Thursday, October 20, 2011

Simona Cutipa: a living treasure in Colca Valley

by the Colca Specialist

Simona Cutipa is one of the living treasures from Colca Valley. She keeps the ancient tradition of embroidery. Embroidery was introduced during the Spanish conquest.

The preinca and inca people in Colca Valley had their own type of clothes. During the Spanish conquest the native clothes were replace by the new models brought from Spain. The women arms and neck couldn´t be exposed and had to be well covered.

The influence of catholic religion was very strong in those times and this influence can be specially appreciated in the clothes. Some conquerors arrived to the area with their wives from Europe. Of course their favorite place of most of them was Arequipa, “the white city”, but some of them arrived with their wives to the area, so native women were forced to dress the same way as the Spanish ladies.

The Spanish ladies used in those times the big crinolines that gave a special pompous shape to the skirts they wore.

Native women of Colca Valley and Colca Canyon started to use the same and that´s the moment were embroidery was introduced. The first patterns of embroidery taught were roses which were done with alpaca wool and painted with cactus seeds to color them, but, there are no roses in the area so with the pass of the time native women started to introduce all the different local patterns of the area such as the hummingbird, the vizcacha which a kind of chinchilla, the condor among others creating a new proper style.

When we see a native woman from Colca Valley or Colca Canyon dressed in the traditional clothes is like watching a lady from the Spanish conquest period.

Hats were introduced during the conquest too. Colca area was inhabited by two preinca groups: the kollawas and the cabanas respectively. Both groups practiced cranial deformation in order to differentiate themselves from the other ethnic groups. During the Spanish conquest cranial deformation was prohibited and considered diabolic so people started to use hats.

At the beginning they were a symbol of authority but with the pass of the time they created their own type of hats in order to keep the difference so now we have two hats very well defined: the white hats which are used in Colca Valley area by the descendants of the Kollawa people and the black hats covered with embroidery and crowned by an eight pointed star at the top of the head that represents the sun, typically used by the Cabana descendants.

Besides women are not talkative so they represent their civil status through the use of flowers. In the case of the white hats, one flower means married, two flowers means single and a black flower with a black skirt means widow. In the case of the Cabana hats the presence of Cantuta flowers on the hats means that the girl is not married.

Simona Cutipa keeps the tradition of embroidery in Colca Valley. She lives in Chivay and her little store can be found easily in one of the small passages of the square.
There you can see why she is considered like a living treasure in Colca Valley area.Simona was invited by the Spanish cooperation group, a NGO from Spain, to participate in a embroidery conquest in Europe. Everybody was delighted by the skills of Simona who won the first place in the international embroidery conquest.

All the participants did drawings before doing the embroidery. Simona doesn´t do any kind of drawings. The drawings are inside her mind and he uses the machine as a pencil. She can make a condor in seconds. It is such an incredible experience to see her performing this forgotten art of embroidery.

Colca valley and Colca canyon were invaded by the cheap low quality handicrafts from Puno.

Disgracefully many visitors have the idea that those handicrafts are original from Colca area and it is not like that. Peru is the country of the thousand bloods as we say and there are different ethnic groups with their own languages and it is a terrible mistake to believe that all Peruvians are the same. Each group have their own unique traditions and their own handicrafts.

Colca Valley and Colca Canyon handicrafts are unique and more elaborated. Their quality is better. Because their prices are higher tourist prefer to buy cheap articles whose quality is very poor too. That is why the local handicrafts cannot compete with those from Puno area.

I had the opportunity to read in a Lonely Planet Guidebook that it is recommended to bargain all the time before buying. Natives don´t make much money from their articles so if you bargain don´t be abusive. Don´t give the impression that you are a cheap and stingy. Be fair.

If you want to buy articles at good prices go alone without the tour guide so in that way you won´t have to pay the tour guide commission. Good luck my friends and don´t forget to visit Simonas little store in Chivay. Sustainable tourism is important especially in these days. We should practice a sustainable tourism during our visits.

You can find Simona in the following address:
Calle Puente Inca 116
Chivay- Valle del Colca
Cellphone: 959395858

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