This is Emilio Fernández Quispe.
Looks like a nice guy, right? And he certainly has the attention of those people watching him weave. There's a good reason for that.
Emilio is a pro. He makes the loom sing with his weaving. And he's a pretty deft hand when it comes to design too. But it wasn't always that way.
Emilio Fernández Quispe was born on July 20, 1964 in Ayacucho, Peru. Set high in the mountains of south central Peru, Ayacucho has a long and fascinating history - it was inhabited hundreds of years before the Inca came to town and it was the site of the last great showdown between the Spanish and the indigenous forces in the Peruvian War of Independence in 1824. It's famous for its 33 colonial period churches - one for every year of Jesus' life - and its epic religious festivals, especially over Easter, when traditional horse racing and the Peruvian brand of the running of the bulls hits the streets.
Unfortunately, life is not all party for the people of Ayacucho. Most people earn a living from agriculture and it's one of the poorest regions in Peru. In 1980, the social issues that go hand-in-hand with poverty made it ripe for unrest and the terrorist organisation know as the "Shining Path" used Ayacucho as its base for a campaign against the Peruvian government that lasted over decade.
Emilio lived in Ayacucho until he was eight. Then it was time to start school, so he moved to the city of Huamanga and was enrolled at the local primary school. But because he had left home, he also needed to work. Over the next three years, Emilio tried his hand at selling brooms and lollipops, shining shoes and finally, spinning wool. And then, at the age of 11, his father began teaching him to weave on the loom. At first, grins Emilio, he had a "rustic style". But step by step in those days in the mountains, he honed his quality and technique.
By the time Emilio was 18, political violence had convulsed Ayacucho; there was no hope of working or studying there. He had uncles living in the capital Lima, so Emilio went to live with them. One of his uncles found him a job as a gardener at the airport, but after work, he continued to weave and in his free time, he would visit handicraft shops to sell the products he had made. Then one day a friend from Ayacucho who worked as a weaver and exported his craft abroad contacted Emilio, and gave him an opportunity to work with him.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Emilio is part of Ichimay Wari, a producer group in Lurin, Lima. All 11 members hail from the Ayacucho region and came to Lima in the early 80s to escape the unrest. Their group is one of 16 artisan associations which band together to form CIAP, a collaborative organisation to promote and export their handicrafts to the world beyond Peru. More than 700 craftspeople receive the benefits of their efforts, which involves assisting them to improve the quality of their products and advice on tweaking designs for the modern market, as well as a variety of activities to improve the living and working conditions of the artisans. To that end, CIAP has become a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation and a certified Fair Trade company, and is huge promoter of Fair Trade and the social economy movement across Peru and Beyond.
Not bad for a kid who once shined shoes, right?
You can bring a piece of that spirit into your home with some Peruvian treasures crafted by the artisans of CIAP right here at Wanderlust People. Check it out!