24 Dec, 2014 | Jonathan Mccarthy

Culture and Art

The women from Huancarani have to traverse four hours of mountain to get to Independencia, the nearest town, where you still can't get hold of a refrigerated soft drink. They don't have a Facebook account, they don't use the internet and they're probably better for it. Between two major urban centers, La Paz and Cochabamba, and nestled in the Cordillera de Cocapata, the people of Huancarani cling to a rural existence that is strongly linked to subsistance agriculture, sheep herding, and what they do best: weaving. The age old techniques are richly based in natural dyes, highly complicated patterns, and hours and hours of hard work. By the time they deliver a finished chuspa, a small bag traditionally used to carry coca leaves that stave off hunger for a knock-down drag-out hike or an overtime shift at the mines, the female weavers have spent around 35 hours coordinating the effort. Time stands still and shucking the fur, or hiking down to the river to wash the wool seems like the perfect way to spend the day.

Every city in Bolivia is comprised of migrants, whether from the altiplano or the oriente, and their reality is not that far removed from that of the women of Huancarani; they maintain the traditions that continue to make Bolivia one of the most unique countries on the planet.

Learn more about the women photographed above and how to support their artisan weavings at

Photo: Jonathan Mcacrthy


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