Inca Traditions Pay Off for Peruvian Weavers

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Walking into the CTTC, a colorful collection of hats scattered across coat racks beckon to try one on. Behind the jaunty selection are the sounds of typing and paper rustling—an office at work. It's here that the records for weaving collectives in six villages are maintained.

The weavings from each village, if they pass standards, are priced, marked with the maker's symbol, and brought down from the mountain towns to the center where they are displayed for sale. Each group of experienced weavers has a small corporate structure with a board including a president, treasurer, and secretary.

"We are trying to teach administration work, how to behave, how it should work, how to sell, how to cooperate in a group," says Callanaupa.

When a weaver finishes a piece, she gives it to the board. The secretary carefully takes note of the quality and details and establishes a price. As Callanaupa points out "quality control is very important and we talk back and forth. Even though they are good, sometimes once in a while, not everyone cares about the same things and not everyone does the same job."

The center provides the dyes and takes care of the administration, including some sales. But each woman selling a piece must conduct the negotiation herself.

The money returned to each weaver is changing the tapestry of family economics in some of these villages. These women are now the main economical support of their family.

The cooperative focuses on making goods that are useful and that will sell, like eyeglass holders and necklaces, because this is an economic development project, says Callanaupa.

"We also teach many ways they should be good weavers, not just kids selling their goodies to tourist buses or whatever."

The weaving in Chinchero isn't just a quaint tradition. It's a way to survive, and a way to string together the older and younger generations of women.

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