weavings to them and expect the same annual income.

Coca leaf for chewing was handed out at the door when it finally opened. Upon entering, I noted the absence of other women. I pulled out my report and hadn´t read all the way through it before the meeting ended. In disbelief I watched all the men head for the exit. The women continued their lobbying, and it took another hour to get out of the building and climb the 3 blocks to the plaza.

Noemi and her Mother Flank Me and Doña Máxima, Huancarani 2011

Noemi and her Mother Flank Me and Doña Máxima, Huancarani 2011

It had been decided that there will be another meeting in Huancarani and all issues will be resolved including those which have been festering for over 2 years and have nothing to do with PAZA. After a month long emotional rollercoaster ride this ending couldn´t have been more anticlimactic. It appears nothing official will be announced concerning me, so I´m just hoping we can stay under the radar through this election year.

Road from Cochabamba Entering Normally Tranquil Independencia

Road from Cochabamba Entering Normally Tranquil Independencia

What was most troublesome throughout this ordeal was the animosity from women who I´ve worked with and once considered friends. Folks in the rural communities obtain all their news about a bigger world from the radio and the Bolivian President is not pro-American. That political attitude has trickled down to the rural community level. A week ago Doña Máxima asked me if it´s true that my country is violent and keeps starting wars in other countries. Thinking of road rage, school shootings, and the years of armed conflict abroad I had to answer to the affirmative. She looked at me sadly and said she hadn´t known that before. There is over 500 years of history of foreign exploitation of the local population. Letting go of, “why is this happening to me,” I imagined myself in the abarkas (local rubber sandals made from recycled tires) of the locals. From their perspective it was easy to assume that gringos work in an exploitive manner.

We have all played our part and it appears the social conflict is going to disappear again without futher fuss. Thank you PAZA supporters for your long term commitment proving that there are foreigners that work from the heart.

The Independencia Internet access is bad to having more bad days than good days, so the postings will continue to be sporatic. Dorinda Dutcher, February 2, 2013

 

Working Towards Social Justice, Part 4

13 Feb
Government Owned Tractors are Replacing the Bull/Steer Plow Teams

Government Owned Tractors are Replacing the Bull/Steer Plow Teams

On January 30th, the mayor and the provincial President of the Organizations of Men went to Huancarani for a community meeting. Doña Máxima´s husband took the day off work in order to attend but didn’t contribute anything not wishing to jeopardize his tractor driving job with the municipal government. At dusk Doña Máxima knocked on my door with his report.

The legal document the Huancarani weavers had written was declared invalid. It proclaimed that the President of the Organization of Women, Huancarani had been removed from office and that the accusations stated in her letter were unfounded. Because the woman hadn´t relinquished the signature stamp of office she remains the President so the document written by a lawyer on behalf of the weavers was unacceptable because a claim can´t be filed against a President.

The Huancarani Weavers are Afraid to Use Their Clubhouse Because of an Ownership Dispute

The Huancarani Weavers are Afraid to Use Their Clubhouse Because of an Ownership Dispute

Flushed with success at the news the President began ranting about how I was dividing the Organization of Women. She was silenced by a weaver who stood and calmly stated it was she the President, not Dorinda rallying for a division. The woman is obviously supported at a high enough political level that she was not removed from office at the meeting. The mayor said he´d spoken with me and after reviewing my report he would announce his decision ending debate of issues concerning PAZA at the Centro Sindical meeting on Sunday.

The Organization of Women in Huancarani has had problems concerning the ownership of their land for more than 2 years. Instead of higher authorities helping to resolve that problem they´ve made an issue over the support from PAZA and the weavers attaining legal status as the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH).

Group Photo with the Huancarani Weavers

Group Photo with the Huancarani Weavers

Doña Máxima said I needed to turn in the report the following day so the mayor could analyze it before Sunday. The Provincial President had said that if my report showed I´m not working in an exploitive manner, then I should have municipal government support. I cannot help but wonder if his visit was prompted by my plea for help when I visited the Federation in Cochabamba a few weeks ago.

Doña Alicia Talks About Her Weaving to Joyce Dutcher and Karen Krieger; Huancarani 2009

Doña Alicia Talks About Her Weaving to Joyce Dutcher and Karen Krieger; Huancarani 2009

I immediately began writing and mumbling a mantra of gratitude to Shiriin Barakzai who had set up an annual report form during her volunteer visit in 2010. She´d started at the beginning in 2007 and following her examples I had the annual objectives, inputs, outcomes, and lessons learned compiled through 2013. All of you who have supported PAZA will be proud of what the 3 pages of statistics revealed.

