When you talk to people who have visited La Paz, they all remember the view. When I entered the city for the first time all I saw was an endless ocean of houses built throughout a valley that is surrounded by mountains. It almost feels like the houses are crawling up the hillsides, like ants scaling an anthill.
I was very excited to meet Lucia and Teofila. They had already worked with us to make beautiful alpaca products. Eduardo - who is helping the two artisans with exports - took me to see them in El Alto, a former suburb of La Paz that became a city itself after an incredible growth spurt.
I still remember the smell of the small workshop of Lucy when I visited her on a June afternoon. She had just finished steaming our alpaca products so the whole workshop smelled like a combination of warm wool and the delicious empanadas they had made for us. Mmm!
Lucy, who is working with her brother German, is from the Aymara tribe. Their family had lived in the highlands of Bolivia, before poverty and uncomfortable living conditions forced them to leave and resettle in El Alto. They told me that it took them a long while to adjust to their new surroundings, but now they have adapted and feel at home in the city. They also feel glad that knitting and selling alpaca products now helps them to make a good living.
Teofila also lives in El Alto, not far from Lucy. Her dog Sammy greeted us with a lot of loud noise when we came to visit. Teofila, her brother Sixto and her husband Mario are all excellent weavers and love working together as a family. They use the finest Alpaca for their products and take their time to make sure that every single product is perfect. They also belong to the Aymara. And like Lucy and her family, resettled in La Paz a couple of years ago.
Find the products of the Mamanis here.
Text and pictures by Lisa Jaspers, Co-Founder of FOLKDAYS