• 2016 Rising Star Cooperative Member: Rosa Benitez Mondaca

    Rosa cropped


    At first glance Rosa Benitez Mondaca doesn’t look like a risk taker. However, her secret for success is just that – she’s not afraid to try new things. This willingness to step outside of her comfort zone has paid off for Rosa, who is now producing knitwear orders for an independent client in Cusco.


    Rosa looks like a mom more than anything – a fact of which she is proud. Her nineteen-year-old son is in university in Cusco studying anthropology. She also has a sweet fourteen-year-old daughter who is disabled and stays home with her. When asked why she originally started working with Awamaki and the Puente Inca cooperative four years ago, she said “to help support my children more.”


    Rosa’s husband works full-time on their chakra, or farm. Because of this she lives far from the center of Puente Inca but is one of the most punctual members of the cooperative. Rosa doesn’t mind making the long journey for group meetings because of the chance to receive new orders and learn from the group. She is always encouraging her fellow cooperative members to learn new techniques and take on challenging orders, something they are hesitant to do. “When they don’t know how to do something, they don’t want to take the risk,” mentioned Rosa.


    When the owner of Hilo, a clothing store in Cusco, approached Awamaki asking if we knew of anyone who could knit custom sweaters on occasion, one candidate stood out. While the other members of Puente Inca might still be hesitant to take on a client like this, we knew Rosa was up for the job because of her consistent involvement with the cooperative and openness to new opportunities. She gladly accepted the position!


    Even though Rosa has found success working independently with a client, she doesn’t want to leave her cooperative behind. As the new year approaches, she hopes to help her fellow knitters learn new techniques, become comfortable with challenging orders, and work together as a group to take on an independent client.


    Personally, Rosa hopes to use her extra income to finish her house in 2017. She also hopes to continue to support her daughter and son in whatever they need next year. For her dedication to her family, her cooperative, and her work, we are honored to congratulate Rosa as the 2016 Rising Star Cooperative Member.



    Posted on December 5, 2016
  • Check out our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide!

    Visit to find these great gifts and more. All products are fair-trade and handmade by rural women in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

    Holiday Gift Guide 2016

    Posted on November 28, 2016
  • Help Awamaki Support Fair Trade This October!

    By: Alex Boehler, Marketing and Communications Intern


    The month of October means many different things all over the world. In the northern hemisphere the leaves are changing, nights are getting colder, and fall is in full swing. In the southern hemisphere the days are getting warmer, rain is starting to fall, and the earth is growing greener. October has one thing in common across the hemispheres; it is a time for change.


    At Awamaki, we celebrate this time of change in the form of Fair Trade Month. Although we highlight our artisans year round, October is a special month to focus on the principles that guide our activities with our cooperatives. So join us this Fair Trade Month in celebrating and supporting products that are fair – fair to humans, communities, women, children, the environment, and to ourselves.


    When you buy fair trade products at Awamaki, you are supporting:


    Women: When our artisans prove that they can help support their families, their partners will be more likely to share the responsibilities of the household, leading to more equality in the home. Asunta Quispe Yupanqui, a cooperative member, explained that because the women “are contributing income, they share their money with their husbands and make decisions about expenses together”.



    Families: A member of our Women’s Cooperative Program, Nicolasa, said “I now have the liberty to spend my money” and the cooperative agreed, saying that, “We no longer have to look in our husbands pockets”. When women are able to earn extra income themselves, they can spend it on what they value most like supporting their children’s education, making improvements on their homes, and promoting their family’s health by purchasing fresh vegetables and toiletries.



    Communities: Members of our Women’s Cooperative Program collectively buy land for their weaving centers, making long-term investments that promote economic growth and sustain local culture. The women work together to enact change. Awamaki’s Director of Impact and International Sales, Giulia Debernardini, tells the women, “You are a team – not individuals. As an association, you must work together to improve yourselves and your products.”



    The Environment: All of Awamaki’s products are local to the Sacred Valley. Awamaki’s Head Designer, Jess Sheehan, explains, “Our hand spun line is a completely integrated product. We start by shearing alpacas owned by the women’s families, which is then brought to our community in Huilloc to be cleaned and spun. After inspection, the wool is dyed using local plants, minerals, and insects and finally knitted or woven by members of the Women’s Cooperative Program into a final design.” Our unique vertical integration design model leads to a very small environmental footprint and gives you the confidence that your product is made working with the environment instead of against it.