Fairs Were a Big Sales Expense, a So-So Sales Venue, and Priceless Sales Experience

Fairs Were a Big Sales Expense, a So-So Sales Venue, and Priceless Sales Experience

We have 111 weavers listed on our register, but only an average of 40 have sold weavings through us each year since 2008. During the 7 years of sales we´ve sold 1,349 weavings for a total of $19,492 with $18,255 (93.6%) going directly into the hands of weavers and $1,237 going towards sales expenses.

Results of 3-Day Intensive Dye Workshop Which Was a Collaborative Effort, 2009

Results of 3-Day Intensive Dye Workshop Which Was a Collaborative Effort, 2009

Expenses over the past 7 years totaled $23,063. The funding sources were shown in 6 categories which broke out as 40% from WARP contacts, the volunteer program, Ruraq Maki, and the blog; 17.7% I´ve paid out of pocket; 16.7% is support from my family; 10.6% came from the municipal government in 2007 and 2008; 10% was from Peace Corps and a grant from the Friends of Bolivia and Peru; and 5% came from sales. A table listing our activities was divided into 2 categories which were training/education and sales.

I turned in the report but the mayor was too busy to review it. There was nothing left to do but countdown to the meeting 2 days away. Doña Máxima and I make a good team, we don´t despair at the same moment. When one of us begins sliding into the negative “what ifs…” the other offers the comfort that justice will prevail. What was at stake was the flow of much needed income into the hands of rural women generated through their weaving skills. Dorinda Dutcher, February 1, 2014

 

Working Towards Social Justice, Part 3

12 Feb
I Wandered Downtown in Search of Someone to Talk to

I Wandered Downtown in Search of Someone to Talk to

In the first Shrek movie there is a scene reminiscent of the old Frankenstein movies where the villagers storm Dr. Frankenstein’s castle with pitchforks and torches. It may sound weird, but when I found myself dwelling on, “20 days or else…”. I’d picture myself as a shrieking Shrek and it banished scary thoughts. The situation was growing more ludicrous daily and I needed to find somebody to talk to. Unfortunately my friends who I go to for advice were on vacation all month. I knew my former Peace Corps counterpart, the Director of Education, was too busy to talk because he was trying to get the schools ready for opening. I finally wandered down to chat with a local who had been the only lawyer in town until last year. He read my letter from the Centro Sindical and his indignation made me feel better than I´d felt all week. He recommended I write a letter to the mayor not the Centro Sindical to present my side of the story.

WARP Marketplace 2013 Independencia Volunteers/Friends

WARP Marketplace 2013 Independencia Volunteers/Friends, Katie, Selina, Dorinda, Kelsey

I spent the rest of the day writing the letter explaining how Doña Máxima and I support the weavers. I reminded the mayor of our discussion about collaborating at our one and only meeting which was in 2010 shortly after he took office. All hopes of that possibility where squashed by the female authorities a few months later at a Centro Sindical meeting. Where my money comes from has always been of interest to locals, and I´ve never felt it was anyone’s business. In the letter I stated I use personal resources for my expenses and for PAZA I use personal gifts from family, friends and a network of contacts made through Weave a Real Peace (WARP).

Independencia City Hall, Day of Independencia, 2013

Independencia City Hall, Day of Independencia, 2013

I wanted somebody with authority to step in and say “enough of this nonsense and injustice”. It took numerous visits to the mayor´s office, but I finally had the opportunity for an audience. I would have lasted less than a week with the State Department, I am no diplomat. He started off by stating the accusations in the letter from the Centro Sindical as though they were fact. That made my blood boil because I´d submitted other documents proving the accusations were unjust and false.

Why the Resistance to Support Weavers Working to Make a Better Life for their Children?

Why the Resistance to Support Weavers Working to Make a Better Life for their Children?

Luckily, my former Peace Corps counterpart, who I respect enormously, slipped into the room and I was able to muster a more professional attitude. The mayor then asked for details concerning the sources of my funds. I replied that I´m an individual not an organization or business with personal resources. My hackles were up again because I felt my right, which the law seemingly couldn’t defend, were being further abused. We moved into more comfortable territory and I talked about PAZA´s work in training and in sales support. I said that the Huancarani weavers need financial assistance from the municipal government to continue to develop. In the end he asked for a report of PAZA´s sales, expenses, and where the funds come from. I started to argue, but my former counterpart interrupted to say I needed to write the report so I capitulated.

