Since 2014, the Wednesday of Spinzilla Spinning Week is spent taking photos in Huancarani and checking in with the majority of the Cloth Roads team Warmis Phuskadoras who live in that rural community. Each year it is more fun, probably because the spinners have come to realize that Spinning Week offers social opportunities just for them without added responsibilities or work. Fiestas and civic day celebrations involve cooking for a big crowd and then cleaning up.
A small pickup truck was contracted and driven by Don Julio, Doña Máxima´s husband. Besides driving he provided the community service of collecting signatures for paperwork that will be submitted to the national government for disaster relief from crop damage due to hail and wind last March. Doña Justina was waiting by the turn onto the new “road” leading to the north side of the community. Somehow she managed to effortlessly spin with her phuska (drop spindle) packed into the backseat with Vilma, Dorinda, bags, and stuffed aguayos. Don Julio parked on a grassy flat that offered a spectacular mountain view. Spinners were spotted walking and spinning from 4 different directions, except for Doña Julia who carried her phuska in one hand and a bowl of potatoes, eggs, noodles, and lettuce to offer the visitors. The spinners spun, and some of their husbands arrived to meet with Don Julio.
Doña Andrea, who is competing for the first time since 2014, is the mother-in-law of Maribel, the youngest Huancarani weaver. Maribel is waitlisted for Spinning Week so although her name was not submitted to Spinzilla she is competing for the first time as a team member locally. Doña Andrea is Don Julio´s sister and she invited the visitors to their home a few steps away. It is rare that an opportunity arises to visit one of the rural farmsteads. The visitors were treated to a bowl of la cayote, a huge squash, that is normally undercooked and lacking in flavor. Doña Andrea had simmered the squash over a low fire all day the day before releasing the sugar which gave it a sweet delicate flavor with a hint of cinnamon. Yum!
The visitors headed back to the main Huancarani road and stopped half a mile above the community center of school, church, soccer field, and an irregularly staffed health post. Doña Ines with her youngest, Doña Casimira, and Doña Verna were sitting in a picturesque field chatting and spinning. As soon as the visitors made their way to the group Doña Toribia and Doña Eulogia came up behind them herding Doña Toribia´s mixed flock of goats and sheep. The odd thing was that a plump red hen of Doña Eulogia´s was leading the parade apparently unconcerned about the large mammals following close behind. Doña Eulogia´s daughter Doña Cirila arrived, she recently returned to Huancarani after years in the city and is competing for the first time. Don Julio took over keeping the flock from scattering so the women could chat and spin.
All too soon it was time to move on. Doña Máxima and Vilma wanted to walk to the next and last stop so they could spin. Doña Verna enjoying the opportunity to socialize joined the group for the walk. Doña Justina led the way down the mountainside past farmsteads, fields waiting to be sown, and a flowering field of potatoes. Unfortunately, yodeling is unknown in the Andes because it would have served well in the search for the third group of spinners. Doña Justina spotted a bit of color and the group headed left down a path where they found Doña Eulogia sitting peacefully on a large boulder spinning but keeping an eye on her goats who ranged down a wooded draw and up the other side. Doña Francisca arrived, it was her birthday and she was in high form with
jokes that kept all laughing. Doña Dionicia arrived with 2 plates of food to share with the visitors, which was the signal for all to plop to the ground, put down their phuskas, take the aguayos off their backs, and pull out plates of boiled corn and cheese or boiled potatoes, noodles, and fried egg for a communal lunch. The visitors had brought soft drinks, juice, and water that were served at each stop and much appreciated on this hot sunny day.
Last to arrive were Doña Antonia Calcina and Doña Julia with their flocks of sheep. Doña Julia is spinning on the waitlist this year because she couldn´t decide whether she had the energy to compete or not. They spun with the group and chatted for a bit then headed further afield with their flocks. It was a perfect day!
Spinzilla is more fun every year while offering learning and problem solving experiences for the women as individuals and as a group. A one-time experience would not be enough to make any impact on their lives, so with that in mind thank you to those who have supported the team and PAZA for multiple years! Thank you Kris Fister, Dorothy Thursby, Patty Tompkins, Margaret Tyler, and Linda Switzer for your continued support! We have reached our goal to meet the Spinzilla expenses.
Now, a true confession…. I could not do justice to the incredible photo opportunities to document the disappearing lifestyle of the Huancarani spinners. We have not had a social media volunteer the past 2 years and it is obvious when comparing the quality and content of the 4 years of Spinzilla photos. We have also not made a short Spinzilla documentary since 2015. It would be wonderful for all involved to have a fiber artist volunteer with photography skills join us next year! Dorinda Dutcher, October 5, 2017