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Virtual Field Trip: Hike to a remote alpaca-herding community

Visit the remote Quechua community of Cancha Cancha in the Peruvian Andes, where the members of the Illariy Ch’aska Women’s Cooperative identify as alpaquiras (alpaca farmers) and hiladoras (spinners). Proud of their identity, these women are some of the few remaining weavers who still shear and spin their own raw alpaca fibre.


However, despite still having access to approximately half of the 22 colours of Huacaya alpacas, they have lost the traditional knowledge to selectively breed them. Therefore, colours appear at random in their animals, and the alpaquiras have no control over the colour selection. The alpaquiras claim that, in the 1980s, the market “only wanted white;” they thus selectively tried to eliminate all other colours, losing the knowledge to produce the wide array of alpaca colours that exist.


They now want to recuperate that knowledge, with Mosqoy’s help. They aim to be economically relevant in today’s budding fair-trade market, while nurturing and revitalizing their cultural heritage, but cannot do so without this lost knowledge. Meet the alpaquiras (and alpacas!) of Cancha Cancha, and learn about both their traditional knowledge and the environmental, sociocultural, and economic changes they are facing today. Examine the impacts of globalized market demands on communities, as well as communities’ adaptive responses to market change.

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