Peruvian Arpilleras

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Noah's Ark
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Jungle
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Beach Bears
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Market
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Peruvian Arpilleras

Chile is a land known for its abundance of natural beauty. It is also a land known for its recent survival of a violent and repressive dictatorship! In 1973, after the assassination of Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende, General Augusto Pinochet began a reign of terror in which thousands disappeared, never to be seen again. The women never gave up asking what happened to their men. Despite government threats, the women started sewing and smuggling out colorful tapestries, known as "arpilleras", that depicted Pinochet's murder and mayhem. Arpilleras are exquisitely detailed hand-sewn three dimensional textile pictures. Women political prisoners who were held during the Pinochet regime used them to camouflage notes sent to helpers outside. Even the most suspicious guards did not think to check the appliqué:d pictures for messages, since sewing was seen as inconsequential "women's" work. Through these colorfully crafted tapestries, the women told their stories of everyday life during the murderous regime.

This technique was first introduced to Peru about 1980. Today, arpilleras are created in a number of cooperatives located in the dusty shantytowns that ring the capital city of Lima. The homes are shacks constructed of panels of straw matting, crating, and corrugated metal. Water must be trucked in to the shantytowns because there are no water or sewage systems. Here live the poorest people who have moved to the big city from traditional homes in the mountains. They have few sources of income and their unemployment rate is near 80%! For many, the income from the sale of arpilleras provides their only source of income. Today, arpilleras tell the every day stories of Peruvian rural life: The planting and harvesting of crops; spinning and weaving wool; tending farm animals (llamas, sheep, and goats); and depict weddings and fiestas. Each a unique piece of original hand crafted art.