By Vivian Smith, Sustainable Tourism Coordinator

FelicitasYKaseyThis year, Awamaki was excited to host Felicitas, a young woman from the weaving village of Patacancha, as our first Peruvian intern. In April, she led her first Awamaki tour to the village. This was the first Quechua Community Visit–Awamaki’s most popular tour–led by a woman from the community.

Felicitas’s mother is a member of the Songuillay cooperative in Patacancha. She led the tour in Spanish, while our U.S. intern Caleigh helped by communicating key information in English when necessary.

Felicitas is studying to be a tourism guide at Instituto La Salle in Urubamba, a vocational education institution. Familiar with Awamaki’s work for years, she applied to intern with the Sustainable Tourism program for her summer internship. She completed an impressive 265 hours at Awamaki. She worked to learn the tour script for the Quechua Community Visit, add valuable local knowledge to enrich our current tours, manage online reservations and payments, input data into Microsoft Excel, and learn English from our volunteers and staff while also teaching them Quechua.

The final project of her internship was to lead the Quechua Community Visit to Patacancha for a group of Awamaki volunteers. This tour celebrated Felicitas’ three months of hard work and the March 2015 launch of the new weaving center. The Songuillay cooperative, composed of 36 female artisans, purchased the land on which their center sits and built the weaving huts with the help of their husbands. Awamaki and its donors are supporting the project by purchasing wood and other necessary construction materials.

Volunteers and staff alike were impressed by Felicitas’ confidence and, of course, her extensive knowledge of her community and the weaving tradition. Being a skilled weaver herself, she demonstrated the yarn spinning process and taught the tourists how to spin alpaca fiber into yarn using the phuska, the Andean drop spindle. She explained the traditional clothing worn by the women and answered a question that the tourism team had never before been asked: On the woman’s traditional hat [the montera], why do some women wear a thicker hand beaded chinstrap while others wear a thin beaded chinstrap?

The answer: Younger women style a wide[r] hand-beaded chinstrap, and as you get older, you make your chinstrap narrower. Women will hand bead between one and three straps per year, each with brilliant colors and designs that reflect their personality.

Felicitas’ successful internship and tour has motivated the tourism team to recruit more local tourism students for our January – March 2016 internship program.

CallyYFelicitas