Pitumarca is located about two hours south of the city of Cusco and just a short drive up a dirt road from the main highway that continues on to Puno on Lake Titicaca. While Pitumarca itself is now a larger town, weavers come from many of the small communities higher up in the mountains to participate in the weaving association that partnered with the CTTC in 1997.
Approximately 50 adult weavers and 25 children gather in Pitumarca’s weaving center once a week to weave, knit and braid using techniques that are thousands of years old and can be directly traced to pre-Columbian cultures. Their textiles are some of the finest and most complex in the Cusco region. The weavers place a heavy emphasis on their textile traditions and are proud of their hard work to revive stunning pre-Columbian techniques that were almost lost.
It is very difficult to choose the threads which make the pattern for a three-color design [in ley pallay] because one must be thinking about which color is creating the design on the top of the design, and which color is making the design on the bottom… Genovena Choqué, Pitumarca weaver
Still, though, I am able to spin, thanks to God. When I spin, I forget about my troubles and sorrows. Also, when I spin, I can sell [my yarn] and get what I need. There are times when I spin for other people and they pay me with their products such as potatoes, corn, and wheat, and they bring me coca leaves to chew as a gift…Only when I die may I be done with spinning, although when we die we take our spindles…so perhaps we will continue to spin in the other world…Emilia Yana, Pitumarca elder weaver
I have learned how to weave everything from plain-weave, thin textiles to complicated textiles, my mother taught me to weave and so she left me this knowledge like an inheritance for all of my life. In my case, I have very little education, I have only finished elementary school. My mother would tell me that the young girls who didn’t know how to weave wouldn’t be chosen as partners or wives because people look for people who know how to weave because for a husband weaving was very important. Benita Ccana, Pitumarca weaver
About Pitumarca Textiles
Pitumarca is internationally known for their revival of the ticlla, or discontinuous warp and weft, technique. In this technique weavers can change the color of their warp thread anywhere they desire by inserting sticks into their warp. This technique was invented by pre-Columbian cultures and was particularly important to the Paracas and Nazca; it is a weaving technique that cannot be found in any other culture in the world other than in pre-Columbian, Andean societies.
For years scholars thought that knowledge of how to weave ticlla textiles had been lost to time as the larger world outside of Pitumaca did not know of any weavers still using the technique. When the CTTC partnered with Pitumarca and began to work with elders of the community to recover textile traditions, a few grandmothers and grandfathers revealed that they still knew how to weave with ticlla. Since then they have taught what they know to younger generations and Pitumarca textiles are now stunning examples of how unique textile traditions have been passed down for thousands of generations from pre-Incan cultures.
Ticlla is not the only unique and historic technique known to Pitumarca weavers. Weavers know and incorporate many techniques ranging from amapolas designs, four colored designs, single sided designs and doubled sided designs into their textiles. Besides their impressive weaving tradition, Pitumarca textile artists also knit chullo (traditional hats), and braid slings and ropes from llama wool.
Legend tells us why Pitumarca is home to so many diverse textile techniques. The Inca empire established and regulated huge textile production centers, the most elevated of which were the acllawasi, House of Chosen Women. Here the most beautiful young girls were sent to dedicate their lives to producing the finest textiles of the empire. Supposedly one young princess escaped from her acllawasi with a warrior. The two fled to Pitumarca, terrified of the repercussions their actions would bring. In Pitumarca the weaving master taught her knowledge to the local people who incorporated what they learned into their textiles. History, though, points us in another direction. Pitumarca is home to the ruins of Machu Pitumarca, an ancient outpost of the Wari culture that was later conquered by the Inca. The Wari are well known for their stunning textiles, and were themselves directly influenced by the Nazca and Paracas cultures who were the first to invent the ticlla technique.