While traveling in Peru as white, middle-class US citizens, we have grappled with the complexities of how to support traditional lifeways (i.e. pre-colonial arts, handicrafts, customs, and community practices) while also being conscious of the often negative impact that globalized economic trade has had and continues to have on indigenous communities and within developing countries. Even the language of “developed” vs. “developing” countries is problematic because it is based upon an assumed economic progress narrative that places inherent value in growth-mindset policies that propagate large-scale industrialization efforts rather than placing value in the eco-centric and human-centered practices that promote regeneration, sustainability, and holistic community development. In addition, such language supports hierarchical thinking by placing certain nations above others based upon their “development” status, even though such a metric has historically been directly correlated with imperialist agendas, extraction of natural resources, and the genocide and enslavement of indigenous communities and people of color.
Because of these complexities, we have tried to be thoughtful of how our economic footprint impacts the individuals and communities that we have encountered throughout our travels so far in Peru. That being said, when I was approached yesterday by Paulina, an indigenous woman from Chinchero, a small Andean town in the Sacred Valley of Peru, it felt important to take the time to speak with her, learn about her traditional lifeway handicraft of weaving, and support the continuation of her lifeway through buying a few small woven bracelets as gifts for family members. Chinchero is known as the birthplace of traditional weaving in Peru, and Paulina explained that she had grown up weaving since the time she was a little girl. She told me about how all of the fibers are hand-spun and hand woven, and about how all of the died colors are made from natural products, like berries and fruits that grow in the area. When I admired Paulina’s beautiful handmade products, she asked if I would like to see a demonstration of how she makes them. I expressed gratitude and interest in being able to see such a demonstration, and so she pulled out a small hand-loom and tied it to the bench we were sitting on (check out the short video below to admire her craft in process).
While Paulina was showing me how she creates her products, we engaged in a conversation about both of our lives and visions for the future of the world. I asked Paulina about her life, family, and beliefs, and she asked me about the same aspects of my life. When Paulina asked about what work I do in the world, I shared about my background as a clinical social worker, as well as my intention to be moving toward more aligned work in the world via the emergent project of SEEDS. She expressed interest in understanding more about SEEDS, which gave me the opportunity to express (in my limited Spanish) our vision of creating model community action sites that incorporate healing justice on all scales, beginning with the healing and regeneration of the Earth, practices that support individual healing and transformation, strategies that promote connected and sustainable localized communities, and efforts that support large-scale solidarity and collective liberation initiatives based on the needs of the specific bio-region and issues of justice.
Paulina expressed alignment and hope about the SEEDS vision, expressing,
Sí, todos necesitan estas comunidades porque todos del mundo necesitan recursos y conexión para ser felices. Gracias, amiga, y buena suerte con su proyecto.” (Yes, everyone needs these communities because everyone in the world needs resources and connection to be happy. Thank you, friend, and good luck with your project.)
This conversation with Paulina was an affirming reminder about the importance of authentic human relationship and exchange amidst the context of globalized economic trade. In order to help offset the negative impact that wealthy industrialized countries often have on the rest of the world, and particularly indigenous and people of color communities, it is essential that individual interactions be based upon mutual curiosity, respect, and exchanging of ideas and perspectives. I am grateful to be able to share Paulina’s beautiful handmade bracelets with my family members when I return to the US, and I am hopeful that the SEEDS vision will continue to live on in Paulina and her community here in Peru.