Alpacas, Llamas, and Weaving

Alpacas are Awesome

Peru is absolutely amazing! To be honest, Peru is probably my favorite country in South America. I absolutely love it here. Right now I’m in Cusco, Peru. We are about 3.5 kilometers above sea level. Feeling a little bit sick today. We arrived in Cusco three days ago.

We took a train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco. On the train we met some students from the United States. We played cards and talked on the five hour long train ride. A few days ago we also did Machu Picchu. It was absolutely amazing, but that calls for a different blogpost.

Well what I wanted to talk about was all the crafts in Peru. I find it so fascinating that Peruvians rely so much on Alpacas. It’s really crazy that there are toys, blankets, bracelets, table cloths, ponchos, sweaters, shirts, pouches, carpets, and lots more, just made out of alpaca wool. If you aren’t sure what an alpaca is, I’ll tell you.

An alpaca is an animal kind of like a llama, but they have shorter necks, and shorter snouts. They are really soft, especially the baby ones. I have been with alpacas and llamas many times in Peru, they are everywhere.

If you know Spanish you may be wonder: “Huh, interesting “llama” in Spanish means name, but it’s also an animal.” I’ll tell you how this happened. When the Spanish came to Peru they were asking the Incas, what is the name (they were talking about the llama). Which in Spanish they asked, “Como te llamas?” So the Incas, who didn’t speak Spanish, were like “Llamas????” So the Spanish thought they were answering their question, so they called those animals llamas, and they still do today. I found that story pretty funny. Oh ,by the way if you want to say llamas the original way say it like this: yaw-mas, not law-mas. It is because the two L’s in Spanish you pronounce it like a yuh sound.

One of the things I found most interesting is that lots of Peruvians weave the Alpaca wool, not all of them use machines. I’ve have seen many women weaving blankets and scarves on looms. They also don’t use artificial dyes, instead they use plants! I would have never believed if I didn’t see it. When I first heard about it, I thought they probably mostly use artificial dyes because it’s  probably way more efficient. I was wrong though.

Plant Dyes

What these Peruvians do is they cut off the alpaca wool. Then it is cleaned and dried in the sun. After that they make the dye and boil the wool with the dye. Only one of the dyes is not made by plants. This is the red color. It is made from a little bug that lives on a cactus. They are white on the outside, but when you squish them they have a read color inside. They squish the bugs with their hands. After the wool is boiled with the dye, it is dried, then it can be used for weaving.

Wool and Plants

Another cool fact is that woman are the ones who weave not men. Not once have I seen a boy or a man weave anything in Peru.

Weaver

There are so many Alpaca products here, and they are everywhere. Not only are they very common, they are also super cheap, well at least the common stuff. You can buy a whole blanket for only 20 Soles. 100 Soles is 30 American dollars.

Well I think that’s it for today. I found all of this super interesting. If you go to Peru I recommend buying at least a bracelet. You can get them for prices as little as 30 cents American.

In my next blog post I plan to write about horse riding in Urubamba.

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