when in Cusco: the textile museum

There is so many things to do in and around Cusco, that you’d need at least two weeks when making an attempt at trying to cover it all. I find myself sticking around for more than two weeks already now, and I’m still far from bored. I recommend everyone to get yourself the ‘boleto turístico’ while here – sixteen places to visit (museums, archeological sites and a dance performance*) for s./130, valid for 10 days. (Without the boleto, you pay s./70 with every visit to either one of these sites.) Also, there is so much information about what to do around here, that I’m not going to add to that mountainous pile. I will simply share one thing with you that I kind of accidentily walked into and that was surprisingly worth the visit.

You’ll find this as a tip in the margins of your free Cusco city map: theCentro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco’. Entering the building through the gift shop, you will find several ladies dressed in traditional garments working their weavings on the floor. They are performing art-in-action and I was well mesmerized and completely clueless as to how their hands find their way through the dangling web of threads before them and get shapes and patterns that make sense out of it. I surely couldn’t discover any logic. Looking around the shop at the result of their efforts, I realised that this was different stuff than you’ll find at the tourist-oriented markets and shops all around Peru. The colours are somehow different and although the more common stuff you’ll find in the streets is really beautiful, it’s quite a relief to see something else, something with more sober colours and more advanced patterns.

But there is more. The shop opens to a small museum, that provides interesting information about both the materials and its cultural use (with untypically good translations in English!). Shop and museum were founded in an attempt to save traditional techniques and patters from extinction. (At the artesenal market the other day, I learned that every geometrical pattern stands for something bigger: Pachamama, the four ways of the Inkas, the Sun, etc.) The Center supports a web of weavers around the region that are, thanks to the museum and gift shop, now the principal wage-owners of their families. Entrance to the museum is free, but there is an opportunity to make a donation. I personally really wanted to after my visit. As the threat for extinction to this incredibly rich tradition is real, I highly recommend visiting this place may you find yourself in Cusco!

* Don’t miss out on this show! It’s not advertized very clearly, but the dance performance can be found under the name ‘Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo’ on your boletoturístico. Every night from 19:00 to 20:15, a group of dancers performs a series of traditional dances of Peru. It’s an incredibly fun way to get introduced into the country’s folklore!

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