Joyous Spinning Week is the celebration of the lifelong spinning skills of the Bolivian weavers working with PAZA. The day after the competition ended, the Huancarani measuring team loaded into Don Julio´s latest SUV. This one featured 2 rows of bench seats for passengers which filled up with Club members Arminda and Vilma with her 2 babes, Maribel who’s been involved with measuring in Huancarani for years, Dorinda, and a stack of plastic chairs. Doña Maxima always rides shotgun. PAZA pays the Bolivian team members for the day, it is tedious tiring work.
Arriving at Huancarani´s center, all headed to the church porch to figure out a measuring set-up. Thick planks stacked on the porch were carried over to align with the porch´s edge. It was serendipity that the 1-meter mark made with a Sharpie was at a comfortable level for measuring out meter after meter while seated in a plastic chair. The person tallying the measurement count sat on a low bench and the 2 positions switched off between spinners. When Doña Cecilia showed up carrying a desk exactly 1 meter in width from the school, Don Julio abandoned his plank set-up for the desk with built in bench.
Some of the 16 spinners came to socialize all day, those having livestock to shepherd were given priority. Many spin every day, although in comparing individual spinner´s results to past years, some were motivated during Spinning Week to increase their output in hopes of winning a pollera (skirt). Doña Narciza arrived with her drop spindle whirling plying yarn she´d dyed dark green with chilka leaves.
There was a lot of joking and laughter as all pitched in to help keep the yarn being measured from tangling as it was wound back into balls by its spinner. Vilma measured the spinners for polleras (1st place prize) and eyeballed all to write down a S, M, or L sweater (2nd place prize) size. There was a break for the communal lunch, and the measuring team was back on the road by 3:00pm.
The following day the Sanipaya measuring team included driver Don Julio, Doña Maxima, Deisy, and Dorinda. Vilma and her 2 babes joined the group so they could visit their abuela. The road climbs out of the Palca Valley up onto a ridge atop the world. On the way to Huancarani the clouds had puffed along at eye level. A day later cloud vapor shot out of the steep river valleys on both sides like volcanic plumes sculpting into whimsical shapes at their tops. There was little traffic but a lot of dust on the road during the 1.5-hour drive. On the way down the mountainside to Doña Beatriz´s house Vilma and babes were dropped off at her in-laws. A 2nd stop was made so that Deisy could hand off groceries to her grandmother who was patiently waiting at a trail.
Doña Beatriz has been a Club de Artesanas member since 2011. She attends when she´s in Independencia where she has a house, and her 15-year-old son lives during the school year. She has organized the Sanipaya spinners since the 1st Spinning Week competition in 2014. This year 9 of the 30 Spinning Week spinners live in Sanipaya. They have always been more subdued but as sincerely grateful for Spinning Week as the boisterous Huancarani spinners.
A table was carried from the kitchen to the covered porch and a meter marked off on 2 sides. Deisy marked off a bench and the 3 teams began measuring. Vilma arrived and pitched in with tallying results and then measured all the spinners for polleras and sweaters. A nest was made between the measuring areas at abuela Doña Maxima´s feet and the babes entertained themselves and everyone else.
The Sanipaya spinners have always prepared lunch for the measuring team. Chicken, potatoes, and fava beans had been roasted in the wood burning oven and were served with a salad of lettuce, onion, and tomato. Salad is considered a festive dish. Salads have never been included at the communal lunches in Huancarani where each person contributes a dish typical of what they prepare every morning for family members headed to school, field, or pasture.
Thursday morning the Club members measured their results, and all results were posted after lunch. There were some surprises. Club members Deisy and Arminda who did so well during their 1st Spinning Week competition last year were in 2nd place this year. Deisy said it was the quality of the fleece they´d bought at the last minute. In 2021, they´d bought long fibered fleece from a vendor during the 16 de Julio Fiesta. There were no fleece vendors this year at the Fiesta. After the pollera material shopping trip in Cochabamba, Doña Maxima was determined to win a pollera this year, she did. Doña Felicidad was this year’s top spinner a first for her having spun 4,728 meters. The 30 spinners spun 89,887 meters an increase from last year´s 83,960 meters.
Thank you Lyn and Jenny for your continued support of the Bolivian weavers and chicas. Dorinda Dutcher, October 19, 2022