Experience Peru – 2014 Learning Tour Travel Log

The annual learning tour is just one way Ten Thousand Villages builds and maintains lasting relationships with our artisan partners. Primarily financed by the individuals who choose to participate, the learning tour is a two week excursion led by Community Relations Director, Doug Dirks.

This year, a group of nine employees from across the country will join on a journey to Peru to spend time with the artisans of Manos Amigas, Allpa, and Intercrafts Peru.  This trip is a chance for employees to visit workshops, learn about craft processes, and see products in their original context.  Most importantly, they will interact with artisans — conversations that will ultimately give them a powerful tool to answer customer questions about products and the people who make them.

The 2014 Learning Tour members in Lima, Peru
The 2014 Learning Tour members in Lima, Peru: Doug, Joyce, Nancy, Mandy, Kristine, EB, Elizabeth, Gabby and Darlene.

Peru Travel Itinerary

Feb 15 – 16

  • Learning tour meets in Atlanta for orientation.
  • Depart for Lima, Peru on Sunday afternoon.

Feb 17 – 18

  • Yannina Meza of Manos Amigas will meet us at the Lima airport.
  • Monday, visit jewelry workshop, Fermin Vilcapoma with Allpa.
  • Tuesday, visit ceramic workshops in Lurin with Intercrafts Peru.

Feb 19 – 20

  • Wednesday, 4 hour bus ride south to Paracas. Visit Ballestas Island.
  • Thursday, fly over Nazca Lines to see ancient, mysterious, huge pictures drawn on the desert.

Feb 21 – 23

  • Friday, bus back to Lima to catch flight to Cusco.
  • Saturday, Bus to Pisaq, visit Florentino’s ceramic jewelry workshop and continue by train to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu.
  • Sunday, visit Machu Picchu, take afternoon train back to Cusco.

Feb 24 – 25

  • Monday, tourist bus from Cusco to Puno, Lake Titicaca.
  • Tuesday, visit Uros Island (floating reed island),
  • Intercraft Peru retail shop in Puno and women knitters.

Feb 26 – 27

  • Wednesday, fly back to Lima and catch flight to Huancayo
  • Thursday, visit carved gourd artisans: Alejandro, Emilio and Pablo Hurtado and Eulogio Medina.

Feb 28

  • Friday, fly back to Lima. Time with Manos Amigas,
  • Free time in Lima.

March 1

  • Saturday, early flight from Lima to Atlanta.
  • Catch flights home from Atlanta.

Peru travel updates written by Doug Dirks.

March 1: End of Learning Tour, Back Home

We are so very thankful for the wonderful hospitality and expert guidance provided by our hosts in Peru: Yannina Meza at Manos Amigas, Luis Heller at Allpa and Ruth de la Cruz Quispe at Intercrafts Peru/CIAP. They introduced us to the sights, culture, history and artisans of Peru and gave us a wonderful learning tour experience.

Peru Learning Tour
Yannina Meza of Manos Amigas, our guide, organizer and inspiration.

Above all, we are very grateful to all of the artisans we met. They graciously invited us into their homes and workshops, prepared delicious meals for us, answered our many questions and impressed us with their wonderful skills and talents.

We are back home now, but we carry many fond memories of our artisan friends in Peru. We can’t wait to tell everyone about our adventures and encourage them to purchase hand made products made by wonderful, talented artisans in Peru.

February 28: Back to Lima for the Last Time

Rosa Pariona, the artisan from Huaycan who makes our vicunas, rode the bus for 2 hours to meet us at Manos Amigas and show us some of his vicunas and alpacas. We bought most of the animals she brought to show us and posed for pictures with us. Ten Thousand Villages first met Rosa in 1989 when she was a single mom with 9 kids. She was living in the ‘new town’ called Huaycan. At the time, we would have called it a really poor slum. Since then she has married Esteban and has 2 more kids and has built a brick and concrete workshop and house, still in Huaycan. She told us that 7 of her kids are married, she has 25 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. She also said that most of her kids work in her workshop. She also has a number of other export customers. It’s good see Rosa in good health and good spirits running a successful family business.

