Today I unwrapped my teeny creche scene and set it up. Little clay figurines I bought in Bolivia. Little alpaca shepherds wearing traditional knitted alpaca toques with earflaps and playing their zampogna (panpipes). Mary wearing a traditional women’s boler hat.
And Baby Jesus smiling from ear to ear.
In 1991 I was afforded an amazing opportunity to travel to Bolivia. At the time I was the Canadian sales agent for a women’s knitting co-operative run by the Bolivian Baptist Union. The project was called Project of Andean Community Artisans, (Projecto Andean Comunidad Artesano) or P.A.C.A. In both Spanish and English it was a brilliant play on words, seeing as they were using alpaca fibre for knitting.
The purpose of the trip was to educate myself to better understand the country, the women and the products. And what an education!
All these women were trying to support their families with their knitting. I tried to sell their sweaters and socks in Canada. This was before the internet!
At the time we were existing on a pastor’s small wage. The trip to Bolivia was a gift I will never forget. The only thing I could basically afford to bring home was my tiny creche set bought in this market stall.
And a set of chullus, a musical instrument or shaker. Made with a ribbon or strip of aguayo to which there are tied several trimmed goat, sheep, llama or alpaca toenails. When shaken, the sound produced suggests that of wind and falling rain.
At Christmas I remember with great fondness all those village women and their knitting needles, balancing their wee ones on their knees. And those wee ones were beaming, just like the Baby Jesus in my manger scene.