Beginning Individual Interviews with Las Calcutas

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Began individual interviews with the women of the Calcuta's cooperative this week. Went very well, but am a little mentally tired from the mental concentration it takes to conduct the interviews. However, it is rewarding to be able to really be in the conversation and understanding almost all of what the women are saying.


For a chocolate bar I hired Misael (pictured here) to guide me to the houses, and also to have him with in the houses during the interviews to belay any suspicions of misconduct. Started each interview by asking for permission to record what we talked about, and then, after the recorder was turned on, asked for formal permission to use what we talked about in my articles and a possible book. All 5 of the women granted oral permission for this. I also explained that I could use their actual names or a false name to protect their identities in what I write. All but one woman wanted me to use their actual names.

First to be interviewed was "Mary," the only one who wanted a pseudonym used. Mary is not originally from Tuncarta--she's from Cuenca--and she is not indigenous. She is a vibrant and talkative woman who chooses to live in el campo, preferring it to the city, where her brothers live. She married a nonindigenous guy who has lived his whole life in Tuncarta, except for three years he spent working in Spain. He's been back from Spain for 10 months. I asked her if it was hard for her when he was gone, and she said it was very difficult, because the expectation is that spouses should be side-by-side in daily life. She knew very little about how to live in the country; how to tend animals, raise food, etc. While it was difficult, however, the people of the community helped her, and she learned a lot. In many ways it was significant for her growth as a woman to have to learn how to do everything necessary for rural life. She feels empowered now, and has confidence that she can do anything her life requires her to do. She has been a member of the Calcutas for about a year and 4 months (since April of 2008), and it is a testament to her growth as a capable woman that she was elected in January 2009 to serve as president of the group for a year, despite being nonindigenous, and non-native to Saraguro. Despite her comment that she is shy, she smiles a lot and talks a lot and is clearly well-liked by the other women of the group. She said Aleja has taught her some about bead weaving, but especially mentioned that Anita has been instrumental in her education into artesanias. She does not really do beadwork in her own house, as she neither has the time, nor yet feels confident enough with her skills to work alone. She hopes to learn more and do more such work on her own. Her interview is recorded as 0071, and I will transcribe/translate her comments later. We talked for more than half and hour, and it was an easy-going and pleasant conversation. She clearly understood what I am doing, and spoke openly about interesting topics. Her four dogs are named Tarzan!, Oso (bear), Koki, and Churipa.


In contrast, the next interview, with Carmen Yolanda Sarango Inga, also a nonindigenous woman, was a little more difficult and shorter. Carmen Yolanda has lived all her life in Tuncarta, and been a member of the Calcutas only since January. Her two boys (both younger than 4) hovered around, as did some puppies. She enjoys beading and is learning how to do it from the group, with again, Aleja and especially Anita mentioned as her primary teachers. She has been doing some beadwork in her own home, but really is only beginning to get mastery of the technique.


The next interview was with Carmen Yolanda's older sister, Maria Elena Sarango Inga. They live fairly close together and close to "Mary," leading me to wonder whether the lower part of Tuncarta is the primary location for nonindigenous campesinos in the community to live. Will have to ask Benigno and Anita about this--would make some sense--it's closer to the highway (although now that a new entry road into Tuncarta has been made, their houses are "off the beaten track"--buses and such no loger pass close to their places. Maria Elena was even more difficult to interview as she didn't really seem to have much to say about beading or the Calcutas. She enjoys the beadwork and the company, but has a short time of experience with it. Her younger daughter, Jenny, leaned on her shoulder for the 20 minutes or so that we visited, and  expressed interest in learning to bead as well. She was at the meeting last Tuesday and seems to be paying good attention and learning. Maria Elena makes her primary living by selling fruit in the market in town, which she buys in Cuenca and brings down to Saraguro. Because she spends most days selling in the market, she has little time to work at home, and does not do beadwork at home by herself.