Spinning Week in Independencia, Bolivia will begin Monday, October 3rd. Yesterday, was the annual Spinning Week Shopping Spree to purchase supplies to make 15 polleras (skirts) for the 1st place winners and cones of yarn to knit the 15 sweaters for the 2nd place winners. Doña Maxima, her daughter Zoraida, and 4 other family members were patiently waiting at the rendezvous point in Cochabamba´s huge vendor market, La Cancha. Dorinda arrived a few minutes late due to the turtle crawl through the hoard of mobile vendors and shoppers stretching out for blocks. Doña Maxima had insisted on meeting during one of La Cancha´s 3 weekly shopping days. Last year´s shopping spree on a quieter market day resulted in closed shops and a limited choice of yarn colors. The group plunged into the crowd, but it thinned out near the yarn booths. Doña Maxima and Zoraida had a ball discussing the merits of the rainbow of colors than bargaining until the deal was sealed at a price below the budget.
La Cancha is a maze, but Zoraida confidently led the way through back aisles to the area selling material for polleras. Shop after shop displayed bolts of vivid, somber, and jewel toned colors. Polleras are 3 meters (roughly yards) of pleated material, originally rough woven wool, the store-bought material is currently a synthetic with lycra. Doña Maxima and Zoraida were drawn to a shop that had 2-faced material with a brighter hue on the underside. They bargained the price down 40% less than what was budgeted! Working with the saleswoman they helped to measure and cut 10 lengths of cloth then couldn´t agree on another color. Zoraida´s 13-year-old daughter, Zuni, who has participated in PAZA events longer than she can remember, and Doña Maxima´s son, Ademar folded the cloth. Ademar took off with the bag of cloth to sit with Zoraida´s husband, Luis, who was patiently sitting and guarding the bag of yarn cones. He was also keeping an eye on their 5-year-old daughter, Ariana, who was having a ball running around.
The women and Zuni went from shop to shop until finding an incredible array of colors, including burgundy, but a shopkeeper who wouldn´t budge from her original price, which was PAZA´s budgeted price ($7.20/meter). Doña Maxima had her heart set on burgundy, which obviously wasn´t a color trending this year. Burgundy and 4 other colors were selected, and the lengths of cloth were quickly measured, cut, and folded. Doña Maxima is going to have to increase her spinning effort this year to win one of the first-place polleras.
The next search was for inexpensive ($1.45/meter) cotton/synthetic material to color coordinate as the pollera´s sash. Zuni ran for the 1st bag of material while Zoraida and Doña Maxima conferred and made their 15 selections. Thread was the last item on the list. Zoraida guided the group back towards the entrance, and the material was once again matched in color. Luis is the 1st generation of his family to drive and own a vehicle. He led the way to the parking lot lugging the huge bag of yarn. Zuni was carrying the pollera cloth on her back in an aguayo. Max had a tight grip on Ariana´s hand. Ademar carried a mesh bag of all the other bits and pieces purchased to make the prizes. Zoraida followed happy but tired.
The Club de Artesanas members will earn income by making the polleras and sweaters. An increase in those wages was budgeted per their request to $10 per sweater and $11.50 per pollera. Last year there was a larger gap between the 2 wages, and they learned that the knitting machine work was nearly as labor intensive as the machine and hand sewing of the polleras. A few Club members will earn income by helping to measure the Spinning Week results on the 2 days following the competition.
Thank you to Lyn, Susan, Margaret, Rob, Gail, and Cloth Roads (sponsor of original Spinzilla Warmis Phuskadoras team, 2014-2018) for supporting this year´s Spinning Week! Spinning Week is PAZA´s biggest activity of the year, and this year only $782 of the $1,100 needed for expenses has been raised. Any donations received over the amount needed for Spinning Week will go toward the year-round Club de Artesanas which offers project-based contemporary and traditional fiber skill building activities to women and girls. PAZA also supports the weavers of Huancarani in their quest to preserve their weaving heritage.
Wi-fi will not be available from Independencia, but the Spinning Week blogs will be written in Inde and posted in early November when author and wi-fi are reunited. E-mail and WhatsApp video chats are possible via cell phone. Dorinda Dutcher, from Cochabamba, September 25, 2022, dkdutcher (at) hotmail.com.