Erasma speaks no English. My Spanish is so-so at best. A translator is not readily availble. However, with a warm smile and traditional kiss on the cheek, Erasma agrees to have her picture taken and attempt our interview.
Cusco is a cultural hub for Peru, home to countless beautiful handcrafted artisan products and textiles. Erasma lives in the village of Chinchero, about 45 minutes outside Cusco, where she works in traditional handicrafts and loves to dress in customary Peruvian colorful clothing. During the week, however, she spends her days hustling with the rest of the staff at the hotel where she works near Cusco’s historical Plaza de Armas.
We chose the picturesque plaza as a photo setting, attempting to capture a bit of Erasma’s exuberant energy that mimics this bustling town. All day long I watch her at work, jumping between cleaning tasks, literally running up and down multiple flights of stairs with laundry, cleaning products and deliveries for guests. Cusco’s at 11,300 feet; I’m out of breath just watching her…
One of Erasma’s most interesting set of responses came when she was asked about what she would do with an extra $100, $1,000 or $10,000. With none of these windfalls would she spend money on something fun or personal. Instead, she would choose to use the funds to expanding her weaving business. Textiles are a huge business in Peru and handicraft stalls cram the cobblestone side streets heading in all directions from the Plaza de Armas.
With $100 she would buy supplies for the artesian co-op she currently participates in (perhaps yarns, dyes or equipment for a loom). When the number jumps to $1,000, she would like to create her own store or business for selling her wares. At $10,000 she is thinking large, and would form a small company with employees to create a variety of crafts. One of her greatest regrets is not being able to get a loan, primarily for being a female. Her pride in her weaving skill glows brightly; her face shines when she explains to me the work she does in her village of Chinchero.