LA PAZ – Indigenous Bolivian women have joined forces with entrepreneurs from other parts of the country to open a cultural meeting space that also functions as a showcase for their handicrafts production.
The Cultural Interpretation Center was inaugurated on Wednesday in La Paz by the president of the IskanWayatex Bolivia association, Ana Alicia Layme, who told EFE that the space is intended for “meetings (and) a summary of the cultures of Bolivia.”
The space exhibits and sells handicrafts made by embroiderers from the municipality of Ayata, in the province of Muñecas in La Paz department, including Andean masks to protect against COVID-19 – for which they became known – with scenes that display the culture and everyday life in their communities.
There are also knitted ponchos, purses and mobile-phone cases with the same embroidery as the masks, Lluchus or woolen hats, pieces of typical clothing from Ayata, and handicrafts from Chiquitania in eastern Bolivia and from southern Tarija made by Guarani women.
Layme said the initiative arose in virtual meetings held by embroiderers from Muñecas province with artisans from Bolivian departments such as Tarija, Santa Cruz, Beni and Chuquisaca.
“We are meeting because, with this pandemic, the sectors of tourism, culture and artisans have been the most affected. That’s why we’ve thought about having a meeting of cultures,” said Layme, adding that the space inaugurated in La Paz is the first of several that will open in other Bolivian regions.
The artisans want to apply “ayn,” the practice of reciprocity in Andean cultures, as they will send their products to the center of La Paz and embroiderers from there will send theirs to the interior of the country for their dissemination and sale.
Wayatex members considered that when the pandemic passes, the demand for masks could also pass, so they saw it necessary to have a space to spread other crafts and to publicize their culture.
The exhibition and sales will be accompanied by other activities, such as the dissemination of Bolivian music and indigenous dances, and books and brochures about the indigenous cultures of the country.
The initiative also includes an alliance with professionals in the tourism industry to provide information about the communities and how to reach them, once the health emergency is over.
Those who visit the space will be able to meet the artisans in person and small weekly workshops are also planned to show how the pieces are made.