Spring, 1985, Marge and Jim Choquette, owners of Clean Sweep (a janitorial company), were approached by Juan "C", a Peruvian architect by training, and a political exile by necessity. Juan was in hiding for something he had either said or done to someone high in the Peruvian government, which at that time was a ruthless military dictatorship. In any regard, Juan was not able to practice his profession in the United States because of licensing requirements, and, in order to make a living, worked as a janitor for Clean Sweep. He wanted to import handicrafts from his home country. He was afraid, however, to put his name on the required documents. He needed someone to front for him. Thus, a partnership was established, 'C' (for Choquette) /'C' (for Juan "C") Imports. As initially envisioned, Juan was eventually to be the Peruvian Purchasing Agent, while Marge and Jim would handle sales in the United States. We never really did find out what Juan's Peruvian problem was, but it must have been rather serious! When Juan eventually returned to Peru with his family, he promptly disappeared. He has never been heard from again.
We have an office, show room, and warehouse in Austin, Texas. You can contact us by:
Austin is not only a very beautiful little city, it is also the home of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Latin American Studies, The University of Texas. The only reason this is mentioned is that its library contains the largest collection of Latin American books in the United States. For the first few months after the formation of C/C Imports, Jim spent ten hours a day researching Peru and Peruvian handicrafts. These efforts are the basis for the stories found scattered throughout our web site, as well as the story cards which accompany each piece of our pottery.
To understand and appreciate Peruvian handicrafts, one must first look at the geography of modern day Peru. 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.
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 walks. 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.
The artisans draw from a mixture of folk tales, superstition, and religion for their unique and distinct themes found in their Rustic Pottery, Tapestries/Wall Hangings, and Religious Handicrafts
If you would like to visit our Austin Show Room, it is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm. We are also always happy to schedule appointments. Here, in addition to our extensive Peruvian handicrats, you will find many other beautiful items from Mexico to include leather furniture, Zapotec rugs, pewter and glass, and many other wondrous things!