Doña Beatris, long-time member of the Club de Artesanas, splits her time between Independencia and farming in her home community of Sanipaya. She has organized the Sanipaya based Spinning Week participants for the 5 out of 6 years that they´ve participated. Doña Bea was in Sanipaya when blockades were thrown up at the crossroads to protect the community the evening word spread that marauding motorcycle groups were moving through the countryside burning vehicles and public works built during President Evo Morales’s +13 years in office. The Sanipaya blockades were up for a week.
The red Toyota truck with Don Julio at the wheel, Doña Maxima riding shotgun, and Vilma, Claudia, and Dorinda in the backseat was on the road to Sanipaya the morning after the blockades were lifted. The bed of the truck held the measuring table, chairs, short stools, a couple of men headed to Huancarani and Vilma´s husband. Sanipaya lies another 45 minutes west of the turnoff to descend to Huancarani. Not so long ago, Sanipaya offered schooling through high school, today there are only 2 teachers who teach up through 4th grade. Older students must study at one of the two schools in Independencia. Piles of rocks and downed trees that had formed the blockades remained on the road in 3 places with a path cleared for motor cycles and small vehicles to pass around one end.
The measuring paraphernalia was quickly unloaded and carried across a path through a plowed field to Doña Bea´s house. Vilma´s husband trotted down the mountainside to join his parents in harvesting potatoes. Birds sang and flitted overhead under the sunny sky, the peaceful pastoral vista soothing after the long week of wild rumors and political tension in town.
Doña Maxima, Claudia, and Dorinda made up two measuring teams, and Vilma and Don Julio made up a third, as Doña Bea had a table that conveniently measured 1 meter in length. It was during the chatting, laughing, and measuring that the team “Sin Nombre” (without a name) became the team Phuskadoras Alegres (Happy Spinners of Drop Spindles). The gathering was all the more merry because it had been cancelled a week prior and the possibility arose that the yarn would have to travel to Independencia at some point to be measured. All the spinners like to keep an eye on the measuring and tallying as they rewind their yarn into balls or skeins. The Sanipaya spinners weren´t invited to compete in last year´s Spinning Week which was a transitional year from being a sponsored Spinzilla team to what is developing into a competitive local event.
Doña Bea prepared a lunch spread of boiled potatoes, noodles, fried eggs, and a salad of thin sliced onions and 4 cans of sardines. After lunch, all helped move the furniture used for measuring to the truck. Doña Maxima did some grocery shopping. She purchased an aguayo full of fava beans from team member Doña Reyna. The truck headed downhill to load 100 pounds of potatoes purchased from Vilma´s in-laws. Claudia had run down earlier and was across the road on her family´s farm digging carrots. Watching her struggle back uphill gave some sense of the steepness of the mountainside.
Doña Bea´s mother, Doña Rufina, is a formidable spinner and has placed 2nd or 3rd in past Spinning Week competitions. In Huancarani and in Sanipaya the spinners talked about the help she gets from her husband. He does all the chores and helps her clean the debris out of the fleece and align it for spinning. For the first time she won first place. There was also talk of Doña Juana´s husband´s insistence in taking over her chores during Spinning Week. The team Phuskadoras Alegres spun 42,528 meters of yarn beating the team Warmis Phuskadoras by 6,137 meters.
Doña Maxima is worried about how she is going to break the news to the team Warmis Phuskadoras that they came in second, and the prize will be a sweater. Although Warmis Phuskadoras spinner, Doña Casimira won 2nd place overall, 3 strong spinners from Huancarani were on the winning team. There are going to be problems and discussion, but problem solving has become an important component of Spinning Week. The increase from one to two local teams was a big change this year, and the experience will be discussed and improvements made for next year.
Thus wraps up Spinning Week 2019 in the Andean highlands. Thanks again to those of you who made it possible! Although Spinning Week is just 1 week a year, the expenses go on year round. The weekly meetings of the Club de Artesanas in Independencia under Doña Maxima´s management provide the organizational structure for Spinning Week. You are encouraged to use the “Donate” button above in support of the spinners and their efforts to sustain their weaving tradition. Thank you.
Dorinda Dutcher, November 25, 2019