Peru Learning Tour
Rosa with our crowd: EB, Darlene, Joyce, Gabby, Elizabeth, Nancy and Mandy.

After we said goodbye to Rosa we ran across the street for lunch at Yannina’s house.  We enjoyed a great lunch with her family and then it was time to drive over to Baranco, the neighborhood just south of Miraflores in Lima, to see the Casa Allpa shop (House of Allpa) and visit with the Allpa folks there. It is a beautiful shop in a nice part of town.

Peru Learning Tour
The interior of Casa Allpa. Fine handcrafted products from all over Peru for discriminating customers in Baranco, Lima.

We had a great time in Peru visiting artisans, seeing the sights, gaining some new friends and learning to admire and respect the artisans from we buy even more than we did just 2 weeks ago. Yannina and her colleagues at Manos Amigas did a great job of organizing and facilitating our activities. We are all looking to coming back to Peru someday and are going home with new-found enthusiasm to sell Peruvian products and tell the stories of the artisans we met.

February 27: Artisans who carve gourds in Cochas, near Huancayo

We drove on to the outskirts of the city where we found the new apartment home and workshop of Fredy and Rosa Amaro. They are accomplished weavers, embroiderers who make purses, bags and other textile products in their home-workshop. Our group loved their embroidered bags and table runners and bought up a storm. Fredy and Rosa were pleased and obviously hope that Yannina continues to bring new customers to them.

Peru Learning Tour

Rosa and Fredy are also innovative appropriate technologists. Rosa told Fredy that she thought winding thread onto spindles for weaving could be much more efficient. She told him what she thought would work. Fredy scrounged up an old bike and converted into this contraption that considerably speeds up the work.

Peru Learning Tour
Rosa enjoys her work, designing, weaving, sewing and embroidering.

Peru Learning Tour
Fredy and Rosa Amaro holding two of their embroidered purses. Everything except the thread was handmade by them and their employees.

Next we drove for about 30 minutes outside of Huancayo to the villages of Cochas, the Peruvian capital of carved gourd artisans – “Artesenal de los Mates Burilados” (Artisans who carve gourds). We visited the homes and workshops of the Hurtado family, three brothers who are master gourd artisans: Pablo, Alejandro and Emilio (youngest to oldest). Each has their own home and workshop and employ several family members and neighbors in their small businesses. It is obvious that they are proud of their work and pleased to work with Yannina and Manos Amigas. They said that they are especially appreciative of the cash advances and prompt payments from Manos Amigas. Pablo said that without these advances and prompt payments he would have to borrow money from local money lenders and probably would never be able to improve his workshop and home. He and his brothers have been involved in this work for more than 20 years and Yannina told us about the significant changes she has seen in their homes, workshops and lifestyle.

Peru Learning Tour
Anna Hurtado, wife of Pablo Hurtado, and two neighborhood women are employed to carved designs into the surface of the gourds.

Peru Learning Tour
In another room, three men were burning designs onto the gourds. They use a small propane torch and a homemade wood-burning iron.

Peru Learning Tour
Pablo and Anna with two of their children, Judith and Brian, and their granddaughter, Dianela, the daughter of their married daughter (not in the picture).

While we waiting for the Panchamanca to cook, we went to visit the workshop of Eulogio Medina and Esposa Guillermina Salome, husband and wife master artisans of gourd carving. They are probably the most renowned artisans in Cochas. The Hurtado brother learned the craft under the supervision of Eulogio. Eulogio and Esposa have been featured artisans in a number of Ten Thousand Villages information and marketing pieces in the past year, including the cover of our annual report.

Peru Learning Tour
A big round gourd carved in Eulogio Medina’s workshop in Cochas.

Peru Learning Tour
Guillermina Salome and Eulogio Medina Z. in their Cochas workshop.

Peru Learning Tour
After lunch we toured Alejandro’s warehouse and workshop. His gourds come from the north and south of Peru. The big ones from the north near Trujillo and the small ones from the south near Nazca. He estimated that at the current rate of orders he may have enough gourds for 2 years work. But, he said if order come in like last year, he will use them all up in 6 months.

