We took our annual trip to the small community of Hunacarani, where most of the weavers who makes our products live. Huancarani is a rural community of men and women who live off of subsistence farming. Their day to day lives consist of pasturing their sheep, tending to their land, and weaving. Most of the women are over 50 and speak Quechua, so the class is taught through a Spanish interpreter who is also from the community.


We arrived mid-morning and slowly the women began to trickle in from their morning of pasturing sheep. As more arrived they spread out the food circle. Eating is communal and everyone brings food bundled in a weaving or cloth. Campo food is corn, potatoes, egg, noodles, and cheese mixed with spicy peppers (this was new this year and SO delicious). The food is simple and everyone sits in a circle, eating with their hands.

The meals went on for quite some time since, every time someone arrived, more food was laid out and it is polite to eat from everyone’s bundle. Finally, after more than an hour of sharing the meal, we were ready to start with the class!


Dona Maxima, the interpreter and trainer, and I divided the group into two: those who speak even minimal Spanish and those who speak only Quechua.  The project was a simple ring that only required 3 steps yet enough beads to give them the opportunity to do the best part: combining colors.


The class was a real joy this year. Not only was it huge, with nearly 15 participants, it was lively! The women chatted and giggled as they made their projects. Rarely do they have the opportunity to just talk to one and another without the distraction of work and land. The jewelry class is a woman’s circle- where there is time carved out just for them.

The finished rings were very fanciful and the women laughed as they gazed at their weathered hands, brightened up with color and beads.  The running joke was that the rings were like brass knuckles and the women joked about going home to punch their husbands.


Domestic violence, with men drinking and hitting their wives, is extremely common here (so common it is considered normal) and the joke pointed to a sense of empowerment and agency that the women felt after creating something new.


After the class (which was hard to finish because no one wanted to stop making jewelry!) the women held their annual association meeting to discuss upcoming events. Then there was more eating (food laid out by the late comers) and finally a fury of rare hugs and kisses to say goodbye (culturally, hugging and kissing isn’t normal).

Such a beautiful day in the campo with a group of women who make my heart sing!

The second project I worked on with the women were regal looking pendants. Again, the project required a keen sense of wire manipulation, this time with thin wire which kinks easily. The women quickly figured out how jerky the wire can be and adjusted their work gracefully- much more gracefully than my own!


That’s one thing that never ceases to impress me about the women. Their ability to learn and adjust is much more finely tuned than my own. It generally takes me 2-3 go arounds to really get something down. For the women, they have it by the end of the first project.

As weavers, they have learned to think like artists and that artist’s mentality enables them to learn other skills quickly and with a confident patience. I have yet to give them a project that they haven’t mastered.


During the class, one of the women started calling me Amandita. In Spanish, when used with a name, the “ita” or “ito” is a term of endearment. Culturally, the women here are not as affectionate as those in Peru. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it’s just that kissing and hugging is not part of the their cultural behavior. So, Amandita is the equivalent of a kiss or a hug. After 5 years, it’s wonderful to have finally forged that bond.

An ode to superheroes | Ruraq Maki celebrates the women who bare the never-ending job of being a mother

With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a mother. In truth, I don’t know; I’m not one. But over the years I’ve watched the women we work with being mothers. I’ve seen them pour everything into their families and seen the central role, the foundational role, that their children play in their lives.

Watching them, I’ve come to understand that being a mother is hard. It is the hardest, most arduous job one will ever have. The task of raising children is relentless. There are constant needs, constant tears, constant expenses, and constant struggle, especially for those living in poverty. Saying the women work hard is an understatement – they are in a perpetual state of work. It is what they do – day in, day out – with the hope of giving their children a better life. 

Yet, in the midst of the constance of motherhood, they are joyful. How can it be that while a 3-year old wails into her skirt and a is baby strapped to her back and a 5-year old yanks her arm refusing the walk, that she still smiles? How are giggles entwined with hauling sacks of potatoes from the campo or embroidering 12 hours a day? How do they find time for happiness?

What I’ve learned from the women, and especially about motherhood, is that in the most difficult, the most grueling, the most exhausting tasks, there is a deep well of love that serves as the headwater to joy. Love for their children propels them through the muck, gives them the strength to carry on, and provides the energy to be happy. What a blessed thing it is – to hold a well of nourishment so deep that it is unshakeable.

Although cliche, I can think of no better way to put it – mothers are the superheroes of our time. Not because of their strength, their determination, or their unwavering abilities – for their love. A love that is the backbone of everything they do. Every beautiful, mundane, and transformative action that they put into the world.