During the dye workshop recently, Angela and I were reminiscing about how it was that we started working with her and the rest of the association in Totora. It was total chance. One casual Saturday afternoon, my partner and I were walking around a public fair, when we reached a booth in the far corner filled with the most beautiful and finely woven textiles. The booth was staffed by a lone woman. I approached her to ask about these weavings – where did they come from? who made them? Although I wasn’t specifically looking that day, I was interested at the time in connecting with new, talented weavers so my curiosity was definitely piqued. She smiled shyly and I realized she didn’t speak any Spanish. We called over the woman from the next booth to translate. Through our translator, I found out that the woman in the booth was Angela Milo Huallpa and that she was the weaver of all those amazing textiles! Not only that, but the yarn used was handspun from her own alpacas! I was amazed! Never had I seen such fine spinning before; it was equal to any machine-spun yarn I had ever seen. I told her about our work at Threads of Peru, and, without making any promises on the spot, I asked her how I could be in touch if I wanted to learn more about her and her fellow weavers. She told me she didn’t have a cellphone, but that she lived in a community called Totora and that I could come and find her there one day.
So, I did. She told me that Totora was situated about half an hour above Calca, a community in the Sacred Valley between Pisac and Urubamba, and that it cost about S/. 3 to get there by public transit. With no way to communicate in advance about my visit, I made the journey one day. Asking around in the community about where I might find her, I walked up the steep hill to her house. But no one was there! I found out she would be back in Cusco again that weekend for another fair, so I went to seek her out. There, we arranged a better time to come and visit. As time went by, Threads received more orders, and we became more and more confident in her work, our relationship grew.
Angela gets a bit teary as she tells her story of how we came to meet. She had had some difficult times before that, health issues and problems with her husband, as well as caring for her children and her youngest sibling who her father was unable to care for due to his advanced age. She said she is thankful to god for orchestrating that our paths crossed that day at the fair, and for all the work that she has been given by Threads ever since.
These days, Angela and her fellow weavers produce the TOTORA scarves, QUILLA women’s alpaca poncho, and the KATA and SAPA wide scarves, as well as the QHAPAQ change purses. Like Huaran, we also send a lot of custom orders their way, due to their incredible skill and flexibility.