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Chiman project

Chiman project

By Claudia  Burgos.

I have always felt that dreams are more than just diurnal remains and segments of the unconscious, but what about dreaming while awake? I can say that I’m a bird lover ever since I was a little girl given that observing them would carry my imagination to faraway lands. I genuinely believe that everyone has that special “something”, an image or a sign that affirms us being in the right place, for me it is represented by tropical parrots. When I first read Isabel Allende’s “City of Beasts”,*  whom I consider magical in many ways, I vividly imagined every plant, river, sky, location, and character and I realized that in that process, I was also finding myself.

I come from a country with vast natural richness; from the snowy white peaks of The Andes that watched me grow up in La Paz, my hometown (located to 3600 meters above the sea level), to green lush valleys with wineries, fruit, and so inviting weather that is worth of entire afternoons of joy. Also, Bolivia has the Amazon tropics filled with jungles and all kinds of life. This is where a new adventure begins and brings us to the present.

I had always known that not too far away from La Paz, there were those fuchsia sunsets charming sunrays, but I did not imagine exactly what it was or how the ground would transform from one texture to the next. I always dreamed of crossing that line in my imagination.

As a recent college graduated I was invited to work on a project which gifted me the opportunity to work on those vast, flat jungle surfaces and tropical Amazon weather that I had promised myself to get to know, all those years ago. It was a challenging year filled with diverse experiences but, as so often is the case, the difficult ones makes you stronger, and the good ones are long lasting.

I met wonderful people that accompanied and taught me that life is about what happens to us every day.  I met amazing women whom I worked with in all the 21 rural communities we visited and after sharing breakfasts, lunch, and dinner with long talks, my work partner became my family away from home. Away from my family, and away from all the little thigs that makeup my day to day in La Paz.

I was able to observe and experience on firsthand, all the different ways of life, styles of cooking, and work schedule. Additionally I heard for the very first time, the chiman language, which I often produced laughs around me whenever I tried pronouncing its words; especially from the little kids who taught me their language and became my friends. They also explained their culture and beliefs, such as the legend of Dojity and Micha, two brothers with opposite personalities, one mischievous and one serious, representing the flora and fauna of the region.

Convinced that I was melting due to the scorching 40 C degree heat, I was falling in love to their beautiful landscapes, which my phone camera could never do justice to. The birds and the trees would never stop talking, I never stopped listening and it made me know that I was where I needed to be. And so, in between all that nature, I slowly soaked up all that the people and their way of life had to offer.

I vividly remember feeling love at first sight when I saw the tiny, spherical, handmade baskets called jipi japa, a kind of palm tree.  The same material the locals use to make their hats to protect themselves from the punishing sun when harvesting rice. Those baskets used to carry bread, fruits, cheese empanadas (typical of the region), as well as their personal objects and in some occasions, even their small pets. I liked them so much that I immediately started learning about who, how and what they are made of and found that it’s a long-inherited tradition of the Chiman women who even build their rooftops using the same technique which consists of braiding the long, strip-shaped Jipi japa plant creating any form they desire. I was awed by it and so, I bought one for myself, then one for my sister and next thing I knew, I had several of them.

 That is where this project is born, from respect and admiration for the chiman women, who built their roofs, hand fans, and bags themselves for generations using this beautiful, yet resistant plant and braiding technique. It is born from the sisterhood I witnessed from these wonderful ladies, spending entire afternoons sharing their materials, helping each other, and discussing their fears and joys. This is the essence of a job done by women for women.

 

At the end of the year, after twelve long months working with these women, I got to know them well. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, lovers, and friends with their own concerns, and bills to pay, but above all, their own dreams and aspirations. Dreams that are in fact achievable goals given their grit and hardworking nature. That is why my sisters and I started this project; to create beautiful products honoring the Chiman tradition. By combining Chiman traditional skill,  great sense of design, and the enthusiasm of the talented Chiman women artisans in colaboration with Sutisana in La Paz (talented women artisan that works with leather), and us (me and my sisters) to transform this magic into an ethical and sustainable business that will be part of Yanawara collection.

The purpose of this project is to relay these women’s lives and traditions to a global audience and create a network of women who build their dreams with their own hands, always aiming high. After hard work, countless mishaps, and unwavering perseverance, we’ve been able to leverage the talent of these strong, lively, and entrepreneurial Chiman ladies to produce the Chiman bags and ship them halfway across the world to the United States in order to tell their story and also ours. Full of resilience and work since the creation of this projects. Especially now that is not in a normal time, it is now that pandemic has knocked on the door of everyone in the world and caused many daily changes. We know that one of the most viable economic solutions for this and many more communities, and the artisanal industry, which produces from the homes artisans, is sustainable because despite what the world is currently overwhelming, we can continue working, we can creating day by day and fulfilling dreams and making our first Chiman Bags collection.