All the Rural Homes Need Basic Services

All the Rural Homes Need Basic Services

Working with PAZA the weavers of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) have developed into artisans with a market. I told them in December they need to move forward without my help and recommended that the next phase should be to obtain a development project to make the basic improvements on their homes needed for weaving (outdoor sinks by their spigots and a sheltered space for their looms). Except for a stream or irrigation ditch, the spigot in their yards is their only source of water so washing skeins and basic hygiene is challenging. All or a percentage of the funding for a development project should come from the municipal budget.

At the annual “Artesanía” fair in Independencia in November the high quality weavings of a Huancarani weaver were excluded in the judging. For lack of enough entries, the 4th place prize went to raw unwashed alpaca fiber. The weavers of Huancarani need to reestablish a working relationship with the Centro Sindical and the municipal government.

Katie Helped Adviana with the Pattern for Baby Jessica´s Favorite Dress

Katie Helped Adviana with the Pattern for Baby Jessica´s Favorite Dress

How did it come to this? Adviana, the 18 year old mom, in the Club de Artesanas quietly asked me why this is happening. I didn´t have an answer. She said both she and her mother will be going to the monthly meeting at the Centro Sindical on February 2nd to stand with the weavers of Huancarani in support of me and Doña Máxima. I still harbor bitter memories of our last meeting there in 2010 and have no intention of attending. Dorinda Dutcher, January 31, 2014

 

Working Towards Social Justice, Part 2

12 Feb
Signature Stamps of Community Presidents on Back of Letter

Signature Stamps of Community Presidents on Back of Letter

The day after the weavers met with the mayor I was hand delivered a letter from the Centro Sindical. There was a paragraph of accusations similar to the Huancarani letter then a paragraph stating I had 20 days to leave town or drastic measures would be taken. The back was covered with stamps of the Presidents of the Men and Women´s community organizations. The woman who delivered it was the President for Women in Independencia at the Centro Sindical.

I Hitchhiked with Supplies to Offer Baking Classes in Linku, 2009

I Hitchhiked with Supplies to Offer Baking Classes in Linku, 2009

We had worked together for 2 years when she was the President of the Organization of Woman in her rural community of Linku.  I was impressed with her leadership potential and had great hopes for working with her when she advanced her political standing in 2010. She agreed with me that the letter was a pack of lies but said she was obligated to sign it. Although I´m disappointed in her leadership I wonder if her potential was stymied by her lack of education, experience, and guidance to get onto a positive track when she accepted her political position.

All Mothers Want a Better Life for Their Kids

All Mothers Want a Better Life for Their Kids

The political position provides her a wage. The security of a monthly paycheck is a new concept for many who have obtained jobs in the municipality since 2010 because of their affiliation with the MAS political party. She said she has kids to support. I said most women have no wage and kids to support and nothing has been done to develop an alternative to PAZA for the selling of the weavings.

Heading Out for A Natural Dye Workshop, 2009

Heading Out for A Natural Dye Workshop, 2009

It seems that some authorities receiving a wage for the first time in their lives will do or say anything to keep the monthly paycheck coming in without meeting or perhaps not understanding the work and responsibilities that must be fulfilled. A resolution was passed at the Centro Sindical in October that if any weaver works with me and Doña Máxima the entire community would be denied access to the municipal budget and any “gifts”. A single mother came to retrieve her weavings because her community would be denied vegetable seeds the local government was getting ready to distribute. Two other weavers from her community were in the PAZA store/workshop at the same time. She was indecisive, but they offered her no advice although they had no intention of retrieving their own. She left with her weavings.  Katie arrived a week later and weavings of the other two were among her generous purchases.

Independencia Now Boasts 3 Lawyers

Independencia Now Boasts 3 Lawyers

I assumed that if I took the letter to a lawyer along with my stack of supporting evidence proving it was all invalid accusations, discriminatory, and an abuse of my rights, his response written with the power of the law behind it would end the harassment. The number of lawyers in town has grown from 1 to 3 in a year, I chose one who is not a local but commutes from the city. He scanned through my pile of papers, made a phone call, and said I needed to be in Cochabamba the following day to meet with the President of the MAS political party.

