Balvina and her entire inventory. She said an average piece takes a day to complete.
Balvina and her entire inventory. She said an average piece takes a day to complete.

From: Pamplona Alta, San Juan de Miraflores, Lima

Group Members: Balvina Huaytalla, Herlinda Escriba

During the time of Peruvian terrorism in the 1980s, about 15 adolescents established Jupa as a youth group organized by a group of people belonging to various non-profit organizations. Jupa is an acronym for “United Youth of Pamplona Alta.” In this group, the older women taught the younger the art from their home in Ayacucho, which they had to flee. Here, Balvina Huaytalla learned how to draw and paint her designs as well as how to do the arpilleras and embroidery that now characterize her work. Arpilleras are a uniquely South American detailed form of appliqué, which Balvina now uses to make handicrafts such as belts, coin purses, hair accessories, and wall hangings.

The two members of Jupa are neighbors and live in the slums of Pamplona Alta, the highest part of the district of San Juan de Miraflores, which is a very arid area south of Lima. The members of Jupa are young mothers and hope to improve their livelihoods through their Fair Trade work. They have been able to buy products in bulk and have saved a lot of money by doing so. Since many of the pieces of fabric they use for the arpilleras are really small, they also are able to use recycled and leftover bits of fabric that their friend gets from the clothing manufacturer she works for.

Through this business, they have found a source of work that allows them to be with their children during the day. Herlinda has a young baby that she can give attention to, and Balvina has a son in primary school who is really good about “forgetting” to do his homework if his mom isn’t watching. It is unusual where they live for the women to be able to stay home and take care of their children.

Balvina has a big dream for the future of Jupa: she wants to eventually have her own clothing line. She right now has a sewing machine that will do the basics, but she is saving up to buy a nicer industrial machine. She is extremely creative and understands the business. When there’s not an order, she and Herlinda keep busy working on new designs and improving on what they already make.