Threads of Peru Blog

An Especially Delicious Community Visit: A Day in Totora

Threads of Peru makes regular visits to the communities we work with

Threads of Peru makes regular visits to the communities we work with, and last week we visited Totora, a lower altitude community close to Calca on the Sacred Valley floor.

Evaluation Research Interns Harrison Ackerman and Annie Marcinek, along with Project Coordinator Dana Blair, enjoyed the day spending time with the artisans and their families, taking part in a cooperative meeting, an explaining Totora’s role in the ongoing evaluation project.

After an early morning combi ride from Cusco to Calca, the group from Threads of Peru met a few community members outside the main market. Together they shared a taxi up the winding road to the gravel Totora turnoff, where they began the short walk to Angela Milo Huallpa’s house to meet with the weaving cooperative and some of their family members.

The incredible pachamanca feast prepared for us by Totora. Photo by Harrison Ackerman 
The incredible pachamanca feast prepared for us by Totora. Photo by Annie Marcinek

Not 15 minutes after arriving and greeting everyone gathered at the house, Totora truly welcomed the group with a Pachamanca feast. The special meal, a traditional component of Peruvian cuisine, consisted of a large serving of roasted guinea pig (cuy al horno) seasoned with local ingredients, a variety of boiled potatoes, large kernel Andean corn (choclo), succulent Andean cheese (queso Andino), and other specially prepared Moraya potatoes. The name Pachamanca, translating to ¨earthen pot¨, is the combination of the Quechua words ¨pacha¨ meaning earth and ¨manca¨ which is a cooking device. The cooking method is characterized by the use of heated stones in a natural oven built into the ground.

Dana, with the help of our translator Raul, recording on paper necessary notes from the Totora association executive board elections. Photo by Harrison Ackerman  
Dana, with the help of our translator Raul, recording on paper necessary notes from the Totora association executive board elections. Photo by Harrison Ackerman

After a plentiful meal, the weaving association held a meeting in order to democratically elect members to certain leadership positions on the executive board. This process was essential for signing their contract (convenio) as a legal association of workers. Dana and the Spanish-Quechua translator Raul helped to record notes from the meeting. By taking steps like this toward formal organization, the working relationships between Threads of Peru and communities like Totora can be strengthened.

Guinea pigs being raised in Angela's house in Totora. Photo by Harrison Ackerman  
Guinea pigs being raised in Angela’s house in Totora. Photo by Dana Blair

Lastly, Harrison and Annie introduced the evaluation research project and upcoming interviews to be conducted with artisans. The weavers were receptive to the project goals and comfortably asked questions. A date was then set for Harrison and Annie to return for interviews with the artisans of Totora. Before leaving, Harrison and Annie were fortunately able to conduct the first enlightening Totora interview with one of the association’s weavers, Catalina Mendoza Flores. By mid-afternoon, a great community visit finally came to a close as two taxis made their way back down to Calca. Through interactions and conversations with artisans, days like this really help to bring profound meaning to the work constantly underway in the Cusco office.

By Harrison Ackerman, Evaluation Research Intern