Once I was in the city, our friend Breny, who had facilitated the CAH meeting in December, joined me. We went to the office of the MAS President but something had come up and he´d left town. We called the lawyer and he sent us to the Federation which is the State level of the Organizations of Men and Women. The Executive Secretary was gracious and left a meeting to talk with us.

Breny Giving a Workshop on Womens´ Rights, Huancarani 2009

Breny Giving a Workshop on Womens´ Rights, Huancarani 2009

I pleaded with her to lend guidance to the Centro Sindical authorities in Independencia because the Huancarani weavers who had found a way to develop their craft on their own (via me and Doña Máxima) were being punished. I didn´t add, “As are we”. She said the Federation had to respect whatever is done at the municipal level. She suggested I talk to the mayor of Independencia.

Back at the lawyer´s office in Independencia he asked about my meeting in Cochabamba, and then said I should visit the mayor before he writes a letter. A week passed and I had no luck finding the mayor in his office. Culturally, I am on autopilot to reply to a letter as soon as possible. I wanted my letter that was going to solve everything, so I asked the lawyer to please write it. He did, but wouldn´t sign or stamp it. I took it home and rewrote it. It cost me $3 and was never submitted to the Centro Sindical, it was not the route to resolution. Dorinda Dutcher, January 30, 2014

 

January Club de Artesana Activities and Visitors

11 Feb

Club Dye Day, Luz Stirring the Dye Pots

Club Dye Day, Luz Stirring the Dye Pots

January falls during the rainy season and is the last month of summer vacation. Attendance for the twice weekly Club de Artesanas was low. The chicas had jumped at any opportunity to get out of town and 3 of the women spent the vacation on their farms in rural areas. The month was enlivened by the cultural and technical exchange with mother and daughter volunteers Luz Medina Bonta and Eva. 

Eva and Elizabeth Making Jewelry and Sharing Teen Tales

Eva and Elizabeth Making Jewelry and Sharing Teen Tales

Eva taught a chainmail jewelry making technique to 16 year old neighbor Elizabeth who became involved in Club activities 2 years ago but then moved to the city to go to school. She enjoyed the class so much she cajoled Gabriela into attending a watercolor class with Luz the following day. Gabriela was one of the first Club members but for whatever reason she quit attending last July. We’ve missed her and were thankful to Luz and  Eva for enticing her to return. Gabriela and 2 other chicas also took Eva’s jewelry workshop.  Eva, who is fluent in Spanish, was the first high school age volunteer so could satisfy the chicas curiosity about schools and life as a teen outside of Bolivia. Eva grasped the harsh reality of life here realizing that Club member, Adviana, who participates in the womens’ activities, is the same age of 18 but an exhausted mother of two.

Luz Watching the Warping of Her Weaving

Luz Watching the Warping of Her Weaving

Luz is an artist and a designer with a passion for textiles. She worked with Doña Máxima, the weaver, on the color coordination and figures for a weaving to take home. The original idea was to use the weaving for product design samples, but after being so involved with its creation it may remain in one piece to be cherished. Eva took a weaving class with Doña Máxima wanting to be able to weave bracelets to gift to her friends at home. Luz, Eva, and I collected chilka leaves for the dye pot, so Luz, who is a natural dyer with scientific training, could enjoy an artisanal dye day with the Club.

Selecting Alpaca Fiber to Purchase

Selecting Alpaca Fiber to Purchase

The excursion detailed in an earlier blog to buy alpaca fiber was a highlight of the month. Luz bought alpaca fiber to take home to Pennsylvania and I hope she has better luck than the Club members did with processing it. Last week the weavers washed the 3 kilos of fiber the Club purchased with hot water. It took almost a week to dry and it dried hard in places, so washing methods need to be researched. Doñas Antonia and Máxima spent an entire day cutting out the hard bits and hand picking the fiber to make roving. Carders are not used here. They didn’t even get through 1/3

2008 Photo of the Bad Corner, Passengers Walk through the Muck to Lighten the Bus Load

2008 Photo of the Bad Corner, Passengers Walk through the Muck to Lighten the Bus Load

of the fiber. It was so much fun buying the fiber, but it remains to be seen if the women feel all the processing makes it worth the while for use in knitting and crochet projects.

Thank you PAZA supporters for your help in making the January Club activities possible.