*Isabell Allende a Chilean journalist and author representative of the genre magic realism.

*Chiman Language, Indigenous language of the region.

* Dojity and Micha, Indigenous legend of the Chiman people.

 

All photographies credited to Claudia Burgos
Claudia Burgos

Claudia Burgos

Psicologyst | Chiman bags co-founder

Lucia was born and grew up in the fascinating city of La Paz and studied tourism at university. She loves Bolivia and sharing its wonders with visitors and enjoys traveling and searching for new experiences whenever she can.

“I specialize designing and operating adventuresome travel experiences in La Paz, Sucre, Potosi, the sacred Lake Titicaca, the dazzling Uyuni Salt Flats and the lowland rainforest regions of Beni and Santa Cruz as well. I also organize multinational trips, such as Perú-Bolivia-Chile. I especially enjoy organizing tours that allow our visitors to interact with the people of Bolivia in respectful ways, there is so much to learn about this place of the world and they are always happy to share!”

Chiman project

Discover Bolivia’s unique places

By Lucia Berrios.

Today I am going to tell you a little about Bolivia. As you know, Bolivia is located in the heart of South America and is mainly known for the Lake Titicaca and the great Uyuni Salt Flats. They are undoubtedly very beautiful places, but they are not the only attractions in our country. What you might not know about Bolivia, is that it is a super diverse country and an ideal place for those who are looking for an adventure in the middle of a natural paradise rich in culture and history as well. When all this coronavirus crisis passes and people can travel again, there will be a greater tendency to make more sustainable tourism trips, visiting outdoors, avoiding crowded destinations and seeking to minimize impacts on the environment and local cultures, exactly what Bolivia offers to the world.

So… I decided to write a little about some not so well-known corners of Bolivia, where it is ideal to make these types of trips:

Torotoro National Park

Torotoro is considered the first geo-park in Bolivia, thanks to the more than 3,500 dinosaur tracks found in this place. Can you imagine? You can really see footprints everywhere! From traces of brontosaurs to tyrannosaurs!

Another of the main attractions is El Vergel, a canyon over 300 meters deep and from where you have an amazing view. When descending (like 1,000 stairs!), waterfalls can be seen cascading from the rocks. It is a unique place that fills you with energy.

ToroToro is located north of Potosí, but the main entrance is through Cochabamba. It is at 138Km. by road from the city and can be reached in about 4 hours.

I always wanted to visit Torotoro and last year I had the opportunity to do so, thanks to my work! The ideal is to take 3 to 4 days to visit its main attractions. The minimum altitude of the protected area is 1,600 meters above sea level and the maximum height is 3,600!

Ciudad de Itas (Stone city) is another great place to visit!  It is the highest part of the National Park and can be visited in half a day (although we took all day and it was worth it!). During this hike we saw huge labyrinths of rocks and caves with different shapes. The best part was, where the stone “cathedrals” were located, small caves shaped like bells… beautiful!

The last day we went to the Umajalanta Cavern. To be honest, I was terrified to enter the cavern, but I’m glad I did! For this, you need to have a helmet and a flashlight (you can rent them on site) and, if possible, ropes. Something that is also important, is not to be afraid of the dark! Once inside the caves you can see stalactites and stalagmites, and even a lagoon where blind fish live.

Torotoro - Vergel Canyon

Torotoro has many more attractions, and is an ideal destination for those who enjoy outdoor activities, hikes and you can even travel with children that are crazy about dinos! Just to give you an idea… in the main square of the town, instead of finding the classic statue of someone important in history, there are huge dinosaurs!

Sajama National Park

Sajama is located in Oruro, about four hours to the south of La Paz and on the border with Chile. From La Paz, almost the entire road is paved and it takes about 5 hours to get there. Along the way is the town of Curahuara de Carangas. It is worth stopping here to visit its church, built between 1587 and 1608 and known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes”.

All interior walls and ceilings are oil painted in a mannerist style and express Old Testament biblical passages. It’s pretty cool to see something like this in the middle of the highlands!

To visit the Sajama National Park I recommend you to consider a 2 to 3 day trip. Within the protected area you can see the Sajama volcano (inactive), which has the highest peak in the country (6,545 masl) as well as several high Andes lagoons, my favorite being the Huayñakota lagoon where we observbed hundreds of colorful flamingos.

Throughout the protected area you can see forests of “queñuas”, that are small trees that survive at 5,200masl, considered by many to be the highest forest in the world. In the surroundings, and if you are lucky, you can see vicuñas, vizcachas (a rodent similar to the hare, about 60cm long, with a long tail) and even condors! In Sajama there are also many hot springs in natural pools and some geysers that sporadically spout water due to the volcanic activity in the area. Many of its visitors are mountain climbers, who seek the challenge of ascending a peak of more than 6,000masl.

