In the Peruvian village of Patacancha, people live the same way as they have before the Inca, with only satellite TV and Protestant religion showing the passage of time. They speak Quechua, a language that for each statement you make requires you to qualify how you know it (either “I know for a fact,” “I heard,” or “most likely”). The traditional alcoholic beverage is chicha, a beverage made from corn fermented with spit. (Dogfish Head is taking note.) The women spend much of their time weaving intricate fabrics, while the men often supplement their farming as porters on the Inca Trail.
To help keep this way of life, the women formed a weaving cooperative. A group called Awamaki assists the women in fair-trade marketing and has helped them build a weaving center in which natural dyes are grown. Awamaki also places volunteers in schools, preschools, and health clinics in nearby towns.
Last week, the area was hit with severe rains and flooding. In the nearby town of Ollantaytambo, where Awamaki is headquartered, houses, fields, and roads were all gravely damaged. Awamaki is organizing a relief effort to help families rebuild their homes, providing them with construction materials and technical assistance for safer constructions. They are also working to ensure that families have sufficient food and that displaced children have the school supplies they will need for the upcoming school year, which begins in several weeks.