Peruvian textiles have long been a special interest of mine. I first learned about them in 1997 when I attended a textile workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of the speakers had written a definitive book on Peruvian textiles which identified some Incan textiles as among the oldest pieces ever found by archaeologists.
So when we arrived at the port in Pisco I had to ask a tourist representative where we could see some Peruvian textiles. He beamed when I ask him, obviously pleased that someone took an interest. He explained, in somewhat strained English, that there was a place called Sumaqkay, in Paracas, about half an hour away. He wrote the name down and off we went in search of a taxi to take us there.
We walked up and down the little port area, asking if anyone knew where Sumaqkay was. Nope. No one had ever heard of it. Finally Julio, a friendly-looking taxi driver, said he would find it for us. We agreed on a price and off we went.
The next half hour or so was like a comedy routine. Julio made some calls to find out where it was and if it was open today. Then he headed in the right direction, but after about twenty minutes his phone friends weren’t helping and he started asking anyone he could find where Sumaqkay was: a woman serving coffee in her cafe, a guy pumping gas, a woman making something tamale-like on a barrel.
Finally he asked a motorcycle policeman, who pointed to a green door directly across the street. There was no signage or marked address, but we buzzed on the intercom and a woman’s gorgeous face suddenly appeared in the little barred window. Aha! We were in!
Sadly, our Spanish is about as bad as their English so I wasn’t able to learn much about the place. But I did learn that Sumaqkay means “the most beautiful” in native Peruvian Quechua. The workshop aims to combine modern design with traditional pre-Colombian patterns.
And, best of all, their brochure says: “Through this art, young textile artisans can continue a tradition that is at the heart of their pride as Peruvians and as communicators of Peru’s rich textile culture. 10 percent of our revenue goes into the Sumaqkay Education Fund to help young weavers develop themselves in different areas beyond weaving and to give them the opportunity to learn the tools to improve their lives.”
Of course I couldn’t resist buying one of their unique bags. I also talked them into selling me a woven piece right off the loom that we will have made into a pillow. This weaving is so durable it will last a lifetime! Find more at www.sumaqkayparacas.com
I showed my clutch to Lo Kaimuloa of Riches Kahala and she is looking into the possibility of importing Sumaqkay into her shop. It’s not an impossible idea, as they already export to Japan and France. Be sure to talk to Lo if you are interested.
Lydia, who works at Sumaqkay also treated us to a tour of their next door neighbors, a huge farm and hacienda. It’s also unmarked and has lots of security.
We were really impressed with this farm. They were growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, grapes grown specifically for Pisco, mandarin oranges, watermelons and green beans, to name a few.
I am having some difficulties getting my photos and especially Jerry’s photos into this blog. I will do my best to followup so please watch for more photos to come.
– Paula Rath