The weather smiled on us during Luz and Eva’s visit the first half of the month. Cold chill rain and fog arrived with a vengeance the middle of the month. Returning from the city on the 17th, the bus sat for 4 hours waiting for a tractor to arrive to clear the most dangerous curve of the road. We piled out of the bus to watch a mesmerizing river of mud and boulders ooze towards us down a ravine like lava flowing from a volcano. It pooled onto the road and eventually cascaded on down the mountainside.

Watercolor Class

Watercolor Class

Unfortunately, a black cloud of social political conflict has hung over Doña Máxima, her family, the Huancarani weavers, the Club participants, and me this month. In trying to write a blog posting I learned it takes much longer to write up and edit emotionally charged issues. I love writing the postings that report our progress and achievements, but the social injustice that is occurring is part of the development process so I am going to present it is a series over the next few weeks. Luz and Eva discovered that the Internet tower built in 2012 is finally providing the local Internet “café” reliable access. I gave up checking 6 months ago. Although the Internet café only opens for 2 hours twice a day Monday through Friday, it sure beats the +8 hour bus ride to the city.  Dorinda Dutcher, January 29, 2013

 

Working Towards Social Justice at the Grass Roots Level

11 Feb
Breny Facilitating Peaceful End to 2013, CAH Meeting

Breny Facilitating Peaceful End to 2013, CAH Meeting

We ended 2013 on a positive note following the December meeting of the Club de Artesanía in Huancarani (CAH). Unfortunately, the New Year has started out with a spike in the social injustice that has plagued the weavers, Doña Máxima, and me for the past 4 years. The October posting, Envyoffers more background information and musings on the upstream battle to carry on.

MayorSpokeFollowing the glowing report of a radio reporter on our accomplishments last August the backlash began, again. I have rephrased my question, “why is this happening” many times to Doña Máxima and anyone else who brings up the topic of the ill will the Centro Sindical bears towards us. The response is usually “envy”, which isn’t a satisfactory answer. The usual culprits for social injustice are also at work including money, greed, hunger for power, sense of entitlement, and prejudice, but I feel like I am missing something to make sense of it all.

Weavers Requesting Government Funding for Artesanía Development, 2009

Weavers Requesting Government Funding for Artesanía Development, 2009

In 2009, Doña Máxima and I were welcomed to a budget planning meeting facilitated by the NGO Kurmi at the Centro Sindical to voice our suggestions. At a meeting a year later numerous Presidents of the rural community Women´s Organizations shook their fingers at us saying the women of their communities had all the knowledge needed to develop their traditional weaving craft for market. In other words, the municipal budget was theirs to control and they didn´t want to share. Lack of leadership and no partnerships with those who could provide resources have resulted in 4 years of the municipal budget for women´s crafts being spent with zero income generating activities developed for rural weavers. Almost all rural women know how to weave so there is no local market. Uneducated, Quechua speaking, and living a farmer subsistence lifestyle in isolated Independencia offers no experience for reaching a bigger world and market.

Craft Competition, 2009

Craft Competition, 2009

I have never understood why the Centro Sindical ended their collaboration with me and Doña Máxima. Without the help from PAZA supporters my efforts here would have ended in 2010 for lack of local support. Thanks to you, we have slowly progressed through the years with the weavers rescuing their traditional weaving techniques and improving their craft to reach a market that will pay the price that they approve each year as a “fair price”.

Plant Prep, Dye Workshop in Huancarani

Plant Prep, Dye Workshop in Huancarani

The rebel President of the Women’s Organization of Huancarani has been rabble rousing at the monthly Centro Sindical meetings to run me out of town, punish Doña Máxima, and fire her husband from his tractor driving job with the municipality. She presented a letter to that effect at a meeting in Huancarani and demanded signatures. Additional unfounded accusations in the letter accused Doña Máxima, a pacifist, of threatening to beat her up. She accused the “Gringa”, of receiving development project funding so I pay myself and a few cronies. She accused the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) which has legal status as a productive association of dividing the women within the community and harming the Organization of Mujeres, which has socio-political objectives. The weavers refused to sign, so she took it house to house to solicit signatures. Of the 10 signatures, at least 1 was a forgery and another was obtained because the weaver signing it is illiterate and was told it was a request for support from the municipal government. Nobody seems to know who is motivating her and wrote the letter since she is illiterate. Ironically she signed a letter of support for me and Doña Máxima at the December meeting of CAH.

