|UFDC Home||myUFDC Home | Help|
This item has the following downloads:
POLITICS OF CONSERVATION AND CONSUMPTION:
THE VICUNA TRADE IN PERU
AMY ELIZABETH COX
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This study was made possible through grants from Tinker Foundation and the
Polly and Paul Doughty Latin America Research Grant. I would like to give my thanks
and gratitude to Grupo Inca and its employees, the officers of CONACS, and especially
the members of Sociedad Nacional de la Vicufia. Without their assistance, candor and
trust I would not have had the opportunities and experiences that they so willingly invited
me to share with them. I would also like to thank the directors of Conatura, Jorge Torres
and Dr. Catherine Sahley, who helped plan and execute this study. Without their insights
and contacts it would have been difficult to conduct this research. I am eternally grateful
to them. I should also thank Dr. Marianne Schmink who gave me Dr. Sahley's email
address and started this entire endeavor. Many thanks go to fellow vicufia researcher
Jennifer Davies, who helped with this project on so many levels. I would like to thank Dr.
Allan F. Burns, Dr. Anthony R. Oliver-Smith and Dr. Glenn G. Willumson who provided
intellect and encouragement, and tempered my frustrations and confusions with kind
words and support. I would also like to thank my Dad who actually read the entire rough
draft, provided useful editorial comments, and helped me with my calculations. Never
has there been a more productive spring break. Finally, eternal appreciation and thanks
go to my Mom who manages to support me through everything.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S .................................................................................................. ii
L IST O F T A B L E S .................... ...... .. .... ....................... .. ......... .......... .... ....
LIST O F FIG U R E S .... .............................. ....................... ........ .. ............... vi
ABSTRACT ........ .............. ............. .. ...... .......... .......... vii
1 IN TR O D U C TIO N ........................ ...... ...................... ........ ..... ................
R research Q question ................................................... .. ...... .......... ... ............ 1
M ethods and Tim eline ................. .... .... ................ .. .. ....... .......... .......
2 HISTORY AND BACKGROUND .............................. ........................... 17
A H history of C conservation ......................................................................... ... ... 17
Conservation Today .................................................. ...... ......... ................. 21
Property Rights and Concepts of Wilderness .................................................23
Tradition, Chaku and Environmentalism ............... ..............................................26
3 COMMODITY CHAIN OF VICUNA MANUFACTURING............................34
V icu ia to M ark et ........................................................................ .................... 3 4
SN V v s. A lm ar................................................. ................ 3 9
IV C ................... ........................................................ ................ 4 1
C costs and P profits .....................................................................45
4 THE GLOBAL MARKET AND ITS EFFECTS ON LOCAL
C O M M U N ITY ................. ........ .......... ............................. .. .............52
M market Participation and its Effects Locally ............................... ............... .54
Com m unity Reflections ........................... ................................ 61
Tambo Cafiahuas, Department of Arequipa ................................................61
Ondores, Department of Junin and Rancas, Department of Cerro de Pasco..63
Lucanas, Department of Ayacucho ............... ......................................67
M em ory an d P ow er............ ........................................ ................ .. .... .... .. ..7 1
5 CON SU M IN G ID EN TITIE S.............................................................................75
Creating the Neo-Indigenous Identity.................. .... ......... .. ............... 79
Invoking Inca ............. ............... ............... ........ ...... ..............87
6 CONCLUSION ................ ............. ............................ .............. 93
REFERENCES .......................... ......... .... ......... ............. 100
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................... ............................................... 105
LIST OF TABLES
2-1 Change in population for selected departments............... ................. ............... 20
2-2 V icufia tim eline...................... ........ .. .......... .. ............20
3-1 Price of vicufia fiber per kilogram 1994-2002........................ .................... 37
3-2 C om m odity chain of vicuia .............................................................. .. ..................40
3-3 2002 Financing of SNV and Almar, price per kilogram ..........................................41
3 -4 S ales 2 0 0 1 ......... .... .............. ................................... ..........................4 3
3-5 IV C consume option, 200 1....................................................................... ..................43
3-6 Production and waste for vicufia processing .................................... ............... 46
3-7 Percentage waste and end purchase price per kilogram ...........................................47
3-8 Raw material cost ($385/kg) vs. retail price..... .......... ...................................... 48
3-9 Purchase price vs. retail price ......................................................................... ... ... 48
LIST OF FIGURES
2 1 C h a k u I .................................................................................................................. 3 0
