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C/C Imports Established 1967; Web Site January 1, 1997

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Peruvian Handicrafts

To understand and appreciate Peruvian handicrafts (folk art), one must first look at the origins of modern day Peru. When, in 1531, the Spanish Conquistadores landed on the coast of what we now call Peru, they found one of the most highly developed civilizations the world had ever known. It is a sad fact that this civilization, known as The Inca Empire, was totally laid to ruin within a mere 11 years by the Spaniard's insatiable quest for gold and precious jewels! Although destroyed as a nation, the Incas, as a race, were never assimilated by the Spanish. The major reason for this was geographical. Peru's Geography presents formidable difficulties to modern human habitation. There are three different and distinct geographical regions, the raw materials available in each district dictate the type Peruvian handicraft produced: The western seaboard is one of the driest deserts in the world. It never rains. The only source of water is the melt-off of Andes Mountain snow. Throughout this desert, tombs, over 2,500 years old, have been found which are perfectly preserved due to the dry climate. Duplication of the artifacts found in these tombs is a primary source of this region's handicrafts. Parallel to the coast, and within a mere five to ten miles inland, are the Andes Mountains. They are characterized by massive soaring peaks gouged with deep canyons. These mountains, which cover 26 percent of Peru, are the home for over 50 percent of the population. They live in over 5,000 small isolated villages. Nearly 99% of this rural population (and 60% of the town dwellers!), have no running water or sewage. They live largely outside the "money economy" (It is difficult for those of us in advanced societies to grasp, but there really are people in this world who not only do not use money, they don't know the meaning of plastic!) Travel, to put it politely, is difficult. The artisans draw from a mixture of folk tales, superstition, and religion for their themes. At the eastern foot of the Andes Mountains lie the vast unexplored virgin jungles of the Amazonian Basin. Here, there are no roads. One travels either by air, boat, or on foot. This vast region has, for the most part, never been explored by civilized man. In an attempt to bring these people into the modern world, Missionaries have established "half-way" villages. These are villages located far enough away from civilization to make the Indians feel comfortable, but still close enough for traders to reach. Even today, the vast majority of these Indians have never been exposed to modern civilization. The products from the jungles are more utilitarian in nature. These are very rare, and their beauty and uniqueness make them truly collectors items.

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