Commentary

Despite Ups and Downs Handicrafts Give Work in Cuzco

In Cuzco today, many people dedicate themselves to the art of handicrafts. This is because so many tourists come to Cuzco and, as a result, daily sales make it worthwhile as a Business. The neighborhood of San Blas is well known as the artisans’ neighborhood. Within its narrow streets you see people selling every day all kinds of handicrafts, from ponchos to earrings, looms, replicas of ancient artifacts and much more.

Ponchos are one of the traditional items of clothing that our people wore and often still wear. It used to be that all men would wear one in different colors. This piece of clothing is made from sheep’s wool. To make a poncho the artisans first have to shear sheep to obtain wool. After the shearing they immediately wash the wool. Once it has dried, they spin it in the puska, the traditional drop spindle to obtain yarn for weaving. Then they weave they weave the yarn into cloth on a traditional loom. It used to be that to get different colors they would die the wool with herbs, flowers, and leaves. But today the people mostly use commercial dies of aniline.

Choosing a Special Gift in Cuzco
Choosing a Special Gift in Cuzco

Some years ago, earrings were an entire boom in our city. Besides making and selling earrings in the workshops and on the streets of the city, our craftsmen and women also exported them to other countries in great quantities. Earrings made with feathers were ones that had constant demand.

In those days children, teenagers, and adults would all work to manufacture the earrings that would travel widely abroad. The owners of the workshops would seek poor families to teach them the craft and they would work so that they could obtain a weekly salary, something often missing in their lives. However, when sales of these famous earrings dropped many families suddenly were without work. They no longer had that salary to put food on their plates and a roof over their heads. They had to hustle to obtain other kinds of work. Some of them learned to make other types of handicrafts and continued with the business, despite its booms and busts.

Even though the market collapsed, people still make and sell earrings in the city of Cuzco.

A Young Trader in Cuzco
A Young Trader in Cuzco

Today you can see various craftsmen and women selling their handicrafts on the ground in the streets of San Blas. There you will find, besides some earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pipes and many others with everyday claim a presence in the area of San Blas’ Plaza.

On Saturdays a handicrafts fair takes over the Plaza of San Blas. During this event, you will see for sale handicrafts from all over. The best works are displayed on tables that the craftsmen carry into the square each weekend. The fair begins from 9 to 10 in the morning and goes through 5 or 6 at night when the light disappears from the sky.

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