Doña Lucha

Note: This entry and the several that follow derive from individual interviews with the women of Las Calcutas that I began conducting this week. The order of the entries has gotten a bit jumbled, so you might want to first read the entry two below, which describes the interviewing process.

Thumbnail image for Dona Lucha and the Caracoles.JPG

My final interview for this morning was Luz Magdalena Macas Minga (Doña Luz). She is a 40-year old indigenous woman who only moved back to Tuncarta from the Oriente two years ago, after her husband died of either a heart condition or a stroke. She has six kids ranging from 21 to about 3 years old, and works now to hold together her livelihood by combing artesania work with agricultural work. She does more embroidery than beadwork, but does, like Doña Mariañita, do some huallca weaving on commission from other indigenous women, especially for friends and acquaintances she has in the Oriente. She said most of the Saraguro women of the Oriente do not know how to weave huallcas, though they do desire them and want to wear them. So she makes some income in this manner, with the client providing the beads and paying her for her work. She was working on a single-color one similar to that of Doña Marianita, with metallic green beads purchased by the client in the United States. She said that her friends will call her and tell her what size they want (for example this one will have 60-70 filas (rows) to be complete--a lot of rows because of the small size of the beads). The client will also tell her what colors or pattern she desires. The small beads, while requiring much mre work than larger beads, results in a very supple and soft feeling fabric, and seems to be treasured by many of the women here. I've seen Anita wearing a similar one. I asked Doña Luz what kinds she makes for herself, and she retrieved her basket of personal necklaces. It contained about 6 huallcas, three of some varied colored patterns, which she says she made for her daughter, but which her daughter no longer likes or wears, and two solid colored huallcas made with bugle beads and seed beads--one gold and one green. The only patterned model that she herself wears turns out to be a Caracoles worked in green against a black background, with a maragarita base row. I find it interesting that her preference is for solid-colored huallcas, with the exception of this one pattern. She allowed me to take a photo of her wearing the Caracoles.




In addition to the interviews with the women, I talked with two men who were out and about as Misael and I traveled between the houses of the women I was interviewing. The first, Aparecio Sarango, lives by the school. He was an older man, perhaps 60, who wanted to talk to me about what I grow back home--the assumption being that everyone must plant something. He expressed some surprise when I told him that I grow peas and fava beans and cabbage and carrots and such--wanted to know if they were the same as they grow here, and I said yes. He wanted my advice on how to get good crops out of ground that is tired (cansado), without resorting to chemicals. He said that he is worried for the young folks about cancer and illness caused by chemicals. I said that really, I think he and his community knows much more about how to farm here than anything I could share. They already know about using legumes to replenish nitrogen in the soil, and other such techniques--really, what could I possibly have to offer in the way of advice on this topic? He lamented that there is no market for many of the crops they can grow, such as cabbage, and as a result the people of this place are very poor. One of his main complaints was that they are so poor they cannot afford to buy meat.


Also chatted briefly with a guy who said his name is Miguel, and who travels and works in the United States. He is Misael's padrino, and leaves again for the U.S. on August 14. In the past he has worked on the same farm in Wisconsin as Maximo and Segundo Gonzalez, but he now lives and works in Maryland. He said there is a community of Saraguros, primarily folks from Oñacapac, living in Virginia, and a few in Maryland, but that the larger number of Saraguros in the U.S. live in Wisconsin and in New York and New Jersey. "But most of them have short hair," now he said, as if that called into question their ethnic identities, which in some ways it does, as explained in the Belotes' article "Drain from the Bottom." He was wearing a University of Houston sweatshirt while he and another guy worked on digging a hole for a septic tank for a house that was not his own. It was obvious from the smell of the canal that ran beside where they were working that the house desperately needs the septic tank. Misael had only a few minutes earlier noted how bad it smelled. When I asked Miguel what they were doing, he said they were working on digging a hole for the septic tank. "That is our intention at least," he said, as if the outcome might be in some doubt--a way of expressing that one does not really have absolute control over what happens in the world. I laughed and said, "Well, I hope it will become a reality." He laughed, too, and then Misael and I took our leave and headed back up the road to the house for lunch.


Realizing that the chocolate bar I gave him was really not much compensation for three hours of patient guidance and wisdom about where nasty dogs were and how to handle them, I gave Misael two quarters I had in my backpack--they happened to be actual U.S. quarters, and he commented on this and appreciated them very much for that reason.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Syring published on August 2, 2009 11:52 AM.

Dona Mariañita was the previous entry in this blog.

Comments Now Enabled! is the next entry in this blog.

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