April was a frenzied bittersweet month for the Club de Artesanas (CdA) members and the weavers of the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH). Emotions were held in check by the need for action to vacate PAZA headquarters within 3 weeks. Two dye days and a soap making day were squeezed in as well. Doña Maxima and Doña Antonia wasted no time in locating another space a block away which they had repainted and with the help of Doña Beatris and Vilma turned into CdA´s new workshop/store. The goal is for the space to be used to create products that will sell locally. Doña Maxima will hold regular hours two mornings a week so local women wishing to learn how to weave can learn on a drop-by basis. She will continue to open the store on Sunday mornings for the Huancarani weavers.
PAZA held a meeting in Huancarani on April 4th to answer questions about the abrupt change in routine with Dorinda moving to the U.S. and Doña Maxima taking on the leadership role. A million thanks to Breny Ugarte who miraculously managed to hitch a ride from Cochabamba to Huancarani in time to facilitate and translate the Spanish to Quechua. There were tears because the weavers haven´t realized that they don´t need constant foreign influence to carry on. Faces brightened as Breny explained the bonus program for master weavers to teach younger women to weave. Each weaver present promised to teach 1 younger weaver. Doña Casimira was so excited she stated that she will not retire from weaving after all and will teach as well.
The following Sunday Maribel, who at 21 is the youngest CAH weaver, arrived at the PAZA workshop/store with teen Angelica in tow. Angelica is the 1st bonus program student and is learning to weave from her partner´s aunt. Maribel had brought in a yoga mat strap and wanted to show Angelica how to work with Doña Maxima in turning in a weaving for payment. Maribel left with the CAH file of paperwork in her bag and the responsibility to keep it up to date. Dorinda had fulfilled the Secretary role at the request of past CAH Secretaries who had not had the opportunity to learn to read or write.
The CdA women, chicas, kids and past members spent time reminiscing about the volunteers which made taking down the “Volunteer Photo Wall” a fun affair with laughter instead of tears. The photos were fairly divvied up. The cross stitch projects with Rebecca and embroidery work with Surya were mentioned by all of the chicas. Emily broke out in song with the chorus of “La Cucaracha” that she had learned from José a volunteer from Mexico. Stories of Amanda´s 5 years of jewelry making workshops were shared between the women, chicas, and kids. Emily and Linneth took home the puppet making materials from Profesora Judy´s class.
Although much of the CdA equipment and supplies went to the new workshop, some was divided between CdA members. Veronica and Nelva each took home one of the portable sewing machines. Of the 5 original CdA chicas, 2 of them are making a living by sewing. They learned at school but used the CdA sewing machines on a regular basis to make their own clothes. Reyna, who spent her senior high school year as the trainer for the CdA chicas is loving life and sewing for a company in Argentina. Lizeth, who wandered away from the Club her junior year and migrated to the city after graduation put in an appearance at the CdA workshop for the first time in 4 years and said, “I am buying an industrial sewing machine so I can work at home, I learned so much here, thank you.” Gabriela, who is studying hair styling in the city, was a CdA chica trainer her senior year. She dropped by for a plier set so she could combine jewelry making techniques she learned from Amanda, founder of Ruraq Maki, with hair adornments she learned how to make from volunteer Michelle Burdette in 2015.
The word “democratica” was used many times as the chicas divvied up jewelry making and art supplies. Jhesica received the silkscreening supplies donated by volunteer Surya and the hair adornment supplies. Being cousins and neighbors, she and Nelva worked out an arrangement for sharing Nelva´s sewing machine. Dorinda and Doña Maxima´s will be shopping in Cochabamba next week for a new portable sewing machine for the workshop.
The biblioteca (library) was PAZA´s pride and joy. Many of the books had been purchased or donated by the Peace Corps when the Bolivia program closed in 2008. Because the majority of the books were in English concerning development project themes 4 heavy bags and 2 box loads were lugged back to Cochabamba to a former Peace Corps volunteer who works for a youth service learning program and who also has ties to Biblioworks in Sucre. Many children´s books written in Spanish had been donated through the years. Some of those books went to the new workshop and some were divided between the CdA kids whose interest in reading has been sparked by those books. May ownership encourage them to continue to open book covers and disappear into the tales within.
The monthly blog postings will continue with Vilma being the Independencia news correspondent. Thank you Lyn Lucas and Dorothy Thursby for continued support as PAZA works through this transition. Dorinda Dutcher, April 21, 2018