Friday, August 10, 2007

Weavers of El Porvenir, Olmos, Lambayeque

I am lucky enough to live in a community where a few women still practice the centuries old skill of weaving. Most of them learned as little girls, watching their mothers and aunts weaving. In the past it was a good way to earn some extra money for the family and since Alforjas (saddle bags) and Fajas (sashes worn by men) were in fashion and the norm, there was always a local market for their goods. But several years have passed already since these items have fallen out of fashion - now in their place it's baseball caps and cheaply made backpacks. Today few women in the community actively weave because there just isn't anyone locally who can afford a hammock or a hand-woven bath towel (some of their other products). Most have neglected to teach this skill to their daughters. It's rare to find anyone under the age of 45 who knows how to weave. On closer examination this is obvious when one can just as easily convert an old fishing net into a hammock and China has supplied enough cheap bath towels that you just can't make a living at weaving. Or at least, you couldn't until.....
Enter, THE PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER. I found out early on that one of the most common pieces of "furniture" a peace corps volunteer buys is a hammock. "And why not buy a hammock from another volunteers site", I asked. And lucky for me and the women in my community, other volunteers have responded, "well, why not".
Thus was born my secondary project. I currently work with about 15 women. When I moved into town only about 3 of them were actively weaving - more women now are getting excited about it again because it is showing to be profitable. I meet with them about weekly. We are working on forming an association, electing a board of directors, and improving the quality of their products so that we can sell in fancy stores in tourist-heavy zones and at craft fairs, like the upcoming US Embassy Fair in October.
Carmela, 77, hand spinning thread from raw cotton.

Esperanza, 54, hand twisting industrial thread to make a stronger yarn.

Angela, 56, arranging the warp threads while Teresa and Gloria, in their 40s, watch and learn.

Felicita, 42, weaving a towel.

Carmela braids the ends of a Faja.

Giomara, 12, relaxing in her hammock.


Blogger clara said...

Hi Are you still in this area. Im a weaver in Arizona an plan on visiting south America. I want to visit area like you have pictures of. Yes we need to work on the culture of keeping are older arts alive in the smaller communities of the world. Glad you have written about this and taken pictures. Thanks.

4:50 PM  

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