A NIGHT IN ESPERANZA AND FAN CLUB MEETING IN SANTA CRUZ
November 24, 2022
by Campbell Plowden
October 20, 2022
After meeting with the artisans in Chino, we motored down the Tahuayo River to the community of Esperanza. They used to send thousands of baskets to the US. Conditions had radically changed, however, and they now only sell a modest amount to boutiques in Lima. Our Garza Viva manager Andrea arranged our visit to see if they were interested in learning to make some new crafts with us.
We arrived around sunset and met the artisans in a large well-lit open community room. We took turns sharing the background and current situation of our respective groups and reviewed each other’s crafts. Their baskets were simple, elegant and high quality. We bought a few, ordered some others, and I took the best pictures I could under the artificial light.
The group was very enthusiastic about wanting to learn to make woven birds and butterflies with us. It would be great to work with an artisan group that already had years of experience working with an exacting wholesale buyer.
The next morning, we went on to the community of Santa Cruz. We walked up a forested hill to get to the village and saw interlaced strips of green and blond chambira laying all around in the sun to dry. We gathered in the artisan leader’s house and watched artisans of all ages efficiently making fans. They were the undoubtedly the best fans available in the area which I had sold well at music festivals this summer.
I could easily sell more, but there are two big problems with this product. It takes all of the leaflets from one chambira leaf spear (a “cogollo”) to make one fan, and the artisans can get no more than $1.50 selling these fans. This means this artisan group is using huge amounts of chambira to make fans and earning very little for their efforts.
They were amazed to see our woven birds, and the advantages of making them were obvious. One cogollo could yield 10 to 20 ornaments which could increase its value to as much as $150. We stressed that learning to making high quality birds would require a lot of time and patience, but they were eager to learn.
"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."
"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans. So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."
"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans. Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots. They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle. Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."