Arrangements for Bringing Necklaces to Sell in the US, Moving into the New Kitchen, A Young Man with Cancer, & Meeting with CEMIS

I've been asked by a couple of different members of the Calcutas cooperative if I will bring their personal beadwork to the U.S. to try to sell for them. This has caused me some discomfort, trying to figure out how to help these women, while being fair and open to all of them. After thinking this through, I've decided I will offer to carry work from any of them who want to send it. So anybody who might be reading this, please be advised I will have beautiful beadwork for sale when I return to the States, and all of the money I collect will be passed directly back to the women who made the pieces.


On Tuesday at the meeting I will explain to all of the Calcutas that I am willing to take necklaces for them to try to sell in the States, but only with these conditions understood:


1)      First, they need to understand that I am not a businessman, but a professor. I only sell the things that I carry as an adjunct to my work as a professor--that is, I talk about the cooperatives to my classes, to community groups, etc. If, after these talks, people want to buy a necklace, that is when I sell them. I do not go to markets, or go to lengthy measures to market this work, and will not do so now. If the things sell, it is because of the good will and interest of the people I speak to about Las Calcutas and the artesania work here.

2)      Since I met these women through the Calcutas, and I think the Calcutas' work is important, any earnings the women make from pieces that I sell will have to be partially shared with the Calcutas. 10% of any cash I receive for the private work the women send with me must be paid into the Calcuta's common fund.

3)      They must only give me quality work, made with quality materials--no beads that will lose their color or obviously shoddy work will be accepted--I will reserve the right to say I won't take pieces that I think are inferior or not likely to sell.

4)      They must understand that I may not be back for up to three years, and they may have to wait that long before I would bring any earnings back to them.

5)      Any pieces that do not sell by then, would be returned to them--I will not pay myself for the pieces that do not sell.


I suspect these five conditions will deter many, if not most, of the women from sending anything with me. Anita affirmed that it would be a good idea to present this opportunity to all the women openly and equally in order to assure good relations next time I visit--to avoid jealousies if some find out that I did this for only certain individuals in the group.




Saraguro First Meal in New Kitchen.jpg

While I worked on the porch on the necklace I have been working on for the past week, Benigno finished up his work installing the water in the new kitchen, and now it is complete. Anita moved the propane tank to the new stove, and shifted the plates and pans and vegetables and such in the afternoon, and she and Prici made supper in the new kitchen. We ate there and offered a round of applause to el maestro for his work. Took a picture of all of use (without Misael) eating the first meal in the kitchen. Misael wasn't around all day because he was at a minga helping Eloy and Laura shift all the concrete blocks stacked on the roadside up the hill about 100 yards where they are building their new house. It took all day, and Misael came back about 8:30 exhausted and grouchy--he had obviously worked very hard all day, and he hadn't been around for either lunch or supper, so not sure what he ate at the minga, usually seems to be mote and chicken caldo. He cried and grouched for about half an hour before being sent to brush his teeth and go to bed.




Late in the afternoon a young guy from Tambopamba stopped by to get some help from Benigno on repairing a pair of pants. Benigno greeted him very warmly and took him inside the sitting room where they visited while Benigno worked at the sewing machine to fix the pants. I noticed the young guy (later found out he's 21), spoke quietly and with a queer timbre to his voice. He seemed a little frail, too. Later, over dinner, we got talking and somehow I got on the topic of Doug and his death from cancer. Anita explained that the guy who had visited earlier, ?NAME?, also has cancer, and has had 2 of 5 chemotherapy treatments so far. His hair has fallen out--a symbolically significant thing when long hair is considered a distinctive marker of Saraguro ethnic identity. His cancer started in the bronchial area, but has spread to the esophagus and lungs. I explained that Doug died of esophageal cancer, and that the prognosis for this guy was probably not good. Suggested he should seek out a shaman, as modern medicine really doesn't have a lot it can do to cure this particular problem. I said, "I bet he has trouble eating, doesn't he?" and they said yes, that he hardly could eat anything. I said that people diagnosed with this rarely live more than a year, and reiterated that maybe a Shuar shaman or someone like this might be consulted.




A brief bit about my "focus group" interview with the CEMIS cooperative on Friday. CEMIS is the cooperative that Linda Belote and Anne Severine successfully sponsored for this year's Folk Market in Santa Fe.


We met in the small room that serves as a meeting room and store to sell their work. The room is on Calle Loja, and is the front part of one of the members' house--she rents it to the group. There were about 15 women in the room and we sat on benches around the perimeter, with a round table spread with collares at the center. Zoila introduced me to the group, and directed my attention especially to Balbina (did not get the rest of her name), who, with her husband was one of the founders of CEMIS, in the early 1980s. Balbina was the person who was to give me the history of the group, and I briefly misunderstood and thought we were supposed to arrange a meeting for another time to do this. But she clarified and said she would rather do it with her compañeras present. So I started by asking a question, saying I'd like to understand the history of the group. Balbina said, "Do you want to do this by asking questions? Or can I just talk?" "I don't need to ask; I don't need to talk," I said. "You go ahead if you know what you want to say."


So Balbina launched into what was more or less a prepared oratory. She started with an invocation and welcome in Kichwa, which I, of course, could not understand. Then she switched to Spanish to formally welcome me, and to give a fairly lengthy thanks to Linda and Anne and the Folk Market for their assistance and the success of the group's visit this year to the market. She expressed hope for future collaboration and then gave the details of the history of the group, which I will need some help translating, as she spoke pretty fast. They started in the 1980s and have been a functional cooperative for almost 30 years.


One distinctive aspect of this group is that it is composed of women from several different communities--Ilincho, Lagunas, Kiskinchir, Ñamarin and others. They meet in the center of town, and their dream, like that of the Calcutas, is to build a casa propia to house their work, and to serve as a community center for various programs and support of women and their children. Their success in Santa Fe ($15,000 in 8 days!) has whetted their appetite, and they really want to bust into other markets in the US and other countries as a way to raise funds for their project. They have apparently been selling in the various cities of Ecuador for some time, but competition is stiff. They estimate that they need perhaps $110,000-115,000 to buy a lot and build a women's building in the Saraguro center--things are more expensive there than in the campo, where the Calcutas, for example, think they might be able to build their center for about $40,000-$50,000. This is the cash amount each group thinks they need, with the intention that they would be able to generate in kind matches of about the same amount through mingas (group labor days), and donations of wood and other resources owned by various members.


At several points during the hour-long group interview the women talked to one another quickly in Kichwa, and though I didn't understand a word of it, it was pretty awesome to hear Kichwa being used as a living, vibrant language. All I usually hear are word definitions and occasional place names. The women laughed a lot and it was exhilarating (and mentally exhausting!) to keep up with the thoughts and questions of a room full of smart, savvy, organized women.


They've invited me back to their next meeting (next Friday) when they plan to ask me some more questions about possibilities for markets in the US, and when they plan to feed me--wanted to know if I am a vegetarian or have particular local foods I won't eat--I suspect there may be a cuy meal in the offing.

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This page contains a single entry by David Syring published on August 9, 2009 3:38 PM.

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