Around the World: The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco

Cusco, Peru

 The mission of this museum is to preserve ancestral weaving traditions and Andean textiles. Working with local villagers, the museum aims to keep the tradition alive.

History of Andean Textiles

For thousands of years, weaving has been an integral part of the Peruvian culture and the dominant art form. Weavers developed original styles and designs, some of which are unique to the Pre-Columbian cultures who first inhabited the Andes.

Mantle, Paracas, 100 BCE-200 CE, plain weave camelid fiber with stem-stitch embroidery. Photo Credit: http://www.textilescusco.org/index.php/pre-incan-textiles-inventing-a-tradition/
Mantle, Paracas, 100 BCE-200 CE, plain weave camelid fiber with stem-stitch embroidery. Photo Credit: http://www.textilescusco.org/index.php/pre-incan-textiles-inventing-a-tradition/

Ancient textiles are often discovered fully preserved due to the dry mountain climate and the manner of burial customs used by ancient Andeans.

Headband, Wari, 600-850, camelid fiber and cotton; interlocked tapestry weave. Photo Credit: http://www.textilescusco.org/index.php/pre-incan-textiles-inventing-a-tradition/
Headband, Wari, 600-850, camelid fiber and cotton; interlocked tapestry weave. Photo Credit: http://www.textilescusco.org/index.php/pre-incan-textiles-inventing-a-tradition/

Unfortunately, with the arrival of the Spanish, weaving was nearly lost completely. When the Inca state fell in 1533, the infrastructure – including textiles – also fell. The Spanish shut down the weaving centers because they did not want competition for weavers back home in Spain. During this period, the quality of Andean textiles decreased dramatically without the oversight of Inca weavers. Some indigenous people still produced traditional clothing and wore them out of loyalty to their Incan heritage. This small act of defiance to the Spanish government would help fan the flames of the later revolution that granted Peru its independence in 1826.

 Weaving Classes

Classes on weaving, spinning, knitting, and braiding are available. The classes will instruct you on techniques that the Incan ancestors would have used. Visitors work side by side with indigenous weavers and learn not only about weaving but also about their culture and tradition. Classes are taught in Quechua and Spanish, but the instructors know some English and English instruction packets are provided. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in another culture, make new friends, and learn a new skill!

 Weaving Museum and Shop

In addition, the museum documents important aspects of the art. The finest textiles from the Cusco region are on display there. It’s truly amazing to see how the tradition has thrived despite the major cultural upheaval 500 years ago. The shop sells handmade crafts for visitors to purchase including shoulder bags, ponchos, and hats. This is a true hands-on Peruvian experience!

An Indigenous weaver making items to sell. Photo credit: http://www.textilescusco.org/index.php/museum-shops/
An Indigenous weaver making items to sell. Photo credit: http://www.textilescusco.org/index.php/museum-shops/

 HOW TO GET THERE

The museum and shop are located in Cusco itself. Weaving demonstrations and classes are taught in Chinchero, about 45 minutes from Cusco. Whichever aspect of the center you choose to visit, it’s easy to reach by car. When it’s time to book a flight to Peru, trust Sky Bird Travel & Tours. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to Peru. Call or email us today to get started!

 

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

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