It is a feat almost impossible to walk more than 50 metres in Cusco without passing some sort of shop selling a variety of ‘traditional Peruvian’ souvenirs. After just a few days it’s easy to grow tired of seeing the same stuff being sold everywhere. It’s also disappointing to learn that a large proportion of handcrafts sold in Peru are actually made industrially in Bolivia, so it was with great pleasure that we stumbled across Awana Wasinchis Peruvian Textiles Cusco.
Awana Wasinchis is an unofficial fair-trade cooperative made up of more than 250 weavers from the Bombon and Pitukiska regions of Cusco specializing in Peruvian textiles. They aim to improve the standard of living of these extremely poor indigenous communities in the mountains surrounding Cusco by selling their beautiful traditional Andean textiles to tourists.
Now, weavings and various textile products abound in Cusco but the ones we found at Awana Wasinchis are some of the best quality and variety we have seen. The colours are earthy yet bright and there are a variety of weaves available from tight (these ones are more expensive as they take longer to weave) to looser ones. Apparently the looser weaves are woven by the elderly women in the communities, less nimble fingers and weaker eyes means the weaves aren’t as fine. Yet despite this, they are still finer than many of the weavings you will find around Cusco. Plus, we like the idea of supporting a ‘mamita’ who probably survives on only the meager income she makes from her weavings.
Mother and son team Rafael and Modesta set up their store to help these communities and are really passionate about their project. Pop-in and they will explain all about the different communities, the cultural significance of Andean weavings and how the weavings are made. (Did you know that the communities use urine that has been stored for between 2-3 months to mix with the natural colour dyes so that the dye doesn’t run? Don’t worry they wash them before they are sold!.)
A word of notice, Rafael and Modesta don’t yet have the official fair-trade certification as they can’t afford the membership just yet, but rest assured that 80% of the cost of each weaving goes back to the weavers. Pieces are made from wool and baby alpaca and include bags, ponchos, scarves, shawls and blankets and each piece is individually tagged with the name of the weaver and the community they are from.
Best of Peru Travel Recommends:
- Awana Wasinchis is definitely not the most attractive store in Cusco with a confused organisation but don’t be fooled by the hand-written sign at the door or the jumbled presentation of products as this place is a real gem. It’s the perfect place to buy ‘real’ Peruvian textiles with all the profits going to a great cause.