Why Artesanias Are Literally Anita's Life

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At Calcutas Walking there Anita Knitting 7.28.09023.JPG

Really interesting conversations with Anita last night (and later Benigno joined us, but I'll focus on that conversation later). I made a mistake in thinking the graduation party was this week--it is next week. And with Benigno out all day and into the evening to make money on market day by using his truck as a taxi/bus, Anita and I were sitting at the supper table alone, so I suggested we use this opportunity to make an interview. She agreed, and we launched into a conversation. I did not have my list of interview questions with me, but I did have my recorder, so we just started while we ate--I didn't want to disrupt the quiet moment by getting up to retrieve my stiff list of questions. I've noticed that whenever Anita is alone, she gets up and gets busy doing something, and I was afraid we'd lose the moment of focus on her story. Below is my rough translation of part of her story as she gave it to me and I recorded it. I may miss a word or verb tense here or there, but believe the substance and style of what she said is here. Will need to check this later with a Spanish-speaking assistant. She told her story pretty spontaneously and naturally, so I want to preserve the feel of her narrative:

Anita: I started to make the collares, when I was without my parents. My father died. My mother abandoned me when I was six years old. She went to live...we didn't know where she went...but now she lives in Ambato. And my father died from his grief at my mother leaving. He got sick, and he died. When he died I was 10 years old. And we were alone. We didn't have anything to eat or anything. So, Maximo [her older brother] studied and I started to work with a woman who lived a little ways down the hill whose name was Angelita. She taught me how to weave (beads). I was her helper. And I spent four years beading with her. I only went to her house to work, and then came back here to our house to eat and do everything else. This very house! Only Maximo and I and a younger brother lived here. But he [the younger brother] left, when he finished school, he went to the Coast, and he has lived in the Coast until now. His name is Marco.


Then, a few years passed and Maximo had the opportunity to go to the United States with a musical group. And I was left alone, alone, alone in the house. For three years. I say it was when I was 14 until I was 16. When I was 16, I started being with Benigno. And when I was 18 we got married.


Then I was married, and I had fully learned how to bead--by this time I had continued working with the beads. And back then I was able to sell a lot of beadwork, because there were only a few people around who were beading. I was beading a lot, so I had money. Almost nobody was beading. There were very few beaders. This was more or less in 1995. More or less at this time nobody was beading. Now, there are a lot of beaders! Because now it is marketable. They can sell it. They can make money. So, this is the way that the beadwork became popular, so now the whole world beads! The mestizas [are beading]--everybody in the whole world is beading now!


David: But who is buying them?


Anita: The tourists!


David: But there are only a few tourists [here in Saraguro].


Anita: Many tourists! People go out to sell to them. There's a group organized to go sell in Loja, in Quito, in Guayaquil--in all of the markets. So the tourists go out to the markets and find beadwork on every side. So, for this reason, it is now very marketable to sell artesanias. And because so many people are beading beautiful things now, one can't sell one's work. So, for this reason I have to be very creative. When I come up with a new design, I make a dozen of them before I take them to the market. Because afterwards, I'm not able to sell them. If I take a design [that is already common in the market], the storekeepers say, "If you'll take $5 for it." [If I take new designs] nobody has copied them. Therefore, I need to take new designs to sell.


David: And so now there are lots of designs that are common. Which of these design are ones you made?


Anita: Rosas...


Anita Sarango

[Brief interruption by Misael who returned from a friend's house with some pieces of a tortilla that he had been eating there, which he had saved for Anita and I to taste.]


David: So, you learned to bead [and do other artesanias] because you needed to?


Anita: Because I needed to, yes.


David: It was your only life. For how many years--for four or six years?


Anita: For many years! I learned how to bead when I was eight, and now I am now 32. My life has been lived only in artesanias. Now, for example, I don't make only the collares. I make pulleras [the underlayer skirts that usually have embroidery or beads at the hem, which peek out from under the black overskirt called an anaco], blouses, and the [bead] weavings, I sell them as a set. The pulleras, the blouses and the collares--this is the way I sell now--it's a three-piece suit. The same color--earrings, collar, the blouse, and the pullera.


David: And how much does it cost for everything?


Anita: It depends on the collar. The collar might be worth 20 or 30 dollars, or it's possible to make a small one for 10 dollars. It depends on the collar. But the pullera and the blouse is worth 35 dollars. For only the pullera and blouse.


David: With beads, or with embroidery?


Anita: With a needle, and my hands! But the pullera I don't make by hand--I use a machine [currently an old treadle sewing machine, with ambitious plans for the future to purchase an expensive, computer-assisted embroidering machine.]


[Another brief interruption as Misael tells Prici there is no one down in the cancha--she was about to leave to go down there and he has recently returned.]


David: Yes, but does the pullera come with beadwork [on the hem], or with embroidery?


Anita: Embroidery with thread. This is right now, the way of my work. This is what is now marketable, combined--the blouse the same color, the pullera the same color, the earrings the same color, and the collar the same color.


David: And many women buy the whole set?


Anita: Yes. This is the what's in style today--to wear a green blouse, green earrings, a green necklace, and a green pullera. Sashes (fajas), too. I make sashes with beads, too. I have one to show you. The sashes sell for 30 dollars.


David: Las Calcutas, what importance do the Calcutas have for you?


Anita: For me? Perhaps it's a way to entertain (distraerme) myself first of all. But on the other hand. I like the organization.


David: Why?


Anita: Because it is also a way we women to work together when we need to ask the mayor or any other institution for help, it's much easier. You can get support for an organization much easier than you can for one person. For this reason I like the organization. I always like to be part of an organization for any kind of thing in the community. In the end, for anything it is very beautiful (bien bonito) to be part of a group. On the other hand doing something alone, without anybody, is really ugly (bien feo). I always love for there to be an organization--for the young people, for dancing are other people, for the women's group it's other people. For the young people's group we go out, we smile, we walk, we do everything that makes us smile and laugh. So, I like to organize things all the time--in everything I like to get involved (meterme).


David: So, the idea of community is very important for you.


Anita: Uh-huhn, I like to go to [community] meetings...the community. Last year I was the secretary of the community. And it was very complicated for me. It was very hard, because I had...at this moment I'd have to be in the meeting because the meeting begins at 7 in the evening.  So, I'd have to go to Saraguro and arrive there, and there might be no dinner here because I liked to be on time. For anything, if someone says [be there] at three, I am there 5 minutes before, because I like to be punctual, so that yes, I am there on time. I say...for example, the women's group is supposed to meet at 2:30 in the afternoon. We should all be there by then. If you get there at three, then you have to pay 25 cents. If anybody comes at three, they pay 25 cents.

NOTE: The entry made previous to this one, but following it in viewing order, contains a description of the meeting of the Calcutas that Anita refers to here. This is the first of several parts of the transcription of interviews with Anita about her life. Others will come later.

1 Comment

Hi - Love the blog. Knitters from my store will go on a solstice knit and walk - would I be able to use your
picture of the lady walking and knitting? I would love that.
Please let me know, don't know how to get hold of you
otherwise. The picture would be perfect for our newsletter.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Syring published on July 29, 2009 3:16 PM.

Meeting with a Bunch of Bead Weaving Women--Runas Propias was the previous entry in this blog.

Part 2 of Meeting with a Bunch of Bead Weaving Women--Runas Propias is the next entry in this blog.

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