The Fabric of Eco-Tourism

Economics Photography

In February 2010, I traveled to the village of Chaullacocha, in a remote region of the Andes Mountains to photograph indigenous Peruvians. I traveled with the assistance of the non-governmental organization Threads of Peru, which aims to promote economic stability within such villages by keeping the local, ancient craft of weaving alive. They do this through international product sales and facilitating tourism to rural communities. The philosophy of Threads of Peru mirrors that found in the growing, worldwide trend of making tourism to remote landscapes ecologically sustainable, economically sound and viable for communities impacted by tourism, and providing the visitors with a close-to-authentic experience of local culture. 

In their own words: “Threads of Peru is a collaboration aimed at educating the world about the unique beauty and cultural significance of the Andean people and their textile traditions. Through the web, community tours, and international sales, we connect indigenous Andean weavers of Peru to a global market; contributing to the survival of this art form and to the health and well-being of the people that sustain it.”

While I had little to no experience with the particulars of Threads of Peru, such such as financial workings, tourism operations, or management practices, I did receive a good dose of the human aspects of trip—the people and the culture—in producing this photo essay.

The experience was incredible.

The people of Chaullacocha live in what most people in the West would consider incredible poverty. But in reality, the villages were simply more off-the-grid then I’ve ever been before. Their food was grown and prepared by their own hands, as were their clothes. Their small stone houses had no electricity and little or no running water. The men and women of the village would spend the day weaving, farming, or shearing alpaca. The children would sometimes help with the workload, and at other times play in the foggy lush green Andes Mountains. There was a certain stillness and tranquility to every aspect of their lives that seemed so rewarding. Their joy was palpable. At times I found myself jealous of them. 

As we steadily progress toward incorporating this and similar communities into the global economy, I am unsure what the future may bring to them. I shudder at the thought of their particular way of life disappearing entirely. Yet it’s uplifting to know that, for now, because of the Internet, trends in sustainable tourism, and our globalized economy, this community is thriving in ways that it otherwise wouldn’t.

Below is a collection of photographs taken on this unforgettable trip. To learn more about Threads of Peru, visit http://www.threadsofperu.com/.

(All photos copyright Michael Marquand.)

 

Left: woman holding up one of her woven mantas. Right: man outside his house.

 

Peruvian man weaving.

 

A woman weaving.

 

A girl in her family's greenhouse.

 

A man spinning thread.

 

Left: girl at home wrapped in a woven blanket. Right: young boy in his house.

 

Weaving materials.

 

Left: woman and child at home. Right: young girl playing outside.

 

Family shearing an alpaca.

 

A young boy standing in front of freshly sheared alpaca wool.

 

An alpaca in the Andes Mountains.

 

August 17, 2010

All photographs copyright Michael Marquand.

internet, NGO, Peru