“Mosqoy” means “dream” in the local Quechua language and demonstrates our main objective: to fulfill the dreams of Quechua communities in Peru.
Mosqoy is a not-for-profit business based both in Victoria, BC, Canada and in Cusco, Peru. Here at Mosqoy we do many things to help achieve our mission, but in all things we aim to promote educational and cultural rights for Andean communities in Peru.
How We Started
Ashli Akins arrived in Peru in 2006 as a 21-year-old student with nothing but a backpack and two goals: to learn Spanish and to make a difference. She had no plans or preconceived notions of how to help, but during her time there, many of the locals became like family and helped her understand the urgent threat to their communities. They continue to suffer vicious cycles of poverty and cultural loss, largely due to tourism and development; their important textile tradition is declining while the youth unemployment rate is increasing. With the help of leaders from three communities, Ashli proposed an innovative solution: to use a fair-trade textile business and education fund to achieve their community development and educational goals.
Ashli realized the potential impact of Mosqoy when, at the inauguration ceremony of the first donor-funded class, one student’s mother prayed in Quechua while gripping her hand. She wouldn’t let go until Ashli promised that she would not let her son down. That same day another student wrote to her, “Don’t just give us illusions and actually see this through.” It was then that Ashli realized this community, like too many others around the world, had been repeatedly mistreated by people passing through. She couldn’t be yet another empty promise.
Since Mosqoy began, Ashli has had the fortune of working with many dedicated and passionate volunteers. Mosqoy has now been invited to work with 18 communities, where it continues to listen to their needs and act as facilitators. It operates three programs:
TEXTILE REVITALIZATION PROGRAM: Mosqoy partners with approximately 100 weavers to provide a better market price for their beautiful textiles. These hand-woven products are sold abroad at a significant premium and 100% of the profit is returned to partner communities through development and educational programs. Each community’s development programs are based on their collective determination of local socio-economic needs.
ANDEAN YOUTH PROGRAM: Mosqoy also continues to offer post-secondary educational opportunities to promising youth from its partner communities. Thus far, it has supported 56 students in total, 26 of whom have already graduated and returned to their communities as professionals.
Tourism in Peru is the third-largest sector of the economy, bringing in $3.3 billion annually and growing rapidly each year. However, in the Andean region, this inflow too often ends up in the hands of outsiders or a government that local communities describe as corrupt and neglectful. As younger generations try to join this economic boom, they are turning away from traditional textile weaving in order to sell mass-produced items. This weaving tradition, often the only form of written history in Quechua culture, is at risk of disappearing.
Even more crippling is that because the youth are the first to experience this boom, their efforts to join it often fall short. They do not have leaders who can provide training in new job sectors or the funds needed to earn a post-secondary education. Therefore, outsiders easily take jobs from locals, leaving many unemployed and poorer than before tourism and development entered their communities. On average, only 4% of Quechua youth will continue their studies at a technical institute or university, compared with a national average of 43%. The number of professionals in the community is therefore rapidly decreasing.
Many community members feel that they must choose between preserving their culture or developing economically– they believe they cannot have both.
THE PERUVIAN ANDES
The Peruvian Andes make up the central region of the larger Andes mountain range, the longest north-south mountain range in the world. The land is characterized by deep, rolling hills and valleys nestled amongst breathtakingly high altitudes. These high altitude plains, known as ‘puna’ or ‘altiplano’, provided the ideal geographical structure to become the political and economic centre of Incan civilization. The remnants of this magnificent civilization can still be seen by visiting the ceremonial site of Machu Picchu. Nearby, one can see the Nazca Lines located in the region of Puno, whose origin remains a highly speculated, yet unsolved mystery. Although indigenous communities span the entire Andean mountain range, the Central Andes remain the heartland of Andean indigenous peoples. Subsequently, Peru boasts deep, rich cultural traditions that have lived on over thousands of years.
The Peruvian Andes are located in southeastern Peru, in the province of Cusco. One of the most striking aspects of the land is the immense altitudes, ranging from about 2,800 to 4,200 metres (9,186 to 13,780 feet). The climate is semi-arid, with two main seasons in a year: the dry season and the rainy season. Both seasons are characterized by chilly temperatures at night, yet there’s often ample sun during the day. The Andes are also home to humid, moisture-soaked cloud forests that sit high in the mountains, and are only found from about 2,000 to 3,500 metres (6,500 to 11,500 feet). The plants and animals that live in these areas are unique, yet also largely undocumented, making the cloud forest a sensitive ecosystem.
Rural communities in Peru often consist of a number of farming families maintaining their ‘chakras’ through subsistence agriculture and homesteading practices, and so the majority of their food and livelihood is produced through working on the land. Quechua, the indigenous language of the Incas, is the main language spoken in the rural Andes, with Spanish as a distant second. While this has helped Quechua communities maintain their cultural traditions and identity, it often hinders them from participating in Peru’s economy, and therefore families are often very poor. Quechua has no formal writing system, which makes its weaving iconography all the more important: symbols depicted in weavings convey knowledge of plants, animals, and the local environment, and spiritual beliefs.
Many aspects of work, marriage, and economic relationships are maintained through complex family organizations, called ‘ayllus’ in Quechua. Strong family ties and relationships are often maintained.
In the high altitudes of the Peruvian Andes, agriculture is limited to a select few staple crops that manage to grow in the dry, steep hills. The potato is the most notable staple food, and it makes up the majority of the communities’ diet. Fortunately, due to thousands of years of knowledge-transfer, heritage strains have been passed down through generations, and over 200 varieties of potatoes are still grown and enjoyed. Corn is another staple, bearing over 100 varieties of seeds. Other crops grown in smaller quantities include quinoa, kiwicha, wheat, and ‘avas’ (large, broad beans). Cows, pigs, chickens and ‘cuy’ (guinea pig) are often raised on Quecha homesteads, but eating meat remains a luxury rather than a daily staple.
Mosqoy is recognized by the Canadian government as a registered charitable organization #839145414RR0001 and by the Peruvian government as an Asociación Civil sin Fines de Lucro.