Meet Gregoria

By Allegra Bundy, Marketing and Communications Intern

As I greet Gregoria in her community of Huilloc Bajo, the air is filled with music from the surrounding Carnival celebrations. These have been going on for a few weeks now and the traditional Andean sounds resonate throughout the whole valley. Only a few of the women have stayed behind, while others are dancing and celebrating in neighboring communities.

After a some fast paced chatting in Quechua, Compañera Gregoria and her friend settle as she tells me: “I’ve been with Awamaki for almost six years.” For those who might not be familiar with the Spanish term compañera, it is used to warmly greet women in Peru. Translated roughly as “companion”, compañera is how we address the artisans and vice versa.

Mother of three, two girls and a boy, her work in sustainable tourism has helped her support her family financially. Along with tours, Awamaki also provides workshops for Huilloc. Through these, Gregoria has been able to ensure the best quality for the tours her community leads. Ultimately, our goal is to help Huilloc graduate and join our Songuillay cooperative. The skills the artisans learn during these workshops – cleaning their space, hosting, and presenting – help them move towards graduation, which will allow them to have their own clients and host their own tours. “Awamaki has been helping me a lot, I’m learning about cleaning and such in workshops,” she mentioned as she adjusted her montera, a traditional hat from the region.

Monteras vary greatly across regions. Gregoria tells me that although they buy the “hat” portion of the montera, the bead work is all up to artistic freedom and handmade by each of them. It took her about a month to complete the intricate beadwork. “It’s my decision what I put on my montera, I really like animals,” she explains as she points to the various elaborate images.

She smiled while showing another volunteer how weave the right colors into her bracelet, “I like when people come for tours, and I like teaching.” We love working with women who are as passionate and dedicated to learning as they are to teaching.