Sudeste Chiquitano

The Chiquitano region is located in Santa Cruz and includes the route from San José de Chiquitos (3 hours by car from the city) to Roboré (5 ½ hours from the city). I recommend you to consider at least 3 days to visit this area.

Let’s start with San José de Chiquitos: its main attraction is its church, which is part of the circuit of the Jesuit missions, almost all of which are declared cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO (including this one). This church is one of my favorites, since it is the only one built with stone and lime and has a very special facade.

During the restoration of these churches, more than 5,000 sheets of sacred music written between the 17th and 18th centuries were found. Until today, local community members learn to play instruments such as the violin from a very young age and since 1996, every 2 years, the International Baroque Music Festival has been held throughout the missionary circuit.

I am really lucky because I was able to attend the festival in 2014 and it is something really unique! Just imagine to see the inhabitants (especially children!) and international artists playing this beautiful music in the well-restored churches… it’s like a journey back in time!

About 2 ½ hours from San José is the community of Santiago de Chiquitos. The best of this place is the Tucavaca Valley, which has an ecotourism trail where you can appreciate the nature of the Chiquitano Dry Forest. After walking for about 3 to 4 hours (a steep climb!), you will be rewarded at the final viewpoint… known as the “antesala del cielo” (anteroom of heaven). You’ll enjoy a most spectacular view, very well complemented by massive stone towers. It’s definitely beautiful!This place was one of the most affected by the fires of 2019, but the nature is incredible and everything bloomed and grew super-fast again. I recommend you to do this walk in the morning, so that in the afternoon you can continue towards Roboré, making a stop in Aguas Calientes. There’s a nice lagoon of about 5Km. long, with water that has a temperature between 41 and 45°C (I recommend you to visit it in winter!). Inside the lagoon, you literally feel the earth absorb your body, while you feel like delicious massages by the boiling water.

This place was one of the most affected by the fires of 2019, but the nature is incredible and everything bloomed and grew super-fast again. I recommend you to do this walk in the morning, so that in the afternoon you can continue towards Roboré, making a stop in Aguas Calientes. There’s a nice lagoon of about 5Km. long, with water that has a temperature between 41 and 45°C (I recommend you to visit it in winter!). Inside the lagoon, you literally feel the earth absorb your body, while you feel like delicious massages by the boiling water.

All photographies credited to Lucia Berrios.
Lucia Berrios

Lucia Berrios

Tourism Expert | Travel Consultant at SendasAltas / La Paz on Foot

Lucia was born and grew up in the fascinating city of La Paz and studied tourism at university. She loves Bolivia and sharing its wonders with visitors and enjoys traveling and searching for new experiences whenever she can.

“I specialize designing and operating adventuresome travel experiences in La Paz, Sucre, Potosi, the sacred Lake Titicaca, the dazzling Uyuni Salt Flats and the lowland rainforest regions of Beni and Santa Cruz as well. I also organize multinational trips, such as Perú-Bolivia-Chile. I especially enjoy organizing tours that allow our visitors to interact with the people of Bolivia in respectful ways, there is so much to learn about this place of the world and they are always happy to share!”

Welcome to Yanawara

Welcome to Yanawara

Welcome to Yanawara

We live in a consumerist world that creates tons of plastic and waste for most of our activities and purchases and although we can obtain beautiful and high quality products, we live in such a hurry that we do not appreciate the effort of the producers or have knowledge of the impact of our purchases. Most of the times, we don’t know if we pay a fair price that contributes a dignified work or if we really need all of our clothes and we will give them a good use.

 

This is something that many have been becoming aware of and taking actions for some time ago, but I think that the current context gives us an extra time of reflection where many more are joining this movement. I hope that the covid-19 context leads us to reflect, re-learn good practices and appreciate life and each others. Although we have been working for a year ago, we are launching this platform at this very difficult time. Aware that the months to come will be filled with many changes and uncertainty,  we are ready and eager to accept challenge, hoppping that better times will come. 

 

On this occasion we want to invite you to learn about Yanawara and it’s mission,  to explore this site that is our small contribution to fair trade and sustainable fashion. It has been created with love and detail and as an alternative that brings us hope in times when we cannot think of ourselves without thinking in others.

 

Yanawara is a start-up with an holistic concept that involves high quality, local sourced raw materials, women artisans and their families involved in production, entrepreneurs and dreamers who want to change the concept of production, design and consumption. We expect that our actions now will contribute to better working conditions, reduce inequalities, and cause less harm to the planet.

 

Welcome to Yanawara.

Let’s share & collaborate

In the next posts we will be updating about our lessons learned, our journey, sharing our activities and inviting  you to participate in this blog and share your thoughts.

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