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The Weaving Traditions of Huancarani

In the last few months, Sustainable Bolivia film intern Jasmine Pitt worked in Independencia, Bolivia to support the efforts of the Project Artesanía Zona Andina. The video below gives an insight into the lives of the women’s weaving collective the project started and their efforts to preserve natural dying and weaving techniques in rural Bolivia.

Independencia is a community of a few thousand nestled in the mountains eight hours north of Cochabamba. There is little money in rural Bolivia, and indigenous women often struggle to make a decent living and support their families.

Project Independencia began as a Peace Corps project started by Dorinda Dutcher, and has since expanded to become an initiative to support efforts to maintain and preserve traditional weaving practices in Huancarani and Independencia, Bolivia. The women requested assistance to rescue natural dye and traditional weaving techniques and to help market the weavings. In 2010, the volunteer/internship program was started to offer additional technical assistance in the fiber arts.

Sale of the weavings is the one source of income available to the rural weavers struggling to reconcile their farmer subsistence lifestyle with modern needs. All products are made completely by hand: the women raise the sheep, cut and dye the wool, and weave the shirts, skirts, blouses and scarves. Products made in Independencia can sometimes take days to make.

One of the great benefits Dorinda has brought the community is in the area of fair trade, where prices for weavings now are much more appropriate relative to the amount of time it takes to create each product. One woman interviewed mentioned that “The chuspa would cost 25 Bs only, so we used to sell it. Since Miss Dorinda is here, we sell happily for 150 Bs or 100 Bs.”

Most of the women have never received a formal education, and would not have many skills to contribute in the event that they would travel into the city. As such, keeping the weaving tradition alive has been critical to maintaining their livelihoods. The video below shows us a bit about how the weaving and dying process works, and shares the women’s hope for the future.

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