Doña Máxima is the Leader of the Weaving Revival Movement

Doña Máxima is the Leader of the Weaving Revival Movement

Doña Máxima had had enough. She hitchhiked to Huancarani to call a meeting with the weavers. At the meeting a resolution was passed kicking the President of the Organization of Women out of office. She wasn´t at the meeting, and wouldn’t turn over the stamp of office when the women visited her at her house. The weavers traveled en force to Independencia where they went to a lawyer, a first for them. They had an announcement written denouncing the lies and supporting me, CAH, and the Organization of Women. It was delivered to the Centro Sindical. They also visited the mayor to apprise him of the situation and he asked for a letter from me to clear up the accusations. The weavers plan to attend the monthly Centro Sindical meeting on February 2nd to clarify the confusion which we all hope will lead to a peaceful resolution. Dorinda Dutcher, January 29, 2014.

 

Shopping for Alpaca Fiber

16 Jan
The Alpaca Herd

The Alpaca Herd

The day arrived to cross off, “Buy Local Alpaca Fiber for Club de Artesanas (CdA) Projects” from the To-Do list. Doña Máxima with granddaughter on her lap, Adviana with her 2 little ones, and visitors Luz Medina Bonta and daughter Eva crowded into the double cab of Samuel’s pickup. We 3 additional adults and 4 more kids piled into the back arranging ourselves around aguayos insulating hot pots of food for lunch and bags filled to overflowing with extra baby clothes, shawls, and drinks. The sun smiled down on us as we headed up the mountain then disappeared behind clouds providing us with cool dry weather that was perfect for our excursion.

Ademar and His Rooster Thirty minutes into the climb we stopped and shifted around to fit in Doña Segundina who was waiting for us at the crossroads to her community. She´d hiked down from her farm with none of her 8 children and was excited about the adventure.

Fifteen minutes later we stopped at the Huancarani crossroad to drop off Doña Máxima´s 13 year old son, Ademar, and his rooster. He was headed down to spend a few days with his cousins. I´ll never forget my last glance at him as we pulled away. He had no toothbrush, extra clothes, food, nor drink. All he had was his chicken in his arms and a huge smile to be headed off on an adventure of his own.

Eva, Do;a Máxima, and Luz Enjoying Doña Gregoria´s Hospitality

Eva, Do;a Máxima, and Luz Enjoying Doña Gregoria´s Hospitality

Another 15 minutes across the mountain top and we reached our destination. Any kid big enough was on his/her own to march across the tundra like ground covering and down to the farmstead of Don Francisco and his family. The backdrop of majestic mountains rising in the distance was stunning, although they tricked the eye into appearing like a Hollywood set.

Doña Máxima Selecting Alpaca Fiber for CdA

Doña Máxima Selecting Alpaca Fiber for CdA

Doña Gregoria´s greeting was shy but genuine. The family lives so remotely that to receive such a number of guests at one time must have been overwhelming. Doña Máxima, Luz, Eva and I entered the family compound and were treated to plates of hot mote (huge boiled corn kernels) and fresh cheese. The other adults enjoyed their mote in the farmyard where the kids were deliriously happy to run and play with the dogs and cats.

After our snack and exchange of pleasantries we followed Doña Gregoria to the farmyard where she upended 3 gunny sacks of alpaca fiber. I bought 3-1/4 kilos at around $7/kilo ($3/lb.). Doña Máxima made the selection while the other Club members happily called out their suggestions. We left with a mix of white and tan fiber. A few kilos will wing their way north to Pennsylvania with Luz and Eva. It was very FUN shopping!

The Kids Herd the Alpacas Closer, Llamas in the Distance

The Kids Herd the Alpacas Closer, Llamas in the Distance

The family´s llamas, sheep, and alpacas had been let out to graze earlier in the morning. The llamas had crossed a drainage and worked their way to where they were just specks on the mountainside. Doña Máxima took a high path to circle around them and try to herd them our way. She keeps her herd of 5 llamas there and wanted a closer look at her new black baby llama.

The alpacas were closer and we headed downhill for a look. The kids between the ages of 4 and 14 ran as fast as their legs could carry them. We lulled away the morning observing the alpacas and enjoying being out of town. Tummies began to rumble so we began the seemingly endless trek uphill. Three year old Jason made the walk on his own, because his 18 year old mom was burdened with baby Jessica. We lagged behind the others but Jason´s antics made for a very entertaining walk. And being at 12,600´, how fast does one really need to move?