2-2 C haku II ......................................3............................1
2 -3 V icu fi a ...................... .. ............. .. ........................................................3 2
2 -4 P eru v ian c re st .............................................................................................................. 3 2
5-1 Front Cover of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet ........... .................... 81
5-2 Page one and two of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet ..........................................82
5-3 Page three and four of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet ....................................... 83
5-4 Page five and six of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet ............. ..... .......... 84
5-5 Page seven and eight of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet .............. ...................84
5-6 Page nine and ten of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet ..........................................85
5-7 Last Page of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet ........... ................. ...... .........86
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
POLITICS OF CONSUMPTION AND CONSERVATION:
THE VICUNA TRADE IN PERU
Amy Elizabeth Cox
Chair: Allan F. Burns
Major Department: Anthropology
During the Incaic period it is estimated that between 1.5 and 2 million vicufia
roamed the Andes. However with the arrival of the Spanish colonists those numbers
rapidly began to decline and the vicufia has been threatened with extinction since the
Spanish arrived in the New World. In the latter half of the twentieth century the vicufia
population began to recover. Today there are approximately 130,000 vicufias living in the
This study focuses on how the trade of the vicufia, a wild, endangered and heavily
protected species, is affecting local communities. With the reintroduction of the historic
Incan ritual, the chaku, the government has worked for 10 years with Andean
communities implementing this conservation program. As a result, ritual, history and
identity are being re-invented and re-imagined in order to gain access and usufruct rights
over the valuable resource. I examine three interrelated questions surrounding the
commercialization and trade of the vicuia. How does consumption and production of the
vicufia shape cultural meaning of the resource and identity of those working with the
animal? How is the chaku as a method for conservation being conceptualized and
actualized locally? Finally, through an investigation of the vicufia commodity chain, I ask
the question, can the vicufia deliver on its promise to bring economic prosperity to
Indigenous identity and history are being promoted not only as a way to market
the vicufia internationally but also as a way to encourage communities to perform the
chaku ritual. In order to give usufruct rights to Andean communities, conflicting concepts
of tradition and rights related to identity and history are deployed. Initial observations
show that communities are active and dynamic in reshaping the Incan chaku ritual with
respect to defining the space and meaning it will hold in their local economic and social
structures. As consequence, however, there is much miscommunication and debate
between those who have implemented the chaku and those who are subjects of that
implementation. Lastly, it is doubtful that the vicufia can deliver on its promise to bring
wealth to all the communities. Rather, a few communities that have large populations of
vicufia will and are experiencing success, but the majority of the communities are not.
Fugitive vicuhas of winged lightness
Toward the snow they run to reflect their shadows
As if they were lead by instincts of purity
They are, by heraldic sign, made for heights
To melancholys and serenities
They love the cold peaks, they love the cold snow
They love distance, they love solitude
The vicuhas are not princesses or vestals
That in the pythagorism of reincarnations
In their sticks maintain priestly fires
Or ruminate dances and songs of melancholy
Polished and serene, romantic and slight
In a gallop full of agility and grace
Running out towards the calmness of the perpetual snows
Seek shelter in the peaks, their aristocratic shearing
-Jose Santos Chocano (original in Spanish, my translation)
During the Incaic period it is estimated that 2 million vicuha roamed the Andes
(National Organization of South American Camelids "CONACS" 1997). However with
the arrival of the Spanish colonists those numbers rapidly began to decline and the vicuia
has been threatened with extinction since the Spanish arrived in the New World. In the
latter half of the twentieth century, however, the vicuha population began to recover.
Today there are approximately 130,000 vicuhas living in the Peruvian highlands
Vicuia fiber is the finest that can be woven and its preciousness has contributed
to the poaching of the animal. In 1995 the endangered species status of the vicufia was
changed so that Peru could export and sell the fiber. The motto became "a vicufia sheared
is a vicufia saved" (Amy Cox interview with CONACS, 5/16/02 Lima, Peru). It was
argued that through commercialization the species would be best conserved. Peruvian
officials also believed that the vicufia resource was economically exploitable for its high
value of fiber, and could be a mechanism and new source of income by which to improve
the quality of life for Andean communities. The communities were given sole exclusive
rights to the fiber as a way creating a new source of income and preserving the animal. I
argue that while the program was developed to integrate communities into the national
economy and improve communal well being, the promotion and sustainability of the
vicufia resource as a commercial endeavor requires indigenous history, heritage and the
With the reintroduction of the historic Incan ritual, the chaku, the government has
worked for 10 years with Andean communities implementing this conservation program.
