Magazine article New Internationalist

A Tale of Two Artisans

Magazine article New Internationalist

A Tale of Two Artisans

Article excerpt

Santos Quispe (left)is a big, warmhearted man, with a mature, earthy graciousness. I find him taking the count at local elections in the artisan's barrio of Santa Ana. He's hardly changed with the passage of time, save perhaps for a touch more grey and gravitas. But his circumstances have. In 1985 he ran a weaving workshop, taking in refugee campesino boys from the countryside and training them. At that time he complained about how the Army harassed the boys, suspecting any campesino of being a terrorist. One after another they disappeared.

Today he has all but given up weaving. Fujimori's liberalization of the economy has flooded the market with cheap imports, making it even harder for local producers of any kind to make a living. Now he mainly works as a musician, teaching, playing at concerts and fiestas and composing his own music. For him it's going back to his roots since he comes from a long line of musicians.

He's as open with me now as he was before -- showing me family photos, telling their history and even showing me the shrine in the corner where he keeps the bones of his parents. In a ramshackle old storeroom he shows me a statue of the Virgin he particularly loves for its unusual naturalistic pose.

Not everyone is as calmly outspoken as Santos Quispe. Floro Carceres Guerra (right) is another artisan I manage to track down. He makes retablos, the little painted boxes typical of Ayacucho which are crammed with painted clay figures, often enacting scenes from the Bible or with elements from peasant folklore. …

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