November 8, 2008 at 8:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apologies to all my faithful blog followers. It has been a very busy few months between trips to Lima for work, artisan fairs, workshops, applying to grad school, and most recently an incredible visit to Cuzco. First things first, all is well with the artisan association. I know I left off at a bit of a cliff hanger. Somehow over the last six weeks, I have managed to make lemons out of lemonade and turn all that conflict into something good.

A few days after writing that last entry back in September, I called an meeting with the official and unofficial leaders of the group to discuss the issues the association was facing. Visibly upset, I detailed my fears about conflict tearing the association apart and my disappointment about putting so much time and heart into a group that appeared to be on the brink of disaster. I had tried everything, and I was running out of solutions. The artisans were nervous about my behavior; they are used to a gregarious gringa who always has a smile on her face, and had rarely seen me in such a solemn mood. They laughed when I voiced my concerns and waved them off. Apparently, the group faces this sort of conflict every year. Last year it got so bad that they took their products out of the store and went on strike, refusing to turn products into the museum. “This is nothing,” they told me, patted me on the back and sent me on my way.

So, maybe I overreacted. Shortly afterwards, the museum management took drastic measures to try to resolve the inter-association conflict. They took a lot of responsibilities away from the artisans (including working at the store and running the quality control checks) in an abrupt way with very little communication about their motives. I suppose the museum, having worked with the association for over five years, got tired of the bickering and disagreements, but their actions seemed more like punishments than solutions. While I suppose some of the immediate issues were resolved, as a result a big rift has developed between the museum and the association.

Upon seeing this rift, I jumped at the chance to urge the association to establish itself as a separate entity from the museum. Whereas before I could barely get the group to stay in the same room long enough to have any real discussion, since the changes implemented by the museum the group has bonded together with a common goal of becoming more independent. The last few weeks have served as a self-esteem, leadership, and business plan workshop all rolled into one, as the artisans took offense to the museum’s attempts to punish and control them, and to make decisions regarding their business without taking the opinions of the artisans into account. They now meet more frequently, have better communication regarding upcoming events and fairs, and have even petitioned the municipality for a space in town to establish an office and display some of their work. I have been out of town a lot lately for artisan fairs, a Volunteer Advisory Committee meeting, and to guest star at diversity day at training (as the Jew), and much of this progress has been made in my absence. This is the best early Hannukah present I could ask for. Until very recently I have had to push hard to make advances here with the association, and it seems that finally they have taken the responsibility into their own hands.

We are currently finishing up a month-long workshop with a company called Strategia, which was contracted by Backus, a beer distributor. Backus has been working with small communities of artisans as part of their social development program and Tucume was lucky enough to receive their help. The workshops have covered everything from teamwork to cost analysis to planning your business, and it has been a great experience being able to take part in the workshops. The consultants come during the week to give their workshops, and then at night and on weekends I have worked with the artisans to put what they have been learning into practice. We are winding down the last workshop, and then will pull everything together next week to develop concrete business plans for some of the artisans. I myself am learning a ton, and, having lived here for a year am able to serve as a liaison between the consultants and the artisans to make most efficient use of the knowledge of the former and the experiences of the latter.


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