From: Palca, Huancavelica
Group Members: Leoncio de la Cruz Quispe, Alberto de la Cruz Solano, Godofredo de la Cruz Ccente
The group of weavers from the small community of Huayanay, located in the surrounding area of the city of Huancavelica, specializes in the production of woven cotton goods. They use typical weaving techniques and designs from the Peruvian Andes. The De la Cruz brothers are the leaders of the groups but count on the support of other more experiences weavers in the community.
In the 1960’s and 70’s a Swiss family lived in Huancayo and helped weavers adapt colors and designs for the European market. They assisted in constructing looms and obtaining materials for many weavers in order to make products for that market. The art of weaving continued and expanded. However, when the family left during the terrorism of the eighties, many weavers were left with weaving skills and a loom but little business skills or connections for buying materials or selling goods. Twenty years later one sees dilapidated looms throughout Huancayo and Huancavelica. Very few weavers have been able to market their products.
Just twenty years ago Huayanay was a typical community: everybody farmed, raised animals, and practiced the art of weaving. Each month they would go to Huancayo to pick up materials and deliver their finished products. The process went something like this: the men sheared their llamas and sheep, the wives spun the material into yarn by hand, they both would dye the yarn with natural berries, roots, and leaves, and the men would work on the loom to make something like a colorful woolen bedspread. They didn’t have a market and would simply take the product to the city of Huancavelica, hoping to sell there. At that time it was difficult to sell even 10 bedspreads a year. Yet this was their principal source of cash income so they kept at it.
ATIYPAQ, one of the institutions of the Peru Joining Hands Network, worked near Huayanay and knew that most were weavers who weren’t weaving much anymore. ATIYPAQ introduced some of the weavers to the Bridge of Hope Fair Trade project. Members of the group were invited to Lima so they could learn about buying materials. Given the traditional designs they wanted to incorporate, they decided to try to weave 100% cotton baby blankets. Weaving cotton has proven to be a challenge because it’s very different from weaving wool, but after numerous attempts, the group has had a very successful product!
Today, Huayanay is a small settlement of houses perched at over 14,500 feet, a four-hour walk outside of Huancavelica city. In these homes are looms where beautiful and soft baby blankets and shawls are being produced in this community. Through the Bridge of Hope Fair Trade project this community is realizing its dream of revitalizing the weaving that once was produced there. The group Huayanay is intergenerational with male artisans that have many years of experience and four young adults (one of whom is a woman!) Under the principles of Fair Trade, they have begun treating the women more equitably and thinking about the good of the entire community.