Hay versiones en los dos idiomas, inglés y español. Si esta no es lo que quiere, busca el otro. There are both English and Spanish versions of this blog. If this is not the language you want, look for the other one.
Going to a large (more than 750 people) gathering of weavers from 16 countries, I could not help but see my surroundings relative to being in Guatemala and our half-million weavers here. Of course, there were surprises, interesting things that are probably not mentioned in guide books. And the reason to go.
First was the mixing of populations. In Guatemala, Mayan women wear traditional clothing (traje) and are seen everywhere, in their own villages and towns, of course, but everywhere else too, including Guatemala City. In Cusco, except for the conference, I saw not one person, man or woman, in traditional dress.
That is not 100% true. My last day there I saw three women carrying baby lambs and wearing traditional dress, offering to have their pictures taken for S 1 (one sol), about USD .30 (30 cents US). Other than those few that one day, no one. I know the artisans are using their traditional clothing in their own communities, so don’t know if they just don’t come to the city or if they change their clothes to do so. There is still discrimination, I was told, but far less than in the past.
In Guatemala, there are few communities where men still wear traditional dress. In Cusco, in every Peruvian community represented at the conference the men were dressed as spectacularly as the women.
It was the hats that really got to me, for sheer variety. I’ll insert some pictures. There were LOTS more. (I hope you can blow these up to see details.)
Food: standard meats include guinea pig and alpaca, you can easily buy soup with a sheep’s head in it (no fleece, but yes teeth – google caldo de cabeza Peru if you really want to see it), no tortillas as we know them but an omelette they call a tortilla, a delicious corn drink that is purple and sweet called chicha morada (and has no corn taste at all), potatoes in everything always (that is their staple, and there are many kinds), and of course quinoa, a vitamin-packed grain that could probably save all of us.
Mountains. It is hard to imagine how anyone has survived living in/on them for thousands of years. For my money, just the flight from Lima to Cusco is worth the price of the trip, for what you can see out the window.
I put more pictures on facebook, for those who I traveled with and what they were doing. (Gilberta, Amalia, and Carmen of the previous passport-getting post.) I saw good friends from several countries, and textiles that dazzled. From Afghanistan, Kandahar Treasures, that you can read about in one of Thrums newest books, Embroidering Within Boundaries:
Thrums Books has published a number of books by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, the founder and leader of CTTC, and had the grand presentation of their latest, Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands, at Tinkuy. Even though I am a dedicated Thrums author (and friend), I feel totally objective in telling you that reading their books has opened my mind in ways I would never have anticipated. Looking at the list I could say “Oh, a bunch of textile books about different places, lots of repeats with different designs.” And I would be way wrong. Each one is so different in its approach, has such a different story to tell, talks about so many things besides just the textiles themselves, that I feel vastly more educated about the world for having read them. In case you can’t tell, this is a recommendation. And a thank you, to Linda Ligon, who has stood alongside and supported the weaving community for half a century!, as well as Nilda, who has created something in Cusco that brings government officials flocking to her door in admiration. Thank you, both.