By Christina Armes, Sustainable Tourism Intern
Since early June, our tourism coordinator Juan Camilo has been receiving calls inviting Awamaki to visit Huilloc Alto, a community situated on the steep mountainside above our current partner community of Huilloc. Fifteen women from Huilloc Alto have organized in the hope of collaborating with Awamaki as a tourism cooperative. After visiting the community for a 2-day, 1-night preliminary tour, we are excited to announce the group as one of our newest cooperatives!
On a bright sunny day in June, Awamaki met with the weavers of Huilloc Alto, who greeted us with warm smiles, hats adorned with flowers, and an enthusiasm that made us feel at home. After group introductions, our community translator Benedicto explained the importance of bringing tourism to the community. Even though Huilloc Alto boasts gorgeous views of the mountains and rolling slopes present in the Sacred Valley, its remote location has hindered tourism access and the ability of the weavers to sell their products. However, now that the community has a new road, visiting the it is much easier and quicker. The introduction of tourism will serve as an opportunity to connect the women with larger markets and in turn support their local economy.
Awamaki does not work with cooperatives unless they approach us with an organized proposal for partnership. This ensures greater community ownership and responsibility. Even though the women of Huilloc Alto approached us, we still wanted to gauge their perspectives on tourism before working with them. We asked the women a few questions about what they think tourism is, how it will impact their community, and why they are interested. The discussion revealed the following positive and negative sentiments:
“Tourism is showing my work and the outdoor nature of our community with others.”
“Tourism gives me the opportunity to show my work so I can support my family.”
“My husband works on the Inca Trail, and I want earn more money to support my family.”
“I don’t want tourists to bring their trash.”
“I don’t want tourists using the bathroom in the countryside.”
“I don’t want tourists smoking and drinking in front of my children.”
(We apologize for the lack of quote attribution. We are still learning the names of the Huilloc Alto weavers, and the quotes were shared during a group discussion involving Quechua-Spanish-English translation.)
After our discussion with the weavers, they gave us a tour of their community. They taught us how to identify and use the native medicinal plants found in the countryside. We also hiked to a nearby lake that reflects the beauty of the surrounding mountains. These unique features distinguish the community of Huilloc Alto from the other communities with whom we currently work.
Benedicto, our community translator, believes that “the medicinal plants, the beauty, and the warmer climate of Huilloc Alto,” will make it a memorable destination for tourists. Of course, getting to know community members will also be something that tourists remember. During our hike to the lake, weavers Jesusa, Avelina, and Juana excitedly showed us the various plants native to the area, taught us new Quechua words, and laughed and chatted with us like we all were old friends.
Awamaki is excited to start tours with the Huilloc Alto community. Our final question to the women was what they hoped tourists would take away from an experience visiting them. The group universally expressed their enthusiasm for sharing their culture with others. We believe future tours with Huilloc Alto will be successful because the community’s beauty is evident in both its physical surroundings and the welcoming nature of the local weavers. Awamaki will soon be starting tourism workshops to prepare the community for their first of many tours next month. Thanks to support from donors like you, we can make sure our newest tourism cooperative Huilloc Alto is off to a great start!