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From horror to hope

Untitled, by FelĂ­citas Flores Laura, a resident of Paccha, Perú

I recently discovered a Web site that depicts the horrors of Perú's 20-year civil war (1980-2000). Called Yuyarisun, the site is an archive of testimonies, drawings, poetry and comics created by peasants of the neighboring departments of Ayacucho and Huancavelica, the epicenter of the conflict.

The images on this site convey how completely the relatively peaceful lives of Andean peasants were shattered by the violence of raiding guerrillas and soldiers. Goya himself coudn't have done it better.

The picture above is particularly touching for me because it comes from Paccha, a village outside of Ayacucho that was visited one fateful night by Sendero Luminoso, or, the Shining Path. I've had the privilege of meeting one of the survivors of Paccha, a talented but ever-so-humble weaver named Wilbur Quispe.

Wilbur sells his artwork through ArtAndes in Minneapolis, which is run by Melanie Ebertz. Melanie has used proceeds from ArtAndes to launch a Comunidad a teeny non-profit foundation that has adopted Paccha. Among its good deeds, Comunidad has purchased a diesel-powered flour mill for the village (saves time, creates revenue!), currently pays the salaries of five teachers and is funding the planning and eventual construction of a school where Wilbur will teach homeless kids to become weavers, like someone once taught him.

I've heard lots of bits and pieces about Wilbur's story and the story of Paccha, but nobody has captured it better than Melanie's sister Jessica, who describes her visit to Paccha in A Durable Weave (PDF | 4 pages | 204KB). I highly recommend it -- it's an uplifting read!

Bonus extra: I just found out that Wilbur is in town, demonstrating his weaving on Tuesday and Thursday nights at the ArtAndes gallery. He'll also be meeting people at the ArtAndes booth at the Minneapolis Farmers' Market on Saturdays and Sundays.

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