The December 22nd annual meeting of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) provided an opportunity for the weavers to gather and share in a bit of holiday cheer. Doña Toribia was passing with her flock of sheep as we pulled up to the women’s Clubhouse. Doña Máxima ran to meet her to confirm the use of the wood burning oven, and returned with a lamb much to the delight of her 3 granddaughters. Livestock is the age-old “savings account” in the rural areas, and there seems to be a sense of insecurity for those who have left behind the farmer subsistence lifestyle and moved to town.
We headed down the trail from the Clubhouse to Doña Toribia´s old “house”. It was a ruin of crumbling russet adobe walls with a spectacular vista of the river valley below. The only roof still up protects the wood burning oven. The weather smiled on us with a light overcast to protect from the fierce summer sun but no rain fell. It was almost 3 hours before enough women arrived for the lunch preparation. We´d arrived with 14 kilos of beef as part of the Spinzilla prizes. Doña Narciza headed off to Doña Toribia´s new house next door to grind the garlic, dried chilies, salt, and cumin seed we´d brought along with oil and tomato into a paste for the beef. Rarely used plates, cups, wash tubs, and metal trays
were brought down from the Clubhouse and scrubbed. An advantage to our location was the presence of a working water spigot. The oven was lit and needed time for the fire to die down to coals. Once the trays of meat and potatoes were in the oven, the annual CAH meeting was called to order.
It was the only 2014 meeting because of social conflict beginning last January that was finally resolved in October, the night the women gathered in Independencia to measure their results from the Spinzilla spinning week. That resolution included reorganizing their social-political Organization of Women, which met after the CAH meeting. The December meeting of the CAH is required by the statutes and the main topic is to address any issues concerning the weavings and to set the pricing for the coming year.
The final topic of the meeting was to discuss the Spinzilla spinning week. They hope to participate again in 2015 because they truly enjoyed the experience. The downside was the need to discuss the disqualification of 2 spinners who had obviously added to their spun yarn and what to do to prevent it in the future. My suggestions were that all participants pay a percentage of the entry fee and all members of the team receive the same prize. Unfortunately, the known 1st through 6th prizes of pots, pan, kettle, and shawls didn´t encourage playing for the team. They accepted those suggestions and went on to suggest a meeting prior to the competition to organize in pairs so they can do daily checkups to monitor each other´s progress.
Participating on a team was a novelty for the women, and they had FUN. The day´s discussion pointed out their evolution in mind set from each woman for herself to playing by the rules and spinning for the team. Many didn´t have the opportunity to attend school, most become mothers in their teens, and they live isolated from one another on their farmsteads spread out across the mountain valley. Now that they´ve been through the experience from planning to the awarding of prizes they understand their role as a team player and are well on their way to building team spirit for the next time.
The meeting ended with the handing out of prizes from the Spinzilla competition. Each participant received a ubiquitous plastic shopping bag and envelope of photos as well as the awarding of the 1st through 6th place prizes. The oven was opened and bowls were piled high with meat, potatoes, and salad. Everyone found a comfortable place to plop and dig in. Another fire had been lit to cook a pot of api, a sweet corn beverage, and to fry up bruñelos, thin rounds of sweet dough, which are both holiday traditions. Confetti fell like snow as we wished each other happy holidays before scattering to our homes. Dorinda Dutcher, December 24, 2014