There was just a week between the beginning of the academic year and returning to vacation mode for the week of Carnaval. The Independencia Carnaval parade and dance competition is the best time to view traditional weavings. The traditional clothing is loosely woven wool (bayeta cloth) pants for the men and polleras (skirts) for the women. Last July, when asked about what topics to include in the Tinkuy presentation the women of Huancarani began talking about bayeta and their youth that preceded purchased ready to wear clothing. The men constructed the looms and wove the cloth. The women spun cotton for the heddle strings, which was the only time they spun cotton. Finding an example of a loom to take photos has so far proven elusive because of the tradition of burning the possessions of an individual upon their death.
The small chuspitas (shoulder bags) served as pockets for the men to carry coca leaf, which most still chew when working in the fields as well as being part of Andean rituals. The chuspitas for celebrations such as Carnaval are always woven with brightly dyed acrylic yarn often with embedded double weave designs on the bag and the strap. A few of the male musicians sported old fajas (belts) of double weave. The male musicians and female dancers all wore aguayos (square cloth for carrying loads on one’s back) and the majority of them appeared to be the 2 piece handwoven aguayos as opposed to the one piece inexpensive factory made aguayo. The competing rural communities had around 20 minutes to play the piercingly shrill music and dance in the plaza for the judges, authorities and spectators.
This year all were treated to a new entry. Five men walked into the plaza in traditional clothing playing instruments. One had a pile of purple, red, and pink dyed sheep skins on his back. Hmmmm, very curious…. After a short interview in Quechua with a radio reporter the man bearing the sheepskins hefted them onto his head. One of his companions unwound a coil of unskinned leather from his waist. It was like a whip except for the small basket woven onto the end containing rocks. After a few overhead lasso type swings the basket of rocks
smacked into the sheepskins. When the rock slinger missed he took the sheepskins to protect his head so that his friend could demonstrate his skill aiming and striking with the rock ended whip. Slings were the preferred weapons of the Incas and today a braided llama fiber sling can usually be spotted in the waistband of a rural woman out pasturing her sheep. Doña Maxima remembers that when she was a girl in Huancarani slings were one of the trade items that the highland traders would bring when they arrived with their llama trains to trade for corn.
During Carnaval week, Doña Maxima was thrilled to finally finish the aguayo she began 10 months ago in the hope that it would debut at the Tinkuy last November. The weaving was slow going and she lamented more than once that she wished she had begun with just one column of embedded double weave designs in each half instead of two. The photo shows the 4 columns of embedded double weave design with the decorative stitch that joins the two woven halves of the aguayo together. She learned the technique from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law when she moved into their house with her husband at age 16. She said they were a family of weavers and she felt obligated to improve her weaving to their level.
A local non-profit organization that had partnered with Independencia´s cultural center held their 1st Feria of Artesanía Nativa in the plaza last Sunday. In January free acrylic yarn was handed out through the Organizations of Women in many communities and the Feria was an exhibition and sales opportunity for the results of the weaving with that yarn. The brightly colored made in China yarn was considered “gold” when it first made its appearance and began replacing the handspun aniline dyed local wool. Now the bright happy colors are considered traditional for Carnaval and other celebrations so there is a local market. Four of the Huancarani weavers
had a table including Doña Justina who went to the Tinkuy. Her sales technique on her home ground was much more animated and she was pleased to have sold a belt and a chulo (Andean knitted cap with ear flaps). One observation was the low number of participants which could be a stark indication of the dwindling number of rural weavers.
The non-profit organization had approached PAZA about collaborating, but there would have been an unrealistic expectation for PAZA to provide the market. Looking back on 11 years of sales and marketing successes and failures PAZA is wary of partnering with any organization lacking sales experience. It was heartening to see an effort being made locally to support the rural weavers. Dorinda Dutcher, February 26, 2018