Lunch is Served

Lunch is Served

Appetites were honed and we dug into the pots of potatoes, noodles, rice, beef, and fried eggs with gusto. Doña Máxima and Vilma had cooked 2 huge pots paid for by CdA, but everyone contributed a bit more, so it was a feast. I thought it would be a sleepy group piling into the truck for the trip home. All were too energized and not ready to call it a day so we unloaded to frolic again when we dropped off Doña Segundina. We also took a look at the progress of the rainy season dye plants, and they´ll be ready early this year.

The alpaca fiber will be washed, handspun, and divided up between the Club members for their next knitting or crochet projects. It was an extraordinary day, and possible thanks to the volunteer program.  Dorinda Dutcher, January 16, 2014

 

A Festive December in Independencia

08 Jan
2013 Graduating Class

2013 Graduating Class

The blog site has long been unhealthy due to a malware infection, and was finally taken offline. The volunteer administrator, Julie Cleary, worked diligently for weeks as time permitted to clean the 3 years of files on my site and all the files on hers. Thank you so much, Julie for your time and commitment to PAZA. Thank you readers for your patience and understanding.

Weaver Doña Eulogia and Don Ramon were so Proud of Son Felix

Weaver Doña Eulogia and Don Ramon were so Proud of Son Felix

Independencia is settling down into rainy season somnolence. Half of the women in the Club de Artesanas have returned to their farms to sow crops. The chicas have gone to the cities to work or visit.

The emotion laden Bolivia Alemán high school graduation was held on December 7th. It is an enormous accomplishment for the youths whose parents had little or no opportunity to attend school and whose many peers drop out. There were 56 in the graduating class of which 31 were boys, 8 were girls in modern dress, and 17 were girls “de pollera”.  The pride was palpable as each

Fiesta de Don Jorge Spinning Contest

Fiesta de Don Jorge Spinning Contest

parent escorted his/her son or daughter down the aisle for the ceremony. Two weavers from Huancarani had sons graduating. Eight weavers from Huancarani traveled to town to share in the happy festive occasion.

The 3 women enrolled in the vacation session of the Club and Doña Máxima are sewing blouses as a nod to the holidays, since they rarely sew, knit, or crochet for themselves. Between them they have 8 kids or grandkids between the ages of 2 and 14 who are already bored with the summer vacation, so we´re having day camp on Club days. The days have been filled with reading, puzzles, board games, and an attempt at cooling down in the wash tubs.  Independencia has a “swimming pool”, but it is filled with unclean river water, dirty bodies, and has no filtration or chemical purification system, so it serves as a source for bacterial infections.

Great Fun with Buckets and Wash Tubs

Great Fun with Buckets and Wash Tubs

On December 10th, we held the annual Fiesta de Don Jorge. The kids spent 2 days making masks and sombreros. There were games, prizes, and dancing in the rain. The women competed in a spinning contest. The kids spent an hour decorating the cake to make it look like a castle. Don Jorge is my father, he gets a book of photos and best wishes on his birthday from all of us who make merry and get to eat the cake.

The kids cut-out and decorated a quantity of gingerbread and orange cookies the week prior to Christmas so that each of the 4 families could take a festively beribboned bag home. Fifteen year old Vanesa, my neighbor and longest term baking student, spent a Saturday with me churning out cookies to gift to the neighborhood.

Masks & Sombreros Locos for the Fiesta

Masks & Sombreros Locos for the Fiesta

Christmas Eve fell on a Club day and we cooked and ate all day long. Pasteles, fried dough filled with cheese, and api, a beverage of boiled corn flour, sugar, and cinnamon are customary Christmas Eve treats. We had them as our morning snack so we’d have the energy to cook the afternoon feast in the wood oven. The beehive shaped outdoor wood burning oven was fired up so the wood could burn to ash and the food cooked by radiant heat on the brick floor. Bread goes in first, and the local bread is usually flattened individually rounds topped with cheese that cook quickly. After the bread the trays of chicken, beef, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and vegetables were slid onto the brick floor. It hasn’t been easy, but on each feast day I get at least one new taker to taste a sweet succulent roasted carrot, onion or green pepper halved and filled with cheese, herbs, and egg off the vegetarian trays. Hot roasted potatoes drizzled with olive oil, lime, and a squirt of roasted garlic are a meal in themselves.

So ends another year of tales from Independencia. Thank you for the many ways you have supported the weavers and the PAZA activities. The weavers and I wish you the very best for 2014. Dorinda Dutcher, December 30, 2013