Stories, images, sounds from David Syring's Summer 2009 research trip to Saraguro.
By David Syring on August 2, 2009 11:52 AM
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.
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.