Threads of Peru works with a number of weaving communities in the Cusco region of Peru. Each weaving community has unique strengths and uses different designs, according to how their weaving tradition evolved. The first two weaving communities we worked with - Rumira Sondormayo and Chaullacocha - are in the Patacancha Valley. These two villages are accessible by a combination of car and foot, starting with a road that leaves from the busy tourist village of Ollantaytambo, which nearly every visitor to Machu Picchu (approximately 2000 daily) will pass through. Of the three newer associations, Upis, located in the Ausangate region, is a remote high altitude village nestled in the foothills of the great Ausangate mountain. Huaran and Totora are located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and, as they are located at lower altitudes, lack the harsh climate of Upis. All three are accessible by vehicle. Most of the houses are made of mud adobe brick with thatched straw roofs. The women in these communities continue to wear their traditional dress, and most people wear sandals called 'hojatas' - made out of old tires.
The vast majority of travelers are blithely unaware that within a few hours of the city live people whose lives have changed very little since the time of the Inca empire.
Rumira is located across the river from its better known and bigger neighbor, Patacancha. Small brick buildings dot the valley floor and a gentle stream divides the two villages. Rumira has an approximate altitude of 4000 meters (approx. 13000 feet). Rumira is accessible by road, has electricity in the houses in town, access to both primary and secondary schools, and access to the medical post in Patacancha. With road access and the proximity to Patacancha and Huilloq, the people in Rumira Sondormayo are the most organized of the communities we work with, and have clear goals as to what their needs and desires are.
Rumira is populated by 40 families working mainly in agriculture, though sometimes the men work on the Classic Inca Trail as porters.
Approximately 2 hours walk from the main road, Chaullacocha is located at a freezing altitude of over 4500 meters (15000 feet). To reach the community one must cross a 4800 meter pass. The first view of the community is a moon-like, windswept valley dotted with a few mud-brick houses. This is a harsh environment where temperatures fall below zero in the afternoons, and little food grows - largely only potatoes, sheep and llamas. Villagers live a subsistence lifestyle, with little attention from the outside world. Chaullacocha's school closed in the 1990's due to terrorism, only reopening in 2006 and being officially recognized in 2008. There are about 90 people who live in Chaullacocha and 26 children attending kindergarten and primary school.
Upis is situated quite literally at the foot of the great Ausangate mountain, the highest mountain in Southern Peru and an important Apu in Quechua culture. With looming, frequently snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance, the community of Upis is well-known for breathtaking trekking routes, thriving crops and impeccable artisanship. Boasting natural hot springs and a friendly atmosphere,Upis is often the first campsite on the Ausangate trek and about three hours' hike from the nearest town. At an astonishing 4,400 meters (14,435 feet) in the western Ocongate region, most villagers travel on foot to the nearby town of Tinqui, 3 hours by local transport, to get access to transportation to Cusco.
Tucked away in the lush foothills of the Sacred Valley of Cusco, widely known as the historic playground of the Incan royals, the cooperative of Huaran is reached by a single road stretching between the townships of Urubamba and Calca. From the time of Spanish colonization until the 1960s, the land of this region comprised an expansive, traditional hacienda (farming estate). Now, with over 500 residents, Huaran is composed of 5 smaller villages - Cancha Cancha, Ch'uro, Sillacancha, Taqllapata and Arin - that all participate in the general assemblies for shared public services such as potable water, health, and education. Although families largely keep animals such as cows and sheep for their own food stores, their abundant crops of white corn, lettuce, strawberries, and roses fill farmers' market stalls year round.