Overcast skies did not give way to rain during the annual meeting for the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH) members on December 26th. The weavers had chosen to meet at the site of Doña Toribia´s old house. A fire was roaring in the beehive shaped wood burning oven when the truck load of participants from Independencia arrived at 10:30am. The oven was the only structure at the site with a roof so rain or sun would have made for an uncomfortable day. The tarp used for shelter in 2015 was in use for drying sprouting corn that will be made into chicha, the sacred beverage of the Incas, for Carnaval.
The day´s scheduled events included the Spinzilla celebratory feast and prize awarding along with the annual CAH meeting. The first order of business was preparing the meat and potatoes for the oven. Doña Máxima had made arrangements with a butcher in Independencia to pick up 18 kilos (about 40 lbs. at $2.45/lb.) of beef. Beef is a treat, since cattle are usually trucked to Independencia to be sold and butchered because there is no refrigeration in the rural communities.
A new water spigot had been installed since last year´s meeting, unfortunately, due to the drought there were long pauses between spurts of water. Doña Máxima and Doña Antonia went to work washing and salting the meat. Doña Toribia took tomatoes, garlic, oil, and dried chilies to her home next door to pound them into a paste for a meat rub. All the weavers brought potatoes which were washed, rubbed with oil, and laid out in long wide tin pans. The oven was filled with the trays of meat and potatoes and the round door cut from a 55 gallon drum was secured to the oven with mud.
Everyone settled comfortably on the ground for the annual CAH meeting. Twenty-one of the 28 members were present when Doña Maxima, the secretary, took roll. Doña Toribia, Treasurer, counted the cash in the tin can of dues. All wanted to be up to date with their 72 cent annual dues so time was taken for the collection. The two main topics were the setting of the weaving prices for the year and Spinzilla. The weavers love Spinzilla Spinning Week and voted unanimously to continue. Cloth Roads has once again generously offered to be the team´s TNNA sponsor.
The weavers cheered when they heard that the $5,017 in payments for their weavings was the highest year of sales since they began working with PAZA in 2007. What was wonderful about 2016 was that many of the purchases were by foreign weavers who appreciate the skill and culture heritage behind each piece. After years of trying to sell at Bolivian craft fairs and attempting to design and transform the weavings into saleable products for a trendy foreign market it seems possible that the door has finally opened to a niche market that appreciates the evanescent weavings.
The last meeting topic was the announcement that PAZA has invited 3 weavers to participate in the 2017 Center of Traditional Textiles Tinkuy International Weaving Conference to be held November 8/11 in Cusco Peru. The 3 were chosen based on their contributions to the joint objectives of the weavers and PAZA. Doña Máxima wears the hats of PAZA Coordinator, CdA trainer, and Captain of the Spinzilla Cloth Roads Team Warmis Phuskadoras. This will be her 3rd Tinkuy, and she will make a short presentation as a panelist, which is an honor for all the Independencia weavers! Her daughter, Zoraida, was invited because she is a member of the PAZA sales team. Doña Justina Vargas, the President of the CdA since 2014, has done an excellent job in organizing CAH events in Huancarani was the 3rd invitee.
After a leisurely meal many hands made quick work of the clean-up. The final event for the day was the awarding of the Spinzilla prizes. All Spinzilla participants win first prize and they had chosen a new petticoat as the 2016 prize. Constance Hall, Spinzilla Team Captain Organizer, had printed participation certificates and sent Spinzilla buttons providing tangible evidence that the competition is truly bigger than just their team. The petticoats were sewn by Doña Maxima´s daughter, Zoraida, who requested the work to earn the money to be able to purchase medicine for herself so she would not be dependent on her husband for it.
2017 is looking to be an exciting year for the weavers, although a bit frightening for PAZA due to the additional responsibility of raising the estimated $4,200 in funds for the Tinkuy expenses. Dorinda Dutcher, December 28, 2016