Patacancha is a small town of 250 families located an hour’s drive from our offices in Ollantaytambo at 12,500 feet of altitude. Homes are made from adobe bricks with thatched or tin roofs and, while most families have some electric lighting, the town as a whole has only one telephone. Families support themselves mainly by farming potatoes and raising sheep. Many of the men work as porters on the Inca Trail. Most women, including those in our association, are illiterate and speak only Quechua, although this is changing with the younger generation. Women wear traditional dress including layered skirts with woven trim, red jackets decorated with white buttons, and a bowl-shaped hat with a hand-beaded chin strap.
We work with two cooperatives in Patacancha. The Songuillay cooperative was the first group of artisans with whom we worked. It is also our largest group with 40 members ranging from 17 to 60 years of age. The Awacphuna cooperative is our newest group, with 28 weavers.
Located at 13,000 feet on the far side of a mountain pass, Kelkanka the most remote community with which Awamaki works. Quechua is the main language spoken and only a few men speak Spanish. Most of the women have never attended school. Families in Kelkanca support themselves by farming potatoes and raising sheep and alpacas, who thrive in the harsh climate. Awamaki started working with the Kelkanka Weaving Association in 2011 and the group now has 18 members.