    Tradition: Buying products that are unique to a culture help to preserve it. When a market is created for a traditional product, there is incentive to continue the tradition and thus preserve it. Eulogia Quispe, 13-year-old daughter of weaver Isabela Quispe, told Awamaki her dream is to grow up to “be a professional like my mother, [so] I am studying textiles”. Our traditional natural dye, color theory, and weaving workshops help sustain the growth of traditional folk art through generations.



    Even if you can’t visit us in Ollantaytambo this October, you can always celebrate Fair Trade Month with us online. Share with us your favorite Awamaki fair trade product on social media, or visit our store at to purchase one of our fair trade products.

    Posted on October 17, 2016
  • Meet the Songuillay Tourism Team

    Mercedes opens the Tourism meeting
    Mercedes opens the Tourism meeting

    “Even if you are doing well, there is always room for improvement. You have to continue to work hard and seek out ways to better yourselves.”


    The Awamaki team and Songuillay cooperative took to heart these wise words uttered by Mercedes Durand, head of our Women’s Cooperative Program, at the beginning of our tourism meeting this past July. Our Songuillay cooperative located in Patacancha has some of the best Awamaki weavers in its group, but they can now count themselves as a strong tourism association as well. During the tourism high-season this year, the group excelled at booking and leading tours, even getting some groups from external tourist agencies aside from Awamaki.


    We are proud of Songuillay, but noticed that their growing success was putting stress on Elena, their current president. Because Awamaki wants Songuillay to keep moving forward and have the organizational leadership to do so, we called a meeting with the group to elect a junta directiva, or leadership board, similar to those used by our weaving and knitting cooperatives.


    So without further ado, Awamaki and Songuillay are proud to announce the new 2016 Tourism Leadership Team!


    Elena Mamani, President
    Elena Mamani is the current president of Songuillay. She is an amazing leader but was unable to handle the increased responsibilities of tourism by herself. Having a new leadership team at her side will allow her to focus on improving the tour through training sessions in cooking, homestays, cleanliness, and anything else that will improve the experience of visitors to Patacancha. She will also continue working closely with the leaders of different tour rotation groups in order to get better feedback and hear new ideas. It has been amazing to see Elena grow into her role as a standout leader and have the confidence to call on her fellow cooperative members for help.


    Jesusa Quispe Machacca, Vice-President and Reservations Manager
    Jesusa Quispe Machacca is the current vice-president of Songuillay, and now their new reservations manager. In addition to shadowing Elena and helping her with trainings, Jesusa will be in charge of answering tour inquiries on the phone. Her cooperative members elected her to this position because she is fluent in Spanish as well as Quechua and has the confidence to travel to Ollantaytambo and Cusco to pass out tour advertisements. Her increased responsibility will allow Jesusa to hone her skills at tour promotion and working with Spanish-speaking tour operators.


    Albertina Yupanqui, Treasurer and Finances Manager
    Albertina Yupanqui is the new treasurer and finances manager of Songuillay. She is one of Awamaki’s top sellers during tours and knows her way around a numbers sheet. She will now be keeping track of payments for every tour as well as training the women in how to keep track of their own finances. At the end of each month she will be responsible for reporting to Awamaki the amount we owe to each tour group and to each individual weaver. We will also be keeping track, but this is a great learning opportunity for Albertina and the other members of Songuillay to see the correlation between how much they worked on what day and their resulting payment.


    Rudecinda Sullcapuma, Secretary
    Rudecinda Sullcapuma is the new secretary of Songuillay and rounds out the Tourism Leadership Team. Rudecinda will accompany Elena to training sessions and meetings to take notes. It’s a smaller job but an essential one so that the cooperative can have a record of their activities. Rudecinda was elected to this position because she can write, but more importantly because she is excited to improve her writing. She cannot write perfectly yet, but this will be a great opportunity for her to practice frequently and get better.

    sabina maria
    Sabina Medina smiles during the election of her fellow weavers
    Posted on September 20, 2016
  • Success by Design for Awamaki Team at NY NOW

    Awamaki Booth at NY NOW
    Awamaki Booth at NY NOW

    “You can’t design from a distance,” explained Anny Caba, an Awamaki Design Intern, to visitors of the Awamaki booth at NY NOW, as she described our unique design model that brings young designers to work with our artisans in Peru. Members of the Awamaki team traveled to NY NOW, a wholesale products and innovative designs tradeshow, in order to network with clients from all over the U.S. and further connect our artisans to international markets. Our beautiful, handmade Awamaki products drew visitors to the booth, but many stayed to hear more about our unique model of empowering women artisans.


