By Campbell Plowden and Yully Rojas
Felicita is 36 years old and married with two sons who are 10 and 14 years old. She started learning to make handicrafts when she was 11 years old and continues to make them today as an important source of income for her family. The Center for Amazon Community Ecology began developing a close relationship with Felicita and her family in 2009 when the group began a pilot project in the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo in the Ampiyacu River region of Peru.
Felicita’s husband Rolando was CACE’s first local coordinator for our copal resin project in the Ampiyacu while Felicita helped us bring together artisans in Brillo Nuevo through her leadership in the village handicraft association that included her mother, aunts and cousins.
Working with these creative mostly-women artisans hasn’t always been easy. They were used to working by themselves or with a close family member, guarded their best techniques and sold their hammocks and bags on their own to buyers in the town of Pevas (where the Ampiyacu River enters the Amazon River) or vendors in the city of Iquitos.
The artisans were alternately curious, welcoming and skeptical about CACE’s proposal for them to work closely with us and each other to develop and sell new and more crafts. They liked the idea of making more money by reaching other markets, but many women resisted requests to finish their pieces on time and fix them until they were almost perfect.
By tapping her deep patience, craft skills, and diplomacy, Felicita helped convince the women it would help them all to share their talents and weaving tricks with each other. Thus began a few informal workshops in the open air living room of her home. When one woman got stuck sewing thin strands of chambira fiber into oval eyes of a snake-pattern guitar strap, another would take it up and finish it.
Felicita noted, “Many women were upset with the way the project worked at first, but now they see the positive results. They have learned to work under pressure and have greatly improved the quality of their work.”
Felicita’s family life has gone through some significant changes in recent months. When Rolando won a position as a local representative, they moved to the town of Pevas. His salary allowed them to have a better standard of living, but their oldest son had a very rough time adapting to his new surroundings. He become rebellious, had problems every day and was missing a lot of school.
Felicita and her husband recently decided it would be better for Bill to go back to Brillo Nuevo to finish his studies among his people. Felicita had already began to teach Bill to make some crafts, and he has become a good artisan in his own right.
Felicita is still making handicrafts for CACE as part of the Brillo Nuevo artisan group. She return to her village to live some day.
On Saturday, May 21, Felicita and her aunt Ines Chichaco are both going to do a live demonstration of their craft making via video conference from Peru and speak with guests at Spirit of the Amazon.
This party is a fundraiser for the Center for Amazon Community Ecology. Please join us if you can. You can also DONATE to CACE on line to support the group’s conservation and community programs.