Pablo then took us on a driving tour of the hills around Huancayo and we stopped for a view of the city along the way. Then it was time to drive to our hotel near Jauja where we will board our plane for the flight back to Lima tomorrow morning. We’ll repack our suitcases in Lima, do some last minute shopping, maybe do some sightseeing and then head out to the airport in the evening to catch our flight back home.

We’ve had a great time in Peru, meeting artisans in their homes and workshops, hearing about their struggles and triumphs, marveling at their determination and creativity and feeling like we have made some new friends. We are especially thankful for all the work Yannina Meza of Manos Amigas has done for us in arranging transportation, accommodation, meals and visits to artisans. Wonderful hospitality, endless patience and magnificent rapport with artisans all over Peru. We all want to come back and we all want to sell more artisan products from Peru so that the artisans we met can continue to improve their homes and workshops, send their kids to school and contribute to the improvement of their communities. We probably will never forget the words of Yannina:

“I love the work that I do, I love to work with the artisans and I really appreciate the way that Ten Thousand Villages works with Manos Amigas. Please come to visit again, soon.”

February 25 Puno, Uros Islands and Artisans

Enrique Maquira met us at our hotel with his tour bus to take us to the boat that transported us to the Uros Islands. Enrique is the son of Elvira and Jose Maquira who are both knitting artisans. Their group of knitters is the source for our knit finger puppets. Income from the finger puppets paid for Enrique’s education and he is now married to Judith and together they run a little tour company in Puno.

We got on a motorboat in the Puno harbor and cruised out to the nearby Uros Islands, floating totora reed islands. Enrique told us that people have lived on these islands for about 600 years and moved here in the first place because they resisted the Inca empire and wanted a safe and secure place to live that was out of reach of the Incas. About 2,000 now live on about 80 floating reed islands. Many of the men work at regular jobs in Puno and a good number of the women cater to tourists who come to see their unique living arrangements and buy their handicrafts.

Peru Learning Tour
As we approached the Uros Islands we stopped at this control point to pay our entrance fee.

Peru Learning Tour
Stacks of totora reeds set up to dry. The reed ‘floor’ of the island has to be replaced every few weeks because it starts to rot. Most houses are made of reeds too. Notice the solar panel in the upper right. The government provided these for everyone because candles were to dangerous – dry reeds burn really well.

Peru Learning Tour
The women demonstrated their embroidery skills for us. Candelaria in the red jacket and green skirt was the leader of this group of women.

Peru Learning Tour
After lunch we met with Jose Maquera who is part of the artisan group that makes our finger puppets. His wife, Elvira is the leader of the group but she was away in Lima. Jose and Elvira are the parents of Enrique, our guide in Puno.

February 24, Cusco to Puno by Bus

We left the El Dorado hotel in Cusco at 7 am in order to board our big green bus to Puno. For 10 hours we drove along the mountain highway that connects Cusco and Puno. The highway follows the spine of the Andes Mountains, sort of like the continental divide. We enjoyed several stops along the way which helped to make the journey feel much less than 10 hours long.

Peru Learning Tour
This little girl and her alpaca are great friends.

Peru Learning Tour
The majestic view from La Raya pass.

Peru Learning Tour
Our first stop after lunch was at Pucara which is a village famous for its production of little ceramic bulls that people perch on their house roofs as a symbol of good fortune. The bulls are called ‘Toritos de Pucara’ (little bulls of Pucara). Even the local church had a pair of Toritos.

February 23, Machu Picchu

We got up early to eat breakfast at our hotel and meet our Machu Picchu guide, Victor Hugo Quispeinga Alvarez, so we could board the 6 a.m. bus to Machu Picchu. We rode up the twisty gravel road and arrived at the gate. But it was foggy and we couldn’t see a thing. Victor assured us that the sun would come out by 9 a.m., and it did!

Machu Picchu
The clouds started to lift at about 8 am.

Machu Picchu Llama
One of the resident llamas at Machu Picchu posing in front of the small mountain called Huayna Picchu.

Machu Picchu
We wish you could be here with us.

Poverty levels in Peru

Yannina talks about the 3 levels of poverty. The first level is when poor people move closer to the city to find work. They usually end up in places like this where they can squat for a while and stake a claim to a small piece of land. No water, no sewer, no electricity, no roads – just a little one room stick and straw house.

The second and third levels of poverty in Peru. When people get a job they start to build a more solid house and get access to water and electricity – level 2. When the government builds roads, brings in sewers and street lights it is considered to be level 3. Many artisans started out in level 1 several years ago and now are moving into level 2 and 3. They probably won’t move into middle class until 2 or 3 generations down the road.

February 22, Cusco to Aguas Calientes

Peru Learning Tour
Luciano and Veronica holding the chickens and bunnies in a basket that they make for Ten Thousand Villages.

We started out from the San Augustin El Dorado Hotel in Cusco at 7 am and headed for the ceramic workshop of Luciano Choque Mama and Veronica Herrera Auccapure. They are a husband and wife team that have been making ceramics for 28 years, 20 years at their current location. They’re on a hillside above Cusco and have been working on building and improving their house and workshop for the past 8 years.

They have worked with Manos Amigas for 15 years and say that one of the biggest benefits to them is the 50% advance payment and prompt payment when orders are delivered. Luciano said that interest rates for a small business loan would cost 6% per month, an annual percentage rate of close to 100%.

Just up the road from Pisac was the ceramic whistle workshop of Vincente Rey. He makes a variety of ceramic ocarinas and whistles. He recently lost a large part of his export business because Minka, a former fair trade organization, went out of business. Yannina at Manos Amigas is hoping to help him reconnect with some of his previous export customers.

Peru Learning Tour
Vicente played a little tune for us on one of his ocarinas.

Peru Learning Tour
Joyce is walking toward the front door of Vicente’s house near Pisac.

February 20, Nazca Lines

This morning we got up to another fine day and drove over to the local Nazca airport to board our small airplanes to see the Nazca Lines from the air. Soon after we were in the air we could see long, perfectly straight lines in the desert and various interesting designs or geoglyphs like the hands, hummingbird, whale and monkey. The lines and pictures were made by the Nazca people probably between 400 and 650 AD. The lines and pictures were made by scraping away the top layer of darker soil and rocks to expose the lighter earth underneath. The scraped away rocks were piled up along the side of the line. Nobody seems to be sure why they were made.

Nazca Lines - Whale
The whale with a broad ‘line’ running right through the middle.

Nazca Lines - Hummingbird
The humming bird squeezed between an interesting geological formation on the right and a bunch of lines on the left.

February 18, Visits with Intercrafts Peru Artisans in Lurin

We had enjoyed a very busy day visiting 7 artisan group workshops in Lurin and Villa El Salvador, two communities south of Lima, with Ruth de la Cruz Quispe of Intercrafts Peru (CIAP). Ruth met us at the Bayview Hotel in Miraflores and we drove south for about an hour to Lurin. Lurin is a community where many artisan families have settled after fleeing the violence in the highlands 20 to 30 years ago. We visited artisans who are members of the group called Ichimay Wari which sells many of their products through Intercrafts Peru.

The first ceramics workshop that we visited was called Ccori Maki, owned by Emiliano Orellana Castro. He employs 4 of his neighbors in his ceramics workshop.

Peru Learning Tour
 Richard, Eber and Dora at work in Emiliano Orellana Castro’s workshop in Lurin.

Next we visited the workshop of Juan Nolasco who is also the President of Ichimay Wari. His workshop is called Taller Illinco and it currently employs Juan and his wife. He showed us some of the innovative ceramic products he is working on and told us about his teaching job at a local private university, Pacifica University. He teaches traditional ceramics and tries to instill both ceramic making skills and cultural knowledge in his students.

Peru Learning Tour
Juan and Ruth (Intercrafts Peru) discussing a piece made by one of Juan’s students.

We then moved on to Taller Urin Tambo where we met Donato Ore and his wife Theresa who specialize in making retablos – scenes in a box that tell a story about culture, religion or just everyday life. Donato learned retablo making in Ayacucho from a master craftsman but had to flee from Ayacucho about 20 years ago. He ended up in Lurin and has been successful enough to send one child to university (studying business management) and the other is about to graduate from high school.

Peru Learning Tour
Donato in his workshop.

Peru Learning Tour
Retablo showing a mask shop at the time of a special celebration in Ayacucho.

Before lunch we visited the workshop owned by Emilio Fernandez and his wife Matelena Ayme. Emilio is a weaver and Matelena organizes women embroiderers in Ayacucho to do colorful embroidery on Emilio’s woven pieces. Matelena uses all natural dyes to color the embroidery thread. Natural dye stuffs include roots, berries, rocks, leaves and cochineal beetles.

Peru Learning Tour
Emilio and Matelena with one of their woven and embroidered pillow covers.

February 18, Villa El Salvador

The first workshop we visited in Villa El Salvador was owned by Emilio and Eduarda Calderon. They are a husband and wife team that makes silver and alpaca jewelry. They were working on an order for 1,500 necklaces for Ten Thousand Villages. Emilio showed us how the necklaces are made, proving to us that all the components are indeed hand made. The twisted wire, all the bends and curves, all the little loops and clasps and hooks are made by hand and assembled by hand.

Peru Learning Tour
Emilio and Eduarda are making this new necklace for Ten Thousand Villages. They can make about 600 a month so it will take them more than 2 months to make our order for 1,500.

Peru Learning Tour
Emilio and Eduarda showing off their new necklace in their workshop home.

Spinning Rainbow Earrings
Romulo is wrapping colorful thread around a circular spring shape to form rainbow hued earrings.

Peru Learning Tour
Beatriz and Romulo showed us how each component of intricate jewelry like this piece are done entirely by hand. No mass production processes.

Peru Learning Tour
We all enjoyed our visit with Romulo and Beatriz. Ruth from Intercrafts Peru was a great host and guide for our day of visiting Intercrafts artisans.

February 17, Allpa and Fermin Vilcapoma, Silver Jewelry Artisan

Fermin Vilcapoma at his jewelry workshop – Fermin moved to this location over twenty years ago when he started out in a very small one story house that served as both his home and workshop. He soon developed a relationship with Allpa and eventually got orders from Ten Thousand Villages through Allpa. He told us that he considers Ten Thousand Villages to be one of his most important and loyal customers. His home and workshop has now grown to 4 stories, the bottom two are his home and the top two are the workshop. Fermin is the designer and master craftsman and his wife, Madeleine, is the business manager and accountant. Fermin told us that he is currently employing 8 people but that can grow to more than 20 people when he is busy with orders. It was good to see the good working relationship between Fermin and Luis of Allpa and between Fermin and his jewelry workers.

The neighborhood around Fermin’s home and workshop in San Juan de Lurigancho. New people from the countryside are moving in every day looking for work in the big city. Fermin told us that he feels fortunate to have steady orders for jewelry from Allpa and Ten Thousand Villages.

Jewelry Making Process
Silver jewelry workbench and artisan in Fermin’s workshop.

While we watched, Fermin crafted a unique silver bracelet. He started with a raw hunk of silver and presented us with a finished bracelet in about 30 minutes. Luis organized a quick raffle amongst our tour members and Kristine was the lucky and happy winner. Here she is showing off her new bracelet with Franco, Fermin’s son, and Fermin.


Luis Heller, General Manager for Allpa gave us a great tour of the office and warehouse, introducing us to the staff people who work there and explaining how Allpa got started, who they work with today and how they work at new product design and development.

Luis explaining textile details to Elizabeth, Gabby, Joyce and Darlene at Allpa’s design workshop.

Noel demonstrating hand loom weaving for us in Allpa’s workshop for developing new products.

It was Mandy’s birthday today and Allpa treated her to a small birthday cake with candle and a fine alpaca shawl.

Doug Dirks

Doug Dirks,

Ten Thousand Villages, Former Community Relations Director

Doug Dirks has developed relationships with many artisans in developing countries during his more than 20 years of work for Ten Thousand Villages.

Dirks has traveled to many of the 37 countries where Ten Thousand Villages buys products and has met many of the artisans who handcraft the products featured at Ten Thousand Villages. His travels have enabled him to collect many personal artisan stories showing how sales through Ten Thousand Villages have positively affected the lives of artisans, their families and their communities.




A Blog from Ten Thousand Villages

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Mosaic brings you stories that help you make fair trade and global culture part of your style, home and life.