    Anny, recently returned from her experience designing alongside our artisans, chatted with potential clients not only about our designs and products but also her time in Peru. She explained that “many people were shocked that we don’t just import; they were impressed that we work in and out of Peru with the artisans directly.” Visitors also commented positively about our fair trade membership and use of natural dyes. Awamaki Executive Director, Kennedy Leavens, said that the interest Awamaki received at NY NOW was notably an improvement from the past. She emphasized that “it’s not just about the orders you place, but the connections you make. It’s about creating opportunities to connect the women to potential markets.”

    Baby Brights baby leg warmers
    Baby Brights baby leg warmers making their debut at NY NOW

    What has Awamaki done to step up our game at these tradeshows? Annie Millican, the founder of Awamaki’s design programs, then known as Awamaki Lab, stopped by our table at NY NOW. She attributed our success to the cohesiveness and color palette used in our products and collections. She noted that we had moved away from the classic Peruvian designs and colors in order to showcase traditional designs in modern colors and arrangements.  Awamaki’s transition to a more modern aesthetic that continues to display Peruvian culture impressed current and past members of the Awamaki design team alike.


    Giulia Debernardini, Head of Sales, attended NY NOW and worked hard to turn our connections into concrete numbers. Overall, she reports that we made 5 new retail partners, 6 on-site orders, 50 new potential clients to connect with, and over $3,000 worth of sales at the show alone.


    Thank you for your support in helping our artisans develop the designs that we were able to present at NY NOW. Increasing business in this way will generate more work for our artisans and in turn more income that they can reinvest into their families and communities.

    Awamaki staff and friends
    Awamaki team reunion of Kennedy, Annie, and Anne Marie
    Posted on September 20, 2016
  • A little more than just tourists…


    by Christina Parodi, Marketing & Communications Intern

    Watching mother and daughter, Tina and Olivia, interact with each other during their time with Awamaki was like watching two best friends as they completed each other’s thoughts and bonded over their new experiences.

    Tina joked that she “calls her FFB, forever first baby, because she won’t let me call her BFF,” and Olivia blushed bright red complaining about how that was, “so much worse.”

    This duo embarked on this incredible week with Awamaki hoping to experience real Andean culture by living with a family in town and joining our weaving immersion weekend, truly understanding the work that goes into a beautiful textile.

    With Tina’s husband Ben in the Inca Avalanche bike races, Tina and Olivia decided to search for a slightly different experience of Ollantaytambo while he stayed in a hotel with his new friends. After a simple internet search of the best things to do in Ollantaytambo, Tina came across Awamaki, deciding on staying in a week-long homestay while her husband bonded with his fellow competitors. Exchanging stories over dinner at the homestay, Tina and Olivia were able to compare their completely different experience of Ollantaytambo with husband and father, Ben.

    With bits of confetti still stuck in her hair from her, cumpleaños, Olivia giggled about how her homestay family had a little, fiesta, for her birthday the day before, feeding her cake and celebrating. When talking about their homestay in Ollantaytambo, Tina was amazed at how loving and drawn the women in the family were to her daughter and how positive the whole experience had been. She loved that Olivia was always asked to come back and how the women fussed over her, making sure she was always comfortable.


    This was the first time Tina and Olivia had ever done something just the two of them before, and being able to directly experience the rich culture in Ollantaytambo through their homestay was an incredible and eye-opening experience for the both of them. Olivia, not yet done with school, went on about how nervous she was to present her experience to her entire class in lieu of her schoolwork that week. Despite the nerves, Olivia seemed excited and definitely had a lot to say to her class, being able to “see people’s culture outside an actual hotel, living with them, and seeing exactly what they do.”

    While Tina’s husband raced in the finals of the Inca Avalanche, one of the highest bike races in the world, she decided to try our weaving immersion weekend tour to g

    et away from the craziness of the last race. It was obvious from the moment we arrived in Patacancha that both Tina and Olivia were after a real connection with the women and the culture.

    As we trudged through the mud for our first weaving lesson, they already showed signs of the women’s affection, wrapped in warm textiles by their homestay mother. They co

    uld not stop talking about how wonderful the food their homestay mother cooked was, and how they never ate the same thing twice. By the end of the weekend, after hours of practicing, Tina commented on how she was still struggling with her design and how surprised she was at how difficult it was. This was a humbling experience for the two, seeing the pride that comes from the women and their work and understanding the amount of effort the women put in each textile.


    Posted on April 20, 2016
  • Shear Quality: Shearing Alpacas in Rural Perú

    By Sydney Perlotto, Marketing and Communications Intern

    adam4Alpacas are renowned for their soft fleece, but few people know the intimate details of alpaca fleece harvesting like Adam Riley, a professional alpaca shearer with eight years of experience in both the United States and Europe. He has spent half his life with alpacas, and volunteered with Awamaki this past winter in order to improve our alpaca fleece processing.

