Chimborazo, the stuff of dreams

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Talent abounds among Chimborazo province’s craftspeople — it is renowned for its weavers — but, whether in Guano, Cacha, San Juan, Calpi or Nizag, this province is more than just the textiles it produces. Learning these ancient crafts is often a way to weave dreams: dreams of entrepreneurship, of local artisans who became world-famous, of communities who rescue their legacies, of female empowerment.

The famous Guano carpets

If you go to Guano, you will hear talk of a man the townspeople will never forget: Segundo Luis Allauca Pancho, the man who put tiny Guano on the world map with his carpets. Displayed at the UN, flaunted by the Oval Office during President Richard Nixon’s administration and tantalized renowned arts-and-crafts collector Olga Fisch — one of the most important promoters of Ecuador’s artisanal talent — Allauca’s rugs are a luxury of handwork, which knot by knot create beautiful designs and brightly colored mosaics celebrating Chimborazo’s aesthetic sensibilities. Today, you can visit his son Luis Alfredo at the old workshop, “El Teñidero” (450 Los Tejedores and Agustín Dávalos), where you can discover the looms where these beautiful rugs were woven and purchase one if you so desire.

The vision of the women in San Juan

On the slopes of Chimborazo, close to the Flora y Fauna Reserve, alpaca wool is used to make everything from scarves and ponchos to skirts and shawls by the women of this community who form part of the “Pacha Mama” association of indigenous women artisans. As part of a community tourism project, families raise alpacas that not only provide their wool to make the beautiful clothing, but the specific breed was chosen to help conserve the Andean grasslands thanks to its low environmental impact. Nearby, in the village of Calpi, a similar project is organized at Palacio Real.

Ancestral wisdom woven in Cacha

Very few weavers are left in the communities of Cacha, but, thanks to the project at Pucará Tambo (p.77), which coordinates visits to local artisans to observe how typical ponchos are made, with their striking colors and fascinating use of the backstrap loom, you can still find them. The poncho coco and fajas are the most representative products made by the community. The development of these garments has transcended time, with the Spanish choosing this region to base their main colonial workshops because of its residents’ already long- held knowledge of weaving. In Cacha, the men may be the weavers, but women perform their role of making yarn so skillfully that you’ll see them spinning while walking around town.

Nizag: Capital of the shigra

In the small town of Nizag, some 400 families of the Sibambe region are defending their culture and traditions. One of the ways they’re doing this is that the women are taking charge of their lives by making and selling handicrafts made out of sisal and other natural fibers. As the train comes by, passengers buy their products; the signature craft being the spectacular shigra bags, woven with sewing needles, dominated by beautiful original designs and the awe-inspiring intense colors that never fail to leave us in wonder.

Marco Antonio Janeta backstrap weaving techniques to give color and forms to his creations.

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