The making of garments by hand and pure sheepskin is increasingly difficult. And what was a prosperous activity is now in decline. And it is that this area also came the competition of Chinese industrialization, with differences in quality and prices. The consequence? The progressive disappearance of artisans.
Process the wool, sell the threads, make embroidery, make garments with the manual skill is left for the memory. The current rhythm is another. The wool of the sheep is previously sold. The suppliers of this raw material buy it for their shipments abroad, especially to China. The Creole merchants must suffer to obtain the wool. Luckily, some are old customers and that’s why they keep some of the product.
What until recently cost $ 0.40 a pound of wool to process, is now paid at $ 0.60. This increase influences the final cost for Ecuadorian artisans, since they will not be able to continue selling at $ 3 per pound of white thread and at $ 5 per pound. These values are no longer competitive because at lower prices there are threads from China.
The strong days for sales are Saturdays. On a good day it sold between $ 2,500 and $ 3,000, now in the best case we reach $ 600, says Rolando Cushcagua, with 10 years dedicated to this business.
Rolando has nostalgia: This activity was good, he confesses. And he explains that the threads that come from China are a fierce competition. They are not pure, since they already have a synthetic product mix, but they are cheaper. At first glance it is not noticeable, but in the finished product yes.
For example, a poncho made with pure thread is heavier and costs about $ 50, the one made with imported thread is lighter and its price is between $ 25 and $ 30. The difference is that while a Creole poncho is made in a couple of days, the industrialized is done in a few hours.
In her small workshop, Estela Cushcagua embroiders a blouse. Her skillful hands shape a colorful figure. Account that before bordaba to deliver to the warehouses, but with the imported clothes and that also comes with embroideries and to a lower price, this activity declined. She suffers because that competition is ending with the workshops.
Another harsh reality is lived in the only thread factory that remains in Otavalo. One of its administrators who prefers not to give his name tells that the activity is not the same as a year and a half ago. Before, the wool that is the raw material was easily obtained. The product was brought and then it was paid, now it is in advance and there are not always funds.
She relates that they were looking for a loan in government entities and in private banks, but there is a lot of paperwork.
In the Plaza de los Ponchos, the situation is not buoyant either. As it is mid-week there are few tourists. Don Manuel does his best to offer sacks. It shows one that is pure wool and costs $ 28. But it can carry the alpaca, which is worth $ 25, “although it can offer”. There are also hats, gloves and other clothes at comfortable prices, because they are imported and cost less than the locals.
Twenty Pennies of a dollar more pay the otavaleños craftsmen by the pound of wool to process, according to their estimations. (I)