    Long before Adam discovered Awamaki, he had been thinking about coming to Peru, the land of the alpaca.

    “It’s always been a dream of mine to come here and work with the Quechua people, and to see alpacas in their native environment.”

    Adam carried his expertise and equipment up into the communities that we work in, living on the alpaca farms with families for anywhere from three to nine days at a time. He worked with the men to show them his style of shearing, such as how to separate the higher-quality fleece from the lower quality. Adam normally uses an electrical shearing machine, but since there is no electricity up on the chakra, or farm, he used traditional hand shears. Most of the families use even more basic equipment, sometimes shearing with just a sharp kitchen knife.

    Adam mostly worked with the husbands to show them his techniques, since they are the ones who traditionally shear the alpacas.

    “With a women’s-based cooperative, the men often do not participate in most of our processes. Getting to work so closely with the families – particularly the men – and build relationships with them was a unique experience that I think they really enjoyed.”

    Awamaki is in the process of improving our line of hand-spun alpaca yarn. In the past, there have been problems with the cleanliness of the alpaca fiber, with debris and dirt remaining in the final product. Additionally, the type of fleece used for the hand-spun line needs to be of very high quality in order to be acceptable in European and US markets.


    After completing the season’s shearing, Adam worked with the women in our cooperatives to show them how to sort and skirt the fiber. Thanks to Adam and another volunteer, Karina, Awamaki now has a wonderful alpaca fiber sorting and cleaning guidebook for each of the cooperatives. Overall, sharing his skills with the communities resulted in a great cultural exchange.


    “Living and working alongside the families gave me an inside look into life in rural Peru and the Andes – which is really basic. But the people, they have such strong family ties, they are genuinely happy, they are healthy, and they are hardworking. I think they have the right values in life, and I was incredibly humbled and fortunate to spend the time that I did with them.”

    The next steps for our handspun yarn line are to purchase alpaca fiber washing equipment for our cooperative in Huilloc and develop standardized yarn weights with the help of our expert knitwear volunteers. Each step brings us closer to the release of our 100 percent natural alpaca hand-spun yarn line! These yarns will be used by our knitting cooperatives to expand our handspun knitwear line, and they will also be for sale directly to the public for the first time. Look for them in our store in Peru and online!

    Posted on April 14, 2016
  • Student project dedication ceremony in Pisac


    Yovana, Jhetsamyra and Laura at the school. All photos by Laura Brokaw, Human Resources Manager

    This past year, Awamaki had the privilege of hosting the Youth Ambassadors Program with South America (YAPSA), a program of the U.S. Department of State. This program sends youth from the U.S. to Peru and Bolivia, and youth from Peru and Bolivia to visit the U.S. We have enjoyed facilitating the exchange of experiences with the groups of talented youth ambassadors who visited us. We have also enjoyed getting to know the Peruvian ambassadors who visited the U.S.


    One of the requirements of participants is creating and implementing a project that contributes to the improvement of their community. On January 28, one of our Peruvian ambassadors, Jhetsamyra Baca, inaugurated her finished project in Amaru. The small indigenous community above Pisac celebrated the dedication of a new interactive library for their primary school. Yovana, our president, and Laura, who oversaw the YAPSA program, attended the happy event.

    A big part of Jhetsamyra’s project was the promotion of gender equality. Before the dedication, she went up to the primary school to do a workshop with the students. At first, the children were indignant – especially the young boys who were made to take care of baby dolls. By the end of the workshop, even the most stubborn child got caught up in her/his activity.

    At Awamaki, we loved seeing a young person from a rural village in Cusco go out into the world and bring something back for her community. We think this is just the beginning for Jhetsamyra!


    The children at the school thank Jhetsamyra for the library.
    Posted on April 14, 2016
  • Voices of International Women’s Day

    by Sydney Perlotto, Marketing & Communications Intern

    As another International Women’s Day approaches, we at Awamaki asked ourselves: What makes International Women’s Day worth celebrating? As a non-profit working for rural women’s empowerment in Peru with a staff made up of Peruvian and international women, sometimes it feels like every day is International Women’s Day.

    These women who work for and are impacted by Awamaki inspire us, so this year, we thought we would go directly to the source of what International Women‘s Day is about – and ask some of these women to reflect on what the day means to them.

    Operations Director Yovanna Candela, sees International Women’s Day as a day for “recognizing the equal rights of women and men, as well as a day for recognizing the performance of women both professionally and within their homes.” Yovanna enjoys interacting daily with both our local and international teams at Awamaki and seeing how our programs impact more than just our direct beneficiaries.


    Eulogia International womens dayOne of those indirect beneficiaries is Eulogia Quispe, the 13-year-old daughter of an Awamaki weaver, Eulogia has seen the opportunities that weaving has created for her mother. She told us her dream is to grow up to “be a professional like my mother, so I am studying textiles.” Although Isabela is a single mother who does not know how to read or write, the money she earns weaving allows her to not only care for her daughter, but also serve as a successful role model for her.

    Women’s empowerment is also important to Carys John, an 18-year-old Sustainable Tourism volunteer with Awamaki. Carys says that “International Women’s Day means recognizing that gender inequality is still a problem all around the globe.” She chose to work with Awamaki because “our goal is to empower those we work with, and [International Women’s Day] at Awamaki means recognizing the achievements of these wonderful women who work so hard for their families and communities.”

    Jenny and daughter Intl women's dayFor Jenny Alvarez Molina, International Women’s Day means providing opportunities for her daughter Bianca, who is six-years-old. Jenny teaches Spanish through one of Awamaki’s programs. She has big dreams for her daughter, hoping that “she will be able to study at university, since I was not able to.” She says that economic opportunities for women “are very good because women are able to have an income, and in turn create more stable lives for their children.”

    Mercedes Durand, head of our Women’s Cooperative Program, celebrates International Women’s Day by reflecting on the achievements of women past and present. She says that “Women have always been the keystone for the development of society, dedicating themselves to caring for their families even when they have not been recognized for their responsibilities.” Mercedes best sums up Awamaki’s approach to empowering women with the Spanish acrostic poem that she wrote for this blog post. M-U-J-E-R in Spanish means “woman.”

    mercedes and weavers on boat

    MADRE (mother)

    UNICA (unique)

    JOVIAL (joyful)

    ESTUDIOSA (studious)

    RESPONSABLE (responsible)

    Posted on March 8, 2016
  • You Know You Live in Ollantaytambo When…

    by Kiki Cokorinos, Marketing & Communications Intern


    1. You’re excited to wake up early on Tuesdays to stop by the fruit trucks before work.

    Let’s face it: Tuesday is the best day of the week. You’ll buy kilos of cheap, beautiful fruit brought in straight from the jungle, and wonder how they managed to make a mango taste this good. Chirimoya, where have you been all my life?



    2. You’re on a first-name basis with Norma because of how frequently you go for cake.

    If you’ve ever tried her chocolate cake, this needs no explanation.

    3. You carry at least 3 layers with you everywhere you go, because who knows what the weather will be like today.

    Blazing sun, gusting winds, gloomy rain… and that was just in the last hour. If you live in Ollanta, you know how to be prepared—and will probably still wind up carrying that jacket around with you all day.


    4. You avoid certain shops, restaurants, etc., because you think they’re “too touristy.”

    Because you’re NOT a tourist, you’re NOT just on your way to Machu Picchu; you’re lucky enough to call this beautiful town home. Although deep down you know this notion is ridiculous, and it doesn’t really stop you from going to your favorite pizza place.


    5. You’re highly skilled at entertaining yourself without Wi-Fi.

    That’s an easy one. Who cares about what’s happening on Facebook when you’re surrounded by these beautiful mountains? Between hiking, cooking, playing cards, and salsa class, you really don’t miss it. Books and movies are constantly getting passed around Awamaki. You can come into the office after hours to use Wi-Fi if you need to, but in no time you’ll find that spending time with people offline is way more fun anyway.

    6. You know when to avoid Avenida Ferrocarril according to the train schedule.

    This lesson is often learned the hard way, but once you deal with that traffic once you will thereafter consider when the train arrives and leaves for Machu Picchu when planning your trips to Tutti Amore for ice cream or looking for a combi to Cusco.


    7. You know how to do your laundry by hand.

    Those jokes about kids leaving home and not knowing how to do their own laundry obviously don’t apply to you. You know your way around a washboard and clothesline like nobody’s business. Now if only you could remember to take your clothes inside before it gets cold at night, otherwise you’ll be putting on some ice-cold underwear tomorrow morning.

    8. You haven’t stayed up past 10pm in weeks.

    But that’s okay because everyone you know is also in bed at this time. And frankly, you’re not mad about it. Who could complain about consistently getting your full 8+hours

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    9. You have a favorite street dog, and/or a street dog has picked you as their favorite.

    Maybe because this dog has walked you home after a late night at the office, maybe because she looks like your childhood dog. Or maybe you dropped a piece of your sandwich one day and this cute dog hasn’t stopped following you. But you’re not mad, look at that face!

    Posted on February 24, 2016