The chaku, first described in 1586 by Diego Cabeza de Vaca (Portus 1994:22), is a round
up of the animals for shearing. During today's chaku ceremony people climb into the
hills, hold long strings of flags, which form a human chain/net and round up the wild
vicufia for shearing. Once the shearing is complete, the animals are released alive back
into nature. The chaku ritual, as well as other aspects of indigenous Peruvian heritage, is
being commodified, re-invented, and re-imagined, in order to create a new source of
income as well as to gain access and exclusive rights over the valuable resource. Vicufia
management embodies the articulation of power over an endangered natural resource and
The intention of this study is to look at the international trade of vicuha fiber as a
way of investigating questions of globalization, development, and identity. By focusing
on what I view to be a dense symbol of wealth, history, and culture, the vicuha, I research
the socioeconomic effects international trade has on rural communities. I explore how
meaning and cultural values change at different phases in the commodification of this
natural resource. In addition, I look at how an ancient Incan ritual and constructions of
indigenous identity are being modified and manipulated to suit the needs of the
community, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and other
My study has three questions, two of which stemmed from the needs of the
National Society of the Vicuha, (SNV). One of the needs outlined in the action plan of
the SNV was to explore new markets. In order to accomplish this the SNV outlined
several needs areas, two of which were 1) a need for the aggregated worth of the fiber
and 2) a need to understand the promotion and production process of the vicuha on the
national and international level (Sociedad Nacional de la Vicuha "SNV" 2002:Appendix
3). I examine three interrelated questions surrounding the commercialization and trade of
1) How does consumption and production of vicuha fiber shape identity as well as
cultural meaning of the resource?
2) How is the chaku as a method for conservation being conceptualized and
3) Is the vicuha delivering on its promise to economically develop communities?
I trace out the commodity chain driving an increase in shearing of the vicuha in
order to understand how economic value and cultural meaning shift in the stages of
commodification and production. I research the raw material extraction, the
manufacturing process, and the final production and consumption of the product. My
central concern is to look at how each part relates to one another forming the links that
make up the commodity chain. One of the goals of the SNV was to learn more about
vicuha fiber processing to be able to better manage the vicuha resource. While my
investigation satisfied their need I also simultaneously investigated the purported
economic benefits of the program.
I focus on two aspects of promotion: use of Incan history both for exclusive
access to animals and for marketing to elite consumers. Indigenous identity and Incan
history are the cornerstone for the promotion of the final product as well as for the chaku.
I make clear that all parties are active in this process of using history for political and
economic advancement. The result is the commodification of culture and history and a
perpetuation of socio-biological claims about the naturalness of indigenous people.
The vicuha fiber is sheared using the historic chaku ritual. In Chapter 4 I compare
three chakus in terms of their production capacity and their elaborateness of Incan ritual.
I argue that the two are related. That is, the greater the number of vicuha, the greater
"Incaness" is displayed, and the greater commodification of culture occurs. Supporting
examples of this are the introduction of religious ritual, dance, Incan performance and
ceremony, and development of eco-tourism operations as a way of buttressing and
expanding economic opportunities from vicuha shearing.
Culture does not just represent society; it also fulfills, within the context of the
requirements of the production of meaning, the functions of reelaborating social
structures and inventing new ones. In addition to representing relations of
production, it contributes to their reproduction, transformation, and invention.
(Garcia-Canclini 1993:10, italics in original)
The chaku ritual is being manipulated so that it can eventually become a tourist
attraction. This ritual is continuously changing as people see ways to better promote
heritage, the vicuia, and develop a new source of income. History, heritage and identity
are based on today's globalized world and its needs. How the public views what is
indigenous influences the outcome of the "historic" ritual.
I do not argue that the ritual is inauthentic or that the rural people do not have a
different cosmovision. I argue that authenticity and tradition are terms that ignore
dynamism and we cannot continue to use them. New authenticities are being created from
what we think should be authentic Inca and indigenous. "Objects represent a way of
appropriating and preserving symbols of identity"(Garcia-Canclini 1993:34). Because the
vicufia is a symbol steeped in history and part of Peruvian culture, studying how the
symbol is used sheds light on how globalization is affecting Peruvian identity. Identity,
ritual and heritage are constructs developed from today's history. It is not that
globalization is the ultimate homogenizer. Rather, it is currently the ultimate creator of
nationalism, specialized identities, and otherness.
In Chapter 5 I examine the promotional pamphlets and marketing philosophy of
Grupo Inca, one of the three companies that have been given exclusive rights to
manufacture vicufia fiber. Besides portraying current indigenous Peruvians as remnants
of the past, Grupo Inca seeks to capitalize on Peruvian history in order to promote
consumption. In its pamphlet Grupo Inca states:
The hair of the vicufia, the finest in the world was reserved in the time of the Inca
for only the emperor and his nobility. Presently vicufia fiber is obtained through
an ancient Inca tradition called the chaku which consists of using a large human
chain to capture the animals and herd them into a corral where they are shorn and
then liberated back into the wild, converting this magical ritual into a colorful
party. (Grupo Inca Marketing Pamphlet 2002)
Along with a promotion of the vicufia as historic, scarce and elite, the fiber is
marketed as a sustainable, ecological and indigenous. This marketing plan of
conservation and nature have elevated the importance of the vicufia and created a new
indigenous ritual history based on nature, pristine, and Inca. Purchasing these products,
you