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From Ayacucho to East Lake Street

The great (and ever-so-humble) Wilbur Quispe is back in town. He's the weaver from Ayacucho, Peru, whose rugs are sold by my friend Melanie at Art Andes. I've seen many rugs in many a market and Wilbur's creations stand out not only for the quality of his materials (he uses hand-spun wool and natural dyes) but for how they're brought together into striking designs, many of which taken from Pre-Colombian weavings and pottery.

After much struggle, Wilbur and Melanie managed to seucre a work visa, so that Wilbur can demonstrate his work on a daily basis here in the currently sweltering north. Melanie says that Wilbur seems happiest when he's working. When he first came to Minnesota (in the middle of winter I recall), not only did he find the dinner parties at the opulent homes of rich white people a little unnerving, but he missed his craft dearly.

This summer, you can find Wilbur doing what he does best at the Minneapolis Farmers' Market, the new Midtown Global Market on East Lake Street (in the beautifully rehabbed Sears building) or at other venues.

Wilbur recently demonstrated his work at a boys' home, where he was able to talk about his troubled youth and how weaving essentially saved him from a life on the streets. It's a remarkable story that includes being orphaned at a young age, working as an indentured servant in the jungle and then losing his family to the Shining Path -- with a happy turn of events just when you think things couldn't get any worse. Melanie's sister Jessica has written an excellent narrative about Wilbur and his hometown of Paccha in A Durable Weave (PDF). If the story moves you, as I expect it will, please click over to the Art Andes website, where you can learn about Comunidad, the charity Melanie set up to help re-establish the vitality of Wilbur's hometown of Paccha. You might even want to make a little donation!

Read A Durable Weave (PDF)

Below: Watch Wilbur working his magic on the loom (via Don's crappy digital camera)

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So, are you back?

Sounds like a great trip.

And how was the food?


Peru Food

Thanks for checking in. Haven't been blogging since our return. Besides being super busy with work, I kinda got all Peru'd out, if you know what I mean. It's just such an intense place. I've always found that when I return, I really enjoy the relative peace, quiet and predictability of the States. (That is, until I begin to get irritated by the relative peace, quiet and tranquility of the States.)

Ah, the food. It was definitely a food-oriented trip. We hit Astrid y Gaston, which was out of this world. We also went to Gaston's "downscale" T'anta, which was delightful, particularly the tapas they serve up front while you're waiting for a table. When four straight days of altitude sickness made us flee back to sea level, we went on a trip down the coast, where we got a bunch of Helena chocotejas right from the source (I gave them away to clients as gifts and they seem to be very popular.) We also went to Tacama and a artesanal pisco bodega. I tried one of Tacama's dry red wines - blech! Later in the month, we went to Iquitos, where we tried some fruits I've never had, but enjoyed immensely, particularly the Cocona. I've actually had dreams of it and checked the web to see if anyone's importing the fruit to the States. No luck so far.

Finally, in my brief report (I'll have to blog in detail before it's too late!), I'll tell you that I'm toying with the idea of going to chef school in the next few years and I couldn't think of a better place to do it than in Lima. I mean, where else would a chef have access to such ingredients?

Again, thanks for writing!

Well, you know Lima is the only city in South America that has a Cordon Bleu. Plus, there are other good cooking schools there (I hear Universidad del PacĂ­fico has a good program).

Peru'd out? I don't know, my friend, I don't usually feel that, quite the contrary. When I return to LA, I always miss some of the noise and chaos, then again, LA has lots of that on its own, in comparision to other parts of the country.

Thanks for the interesting info about the food.

Keep in touch!

Peru Food
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