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Tejedores Andinos: a commitment towards cultural preservation

argentinian craftsman working on the traditional handloom

Photo credits: Celeste Valero

Celeste Valero is the spokesperson and part of the artisan community Tejedores Andinos. She is the fourth generation of a family of weavers, on both her mothers and fathers sides.  Situated in the scenic town of Huacalera, Jujuy, Tejedores Andinos is a vibrant community deeply committed to cultural preservation. This small area in the northern reaches of Argentina is not just a hub for textile artisans; it is a living testament to the commitment of these weavers to create and strengthen connections, uphold ancestral knowledge, and cherish communal values.

The primary goal of Tejedores Andinos is to keep the legacy of weaving alive, fostering economic sustainability within their communities and families.

What materials do you use and where do they come from?

We mainly use llama fiber sourced from our own farms, primarily located in Jujuy. We try to avoid using any industrial yarn. Unless we have a big order to fulfil. We shear and spin the fibers ourselves. 

Could you tell us more about the natural dyes you use?

There are numerous techniques and materials available for creating colors with natural dyes. We utilize a variety, including Cochinilla, Yerba Mate, Onion, Indigo, and various types of seeds. The duration spent in boiling water is crucial, as it enables us to achieve different tones on the yarn. Consequently, even with the use of the same natural dye, the color can undergo changes based on the time allocated to the process.

What meaning does weaving hold in your life or culture?

Weaving is an integral part of our culture and tradition, a means through which we live, express our thoughts, and convey our history. This craft allows us to pass down knowledge through generations and serves as a medium for sharing with the community, expressing our values and richness. Over the past 15 years, we've dedicated ourselves to revitalizing the value of artisanal work, working diligently to restore its significance after years of depreciation.

Which creation do you enjoy making the most and why?

I love using my father's loom, a family heirloom that has been with us for years, to create wraps, blankets, and throws.

How does your craft reflect the history and traditions of your community in Jujuy?

Artisanal techniques and textiles have been part of the Andean tradition and culture since well before the European invasion in America. Textiles have been a way of expressing social position, wealth, religion. All this has passed through generations up to our present days, re-signifying the meanings in line with our present situation in the global culture. 

Do certain symbols, patterns, or colors in your weaving carry cultural meaning?

Certainly, many of them hold significant meanings! Typically, patterns express the cosmovision of our people, reflecting our perspectives on life in this world, our beliefs in the circle of life and death, the earth and heaven, and more.

What challenges do you face in preserving traditional crafts today?

Many. Globalization has brought forth opportunities but has also led many people to lose sight of origins, diminishing the value of local craftsmanship. Mass production has sidelined small-batch pieces crafted with profound meaning and countless hours, resulting in one-of-a-kind creations. Fortunately, in recent years, as we witnessed the negative effects of mass production on the environment and society, We have taken on a more elevated mindset by prioritizing quality and durability over price and quantity.

Furthermore, our traditions are also at risk. Small towns, like ours, struggle to retain their cultural heritage as big cities allure the younger generation seeking new opportunities as they see they won’t be able to make a living on what they can learn in the community.

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