Volunteer Leah Hughes in Cusco | Part II
This week I have been learning a lot about weavings and the inner workings of the Q’ente Textile Revitalization Society. My main role in the next five months will be to facilitate monthly meetings in the communities Q’ente works with. I will visit each village to place textile orders, share news from the past month, and purchase woven goods to sell in Canada. Importantly, the weavers and I will also discuss how they wish to use the community portion of the proceeds from textile sales. The weaving communities are quite remote and some can only be reached by hiking in. That means I get to go on a trekking adventure most weekends!
Last weekend we visited the communities of Parobamba, Bombón and Pitukiska. These three communities are a few hours away from Cusco in the Mapacho River Valley. To get there we hired a private car (although normally we go by bus), then rode in cattle trucks and walked until we had visited all three villages. I shadowed Ashli during the meetings so I will know how to lead the meetings myself once she is back in Canada. We were quite a large group, since we went with a couple other volunteers who are working with Mosqoy this month as well as two Mosqoy students. I will always have a Mosqoy student with me at meetings to act as a Quechua-Spanish interpreter. When we arrived, I was first struck by the beauty of our surroundings. Bombón, for example, is a tiny village perched on a mountaintop and is accessible only by a road cut straight out of the steep cliff face. From the clearing where the meetings are held, you look out over a misty green river valley and surrounding mountain peaks. Pitukiska, on the other hand, is a tiny grouping of stone houses nestled into the head of a valley. We had quite the vantage spot from the wall of a home high up on the hill!
The second thing that really made an impression on me during our visit was the incredible kindness of our hosts. On weekend visits we stay in the home of a weaver in each community. The lodgings were rustic but our hosts made us feel at home and provided us with traditional Peruvian meals. We were especially grateful for our delicious dinner of stew and potatoes when we arrived in the community of Pitukiska. We had spent the afternoon walking there through beautiful green hills, but had gotten drenched and cold in the process when it started to pour. A hot meal by the fire never felt so good! The way our hosts welcomed us into their homes in each village made me feel that they value and appreciate the work that Q’ente is doing in their communities. All in all it was a great first trip to the Mapacho River Valley. I still have lots to learn in order to facilitate the meetings on my own, but I’m confident that after shadowing a few more meetings I’ll be ready to go. I think one of the hardest parts will be choosing exactly which textiles to buy for Q’ente, since the weavers bring out so many beautiful products during the course of each meeting. I have a feeling I might return home with a considerable personal collection of alpaca wool scarves… And that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
After a spectacular three days in the Andean countryside, I returned to the city and got to work tagging and doing
inventory on the textiles we bought over the weekend. We got them all ready and sent a large shipment of textiles back to Victoria yesterday. Hopefully they will arrive just in time for upcoming Christmas fairs in Canada. Now that I’ve seen exactly where they come from, I have an even greater appreciation for the value of these beautiful products. As I was typing up meeting minutes yesterday, I read in my notes that it takes a weaver two six-hour days of weaving to make one belt! I feel privileged to have the opportunity to travel to these communities and meet each individual weaver. It is an amazing experience to visit these remote places and see how the weavers live. I feel honoured to be so warmly welcomed into their lives and homes. I hope the work I do during my stay here truly helps to sustain the incredible textile tradition of these talented weavers.