Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

El Dorado: Fair Markets for Artisans

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

El Dorado: Fair Markets for Artisans

Article excerpt

Invoking the legendary name of El Dorado, a new marketing initiative in Bolivia is seeking not Andean gold but the region's true treasure, the preservation of its people and their culture. El Dorado: The Route of Fair Trade is a program of the Fundacion Carmen, which sponsors the work of women artisans and brings their products to market. The foundation is attempting to create a bridge between ancestral worlds and a globablized one. It takes advantage of the opportunity offered by the U. S. Preferential Trade Accord with the Andean countries, which seeks to bolster the profitability through trade of legitimate products and assist the governments of the Andean nations in their efforts to suppress the illicit drug trade.

Highlighting the importance of the foundation's work, the Government of Bolivia recently hosted an exhibition and marketing promotion of traditional textile crafts at the Organization of American States headquarters in Washington.

"The work of Bolivian women--specifically to create working opportunities and stable incomes--is at the center of the developmental actions and sustainable democracy of Bolivian society," said the First Lady of Bolivia, Ximena Iturralde de Sanchez de Lozada, at the exhibition opening.

A just remuneration for the artisan is the guiding principle of the El Dorado marketing program, which promotes the export of not only textile crafts made by groups associated with Fundacion Carmen, but also the weavings produced in Bolivia through ASUR (Anthropologists of the Southern Andes) and CIDAC--Arte Campo. El Dorado currently benefits more than two thousand women artisans.

Bringing their products to market, negotiating a fair price for products of stunning beauty, and generating added income for some of the poorer regions of Bolivia has stimulated a phenomenon: a new sense of culture rural pride as well as new methods of artistic expression. The textiles should not only be considered crafts of exceptional quality, but 'also as works of art with a universal heritage.

While the exhibition included the weavers' products of several regions, its principal focus was the Tarabuco mad Jalq'a textiles of south central Bolivia. These art forms have survived with great difficulty; indigenous societies have by no means escaped the effects of modernization and globalization.

Despite such challenges, these two indigenous groups have manage to maintain their ancient weaving traditions into the present century. Moreover, the present elements of the Jalq'a told Tarabuco are in such striking contrast to each other as to highlight the great range of traditional textile craft in Bolivia. …

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