At the basin of the southern Peruvian Andes, the Pacchanta people, twisting wool gathered from the alpacas that roam in herds across the snow-capped ridges, make yarn for weaving. Above them looms Ausangate, a pastel-colored mountain that changes shades with the seasons and shows wear of foot trodden paths that spiral around its steep slope leading up to the peak. Like the people who inhabited the land before them, the Pacchanta take part in the Incan tradition of weaving the yarn into Unkuñas—durable cloths that are folded and used to carry coca leaves and sacred stones around the rocky terrain as they go about their daily routines of herding alpacas and potato harvesting.
Eight hours outside of Cusco by Jeep, the traditions of the Pacchanta have been kept tucked away from most of the world for the better part of history. The high altitude of the land holds frivolous travelers away from its beauty, while the remote access of the roads makes only the most certain of hikers committed to the trek. It was in the summer of 2015 that Incausa founders, Vinicius Vieira de Vieira and Carolina Vieira, found themselves in the remote village that sits 14,500 feet above sea level.
“In a deep searching for purpose in living and work, after a four-month hitchhiking pilgrimage and participating in Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park, came the sentiment and realization for creating a company that’s core mission would be to work for the benefit of the commons,” Vinicius says in regards to the inspiration behind Incausa and his motivation for building a bridge between the “first nations” of invaded lands and international marketplaces.
Through a connection made by Espiritus del Ande Social Development founder, and native Peruvian, David Elias del Prado, Vinicius and Carolina, were introduced to the Pacchanta people, who offered them beds in their sod and stone homes and boiled potatoes to nourish their visitors as they developed the commerce structure for Incausa’s indigenous cause alongside the local artisans.
Years prior, David, the nephew of the Peruvian anthropologist, Dr. Oscar Núñez del Prado, had spearheaded the relationship with the Pacchanta people. This came after witnessing his uncle’s work in assisting the Q’eros, one of the last Incan communities also residing on Ausangate mountain, demarcate their lands that had been unjustly subjected to serfdom by Spanish conquistadors. Like his uncle, David was inspired to work with the indigenous communities of Peru by helping them to avoid the entrapments of industries that create dependent economies. With these enterprises, such as mining, comes new work for the local community, while simultaneously reducing demand for their native and cultural exports.
“Our hope is to influence the peoples of Pacchanta to work with a commerce model that focuses on artisanship and tourism, as opposed to mining. In simple words, the more alpaca they are able to raise and shepherd, the less miners have influence and power over them,” Vinicius and Carolina state when asked about Incausa’s relationship to the current commerce model.
By empowering the Pacchanta to participate in their traditional commerce model on a worldwide scale, Incausa founders and David hope to reduce the impact the mining industry has on the environment and cultural production of the community.
“We still consider ourselves a study on development, as we participate in influencing and guiding production that reflects the original traditions. We are hopeful that the capital demand itself can be the defining force in the revival of the ancient heritages and artisanal practices of Pacchanta—that our efforts will reflect a distancing from any materials or techniques that do not speak of their original identities.”
Since 2013, Vinicius and Carolina coordinate with David, who visits Ausangate frequently, to continue forming the foundation for what they call social entrepreneurshiping: a model that creates avenues through which indigenous products, like Unkuñas, can be manufactured and sold in realistic, sustainable, and recurrent volumes that meet demand. Most importantly, Incausa operates as a non-profit representative distributing to final resellers like ENDPAIN to ensure a near 50/50 split between resellers and artisans to forge the strongest profit share possible.
Along with the other handcrafted products, like our Stoneware Smudge Bowls made in collaboration by Incausa and Brooklyn artist, Jordan Colon, which are available on our site, we’re honored to participate in the grassroots mission of Incausa's brand. In this effort, we act as a trading post for indigenous communities while fortifying the identities and sovereignty of their authentically made and sourced items.