On Saturday we went to visit a weaving community called Amaru where Ashley has a weaving program called Q´ente Textile Revitalization Society. Until recently Q´ente used to be a part of Mosqoy and was formerly known as the Kolibri project. Q’ente is now a fully independent non for profit organization registered in Canada. The project works directly with the weavers and creates an outlet to sell textiles in North America. This project aims to sustain the tradition of textiles in the Sacred Valley of Peru, establishing a stronger economy, tradition, and link to history. The majority of the Mosqoy students come from families whose primary means of income is through the making and selling of textiles. The Q'ente project operates such that ¼ of the profits from selling the textiles in Canada goes back to the weavers, ¼ goes to supporting one of the projects that the weaving communities choose to support, ¼ goes to the educational fund of Mosqoy, supporting the educational costs of the Mosqoy program, and ¼ goes towards purchasing the next batch of weavings for sale.
The community of Amaru is located approximately 30 km north of Pisac - the town famous for its Sunday artisan market, and Amaru's closest urban center/neighbour. Amaru is a sustainable farming community whose motto is to reciprocate back to Mother Earth who gave them life. They have a medicinal garden, bee-houses to produce organic honey, greenhouses to grow artichokes, tomatoes and other nutritional foods that cannot otherwise be grown in the high altitude, and propagation gardens to plant new plants to replace each one that they use for dyeing their wool. With their textile profits, they are curing cataracts in the elders and implementing nutrition programs with the youth, as well as working to improve sanitation for all community members.
Our trip began by travelling from Ollantaytambo to Pisac, where we had to wait for the only taxi driver named Maximillian who normally drives to Amaru to take us there, a drive up one of the mountains for about 30 mins. After waiting for an hour and with Maximillian nowhere in sight Ashley hackled with another taxi driver who agreed to take us to Amaru and wait for us there for two or three hours. The trip cost us 50 soles, or about $18 USD for the three of us. We arrived in the village 40 mins later, but already about 2 hours late from our agreed upon time. We arrived at the house of the leader of the weavers group, and were greeted by other weavers, all of whom were women. The women normally work at the leader´s house and bring their children to keep an eye on them. When we arrived there were about 12 women and 6 or 7 children. The women proceeded to cook us a really big and delicious meal which consisted of barley soup, quinoa with vegetables, some sort of squash dish, and corn pancakes.
After the meal the villagers held a really humbling thank you ceremony, where everyone gathered in a circle, and each weaver one by one threw rose petals over our heads and said their thank yous to us. The ceremony was partly in Spanish and partly in Quechua, and some women were crying during the ceremony. The people were so sincere and thankful and the whole ceremony was pretty incredible. The funny part was that our taxi driver participated in the whole thing: he joined us to eat, and participated in the thank you ceremony even though he’s never heard of the project or been there before. He got the gist of it by the end I think and was really impressed and interested by what Q’ente was doing.
After the thank you ceremony, everyone sat around in a circle and Ashley made her next order of the weavings. The leader then presented a project for which they wanted to use the ¼ of the profits from the weavings. The project involved building kitchens with proper ventilation and bathrooms in every house of the village. The people in the village currently cook without any ventilation and inhale smoke every day. There are no proper bathrooms in the village, I saw an outhouse that was used as a toilet but didn’t see access to running water anywhere. Water for drinking/cooking purposes is obtained from some sort of a creek nearby.
We finished our visit by doing some ¨shopping¨ of their weavings and Ashley picking out her order. Then our taxi driver, after having waited for 3 hours, drove us all the way back to Cuzco.
Me trying on a headband made by the weavers
the thank you ceremony