By Leah Leonard, a Sustainable Tourism Volunteer

Awamaki’s basket weaving teacher, Francisco “Pancho” Carbajal, has been making baskets since he was 12 years old. He learned from his father, Lucio Carbajal, a well-respected Ollantino who was considered a jack-of-all-trades. When he wasn’t teaching his five sons how to make baskets, he filled his days by playing the violin, delivering babies, cutting hair at a local peluquería, crafting leather horse muzzles, and even predicting the future with coca leaves!

Though Pancho didn’t particularly like making the laborious baskets when he was younger, he now continues in his father’s footsteps and teaches his trade to interested tourists. The entire process is a four-day undertaking that requires help from the whole family. On the first day, they wake up at 4:00AM in order to reach the nearby mountainside by daybreak to collect materials. Together they forage for up to six hours in search of branches from the Huaman pp’ita, a native tree that makes the finest baskets. Because of a recent fire, this tree is currently a scarce resource, forcing Pancho and his family to hike even further up the mountain in search of materials; however, Pancho is hopeful that next year there will be new growth. Once all the materials have been collected, Pancho and his family must remove all the leaves in order to prepare the branches for weaving. The branches must then be sorted into categories by width and height to be used for different sections of the baskets.

After all this preparation, Pancho can finally begin the weaving process. It takes him just under two hours to complete one basket, less than half the time it takes his students! Pancho is one of the few remaining people in the Sacred Valley that knows how to weave these beautiful baskets and he has taught his children, Jack (23), Jonathon (21), and Hilary (18), how to weave in an effort to keep the tradition alive within the family. Unlike Pancho, they enjoyed learning from their father because they understood the importance of continuing this dying art.

Learning to weave baskets with Pancho and his family is truly a unique Ollantaytambo experience. During the four-hour workshop at Pancho’s house, you’ll learn to make a beautiful huamanpita woven Peruvian basket to take home or give to a friend or loved one!  Please visit the Awamaki Sustainable Tourism website at http://awamakitours.rezgo.com/ for more details and to reserve your spot! The workshop is available Monday through Saturday at 10AM or 2PM. Please keep in mind that Pancho requests groups of at least five people in order to prepare all the necessary materials, so if you would like to book the basket weaving workshop with less than five people, please contact tours@awamaki.org and we will see if we can connect you with a larger group!