This year’s Spinning Week was held November 4th through the 10th in Andean Independencia Bolivia. Doña Justina resides in Huancarani and was captain of the 16 member Warmis Phuskadoras (Women Who Spin with Drop Spindles). Her duties were to communicate with her team to remind them of the day to begin and end as well as where to meet for Wednesday´s photo day and the November 11th measuring day. The second team was captained by Doña Maxima and was composed of the 6 members of the Club de Artesanas, 6 women from the rural community of Sanipaya, and 4 Huancarani weavers. The Club members live in Independencia, but 3 have roots in Huancarani and the other 3 in Sanipaya. It took until measuring day in
Sanipaya for the team to settle on the name “Phuskadoras Alegres” a mix of Quechua and Spanish which roughly translates as “Happy Spinners of Drop Spindles”. It is a special week of socializing and sharing a craft that has been passed through generations of women through the millenniums. It is a merry week of giggles, chuckles, and deep belly laughs and no big feast to prepare which is a shared task during all traditional celebrations.
Photo day is a highlight of Spinning Week in Huancarani. PAZA contracted Doña Maxima´s husband, Don Julio, owner of a red Toyota 4×4 for transport to Huancarani. Claudia, a Club member who´d never been to Huancarani made the trip along with Doña Maxima, Vilma, and Dorinda. It´s dry season so the road/trail to the east side of the community was passable. Doña Alicia and Doña Justina´s older sister, Doña Julia were spinning and waiting. Doña Narciza showed up a bit later, walking along an up and down trail and spinning. The view to the east was of the farmsteads of Sanipaya, so near yet so far with the intervening mountain valleys.
After an hour of spinning and chatting, the women scattered to their homes for a variety of reasons before meeting back up to ride to the other side of the community to spin and socialize. Doña Narciza headed at a brisk walk back to her home with Claudia and Vilma trailing further and further behind. The truck headed down the road towards Doña Narciza´s house coming to an abrupt halt at a steep ravine where the road had sloughed off leaving a narrow foot path. Independencia had run out of eggs and Claudia returned wearing Doña Narciza´s aguayo (woven Andean “backpack”) and carrying a colander full of eggs that were purchased by the Independencia dwellers. Vilma was carrying a live rooster, who was spotted a few days later happily resettled in Doña Maxima´s yard lording over her hens. Doña Narciza stayed behind to attend to a few tasks before joining everyone and continuing on to Independencia in the truck.
The truck backtracked and picked up Doña Alicia and Doña Julia then bumped across the rough road to where the majority of farmsteads are located. Don Julio headed off to use a friend’s tractor to plow his mother´s corn field. It was a cool overcast day, with rain showers passing through the surrounding mountains. The altitude is such that at times clouds rose majestically from the river valley below to join the clouds above.
The first place team will win petticoats and the second place team will win sweaters. Vilma measured all the women at the waist and for length for the petticoats which will be sewn by the Club de Artesanas members. Initials will be embroidered into the waistbands. All the women were sized for a sweater and chose a color from a variety of markers. Doña Maxima will head to Cochabamba after the results are in to purchase the sweaters.
Doña Maxima and Dorinda headed down the mountain to take photos of Doñas Toribia, Dionicia, and Antonia who were pasturing their flocks. Doña Eulalia was out of sight, but her white goats were visible as specks on the mountainside further west. The sun had come out for the trudge back up the mountain, but happily all had decided it was lunchtime and appetite does make the best sauce. Lunch was communal as always with pots, plastic containers, and cloth filled with boiled potatoes, noodles, rice, and fried eggs. The corn kernels had been boiled with ash to remove the casing, and were still warm. The flavor was not sweet but a hearty corn flavor reminiscent of a fresh tortilla (which are not made in Bolivia).
Such a fun day, and all too soon the spinners began heading home walking singularly or in small groups. Doña Narciza climbed into the bed of the pickup and settled in beside her rooster and spun all the way to Independencia.
Thank you to Marjorie, Margaret, Lyn, Claire, Liz, Kristen, Mary, Rose, and Maja for your gifts that made Spinning Week possible. It brought such joy to these dedicated Bolivian spinners. Dorinda Dutcher, November 22, 2019