Preservation of their weaving tradition weighs heavy on Doña Máxima and the Huancarani weavers. Many of the ageing weavers taught their daughters as they were taught but only 2 have daughters who live in the area and weave today. The educated youth of the past few generations have fled to the cities upon graduation of high school to pursue more options in life then the brutally physical farmer subsistence lifestyle.
When PAZA began the Club de Chicas in 2010 the goal was to teach teens to weave. PAZA was selling at craft fairs in Cochabamba three times a year and the teens were motivated to weave to sell. None pursued the craft after high school graduation. The current chicas in the Club don´t even pretend to have an interest in learning to weave. Although many fiber arts and other skills have been taught by volunteers and visitors through the years to Club members and the weavers of Huancarani, the preservation of the weaving tradition remains one of PAZA´s 3 main objectives.
Preserving the weaving tradition is reaching a critical point. Last month Doña Casimira, formerly a prolific weaver, declined an order confessing that she is no longer up to the physical demands of weaving. All is not lost! Doña Maxima has been approached by young mothers moving into the new neighborhoods springing up in Independencia who want to learn how to weave. The women are so young, semi-literate, de pollera (traditional skirt), and desperate for a means to earn an income to care for their kids. They have moved from their farms to a town that can offer them no work.
Doña Casimira may not be able to weave but she can teach and pass on her wealth of knowledge. PAZA is going to test a bonus program to encourage the master weavers to teach the young women. There will be a bonus paid to each master weaver who works with a younger woman to the point where the new weaver meets the required quality for the yoga mat straps.
The Club de Artesanas is going to undergo major changes to get back to its objective of helping the ageing weavers preserve their textile tradition. The current teen program will end on April 6th. The future changes will be 100% in the hands of Doña Maxima and the 3 remaining core members who are all weavers. They will divide their time between teaching weaving and working on a new product line of fiber arts products other than the traditional weavings that can be sold locally. If they lead, others will follow.
PAZA will continue to pay rent for workshop space evaluating regularly to be able to phase out as the entrepreneurial efforts of the women allow. The space is important because it is also a gathering place/refuge where the women can meet to talk, laugh, support each other, and cry. Doña Maxima will take over management and ownership of the equipment and supplies. Her wage will be reduced to 2 half days in part because the young mothers wanting to learn to weave can’t devote whole days or even whole mornings to attending. The wage reduction is also a compromise between motivation to spark her entrepreneurial streak and to keep the momentum going.
These young mothers who are so desperate to find a means to care for their children can be the key to the sustainability of the weaving tradition. Making it all work will take the finesse of a Quechua speaking Bolivian professional. It is serendipity, that Breny Ugarte, who has worked with Doña Máxima and PAZA since 2008 came forth to say she will help because she has other work she will be doing in Independencia
All looks good on paper, but only time will tell how PAZA will evolve with 100% control of the Independencia activities being under Doña Maxima and the weavers. Future PAZA fundraising requests will only happen upon receipt and approval of funding needs from Doña Maxima, or if the bonus program breaks the bank. Dorinda hopes to return to Independencia for Spinzilla 2019 and to pick up weaving orders hopefully with the team´s new TNNA sponsor who has yet to claim that title. The weavings will continue to trickle to the U.S. thanks to friends traveling between Bolivia and the U.S. Help with sales especially the yoga mat straps is needed. The blog will continue with short monthly updates as to how all is progressing in Independencia, and expect the unexpected. The change is scary, but it will be incredibly empowering for so many rural Bolivian women. Thank you. Dorinda Dutcher, March 29, 2018