On Sunday November 10th, the final day of Spinning Week, many of the spinners from the rural community of Huancarani who were in Independencia for market day stopped by the PAZA workshop/store. More than a few commented on tired fingers from the endless whirling of their drop spindles. All were looking forward to meeting the following day at the Catholic Church in Huancarani for the measuring of the yarn.
PAZA contracted Don Julio, Doña Maxima´s husband, and their 4×4 red Toyota pickup for transport to Huancarani. The truck headed up and out of Independencia with Vilma and Dorinda in the backseat of the cab, and the measuring table, chairs, buckets for holding balls of yarn, low stools, and Toby the dog in the truck bed. Following a week of rain and cool temperatures, the climbing dirt road towards Huancarani had dried except for puddles in deep rutted flat sections. Crossing creeks on the descent into Huancarani was exciting, and the drive came to a halt at a landslide blocking the road just above the flat area where the soccer field, school, church, Organization of Men´s meeting house, and medical post are located. A few men showed up with shovels and pick axes and the women pitched in throwing rocks into the ravine below. It wasn´t long before the truck was driven across the loose rock and down to the church, although all passengers chose to head down on foot.
It was the 6th Spinning Week for the participants, so all knew the routine and in short order the measuring began. The results of 20 spinners were to be measured including the entire Warmis Phuskadoras team of Huancarani and the 4 Huancarani spinners on the Phuskadoras
Alegres team. PAZA paid a day wage to Vilma and Maribel rather than depend on volunteers to measure out the tens of thousands of yards of handspun yarn. Don Julio pitched in, so there were 4 measuring teams. He and Maribel marked off 1 meter lengths on the walls of the church and measured while the owner of the yarn being measured rewound her yarn into a skein or a ball. Another spinner volunteered to mark the results. Doña Maxima, Vilma, and Dorinda worked at the measuring table which was marked off at a meter on two sides. Two measured while the third sat at the head of the table and tallied. At times the measurers would get well ahead of the spinner rewinding the yarn and someone always stepped in to help keep the pile of yarn from becoming a tangled bird´s nest.
The yarn was measured meter by meter and the person measuring hollered out “cinco” for every 5 meters measured. The person recording the results made a tally mark per holler. During the 4 years the team competed in Spinzilla Spinning Week the results were measured in yards. Last year Doña Maxima organized an unofficial Spinning Week and since Bolivia uses the metric system it was probably automatic to measure in meters not yards.
It´s not a first come first to be measured system, because an allowance is made for those with flocks to be measured first. Doña Eulalia was quite anxious to get her goats headed out to pasture. However, it took almost an hour to measure her yardage because out of the 32 spinners on the 2 teams she placed 5th with a total of 3,255 meters. Unfortunately, for the home team, she spun on the mixed community team, the Phuskadoras Alegres. Maribel´s mother-in-law, Doña Andrea (and sister to Don Julio) was the only spinner who spun black wool. Doña Dionicia, the eldest spinner, was the only spinner who spun a thicker yarn to weave tapa bancas (cover the benches).
Since the first Spinning Week in 2014, three spinners have vied for the #1 position. Doña Casimira only lost the top spot once and that was in 2016 to Doña Justina. The other top contender is Doña Rufina of Sanipaya. The total for the Warmi Phuskadoras team totaled 36,391, and all had a lively curiosity regarding the total yardage of the other team. A trip to Sanipaya was scheduled for the next day to measure the results of the 7 spinners living there as well as the efforts of the spinners residing in Independencia. At stake was the first prize of a petticoat, which all seemed to prefer over a new cardigan.
On the drive home Vilma listened to the news on her cell phone, it was the despedida (farewell) of President Evo Morales. The leader of the Movimiento a Socialismo (MAS) party and President for +13 years had abruptly departed Bolivia on a Mexico Air Force airplane having accepted asylum in that country. The move stunned his populous base of indigenous supporters, and rural Andean Independencia is MAS country. Protests and blockades in the cities had rocked the country since the suspicious results of the October 20th national election. The Organization of American States reviewed the results and discovered fraud. The plan to head to Sanipaya the next day to measure yarn was put on hold as rapidly changing events spanned the next week. Dorinda Dutcher, November 23, 2019
Measuring day did happen in Sanipaya a week later, and those results and the announcement of the winning team will be posted later in December. However, if you can’t stand the suspense, I will happily e-mail the results in exchange for a donation to PAZA. The PAZA activities continue year round with the Club de Artesanas activities in Independencia and meetings in Huancarani with the weavers. I’ll also answer any questions you may have about the recent political crisis in Bolivia. The politics is a topic I’ve avoided and will continue to avoid in this blog. Dorinda Dutcher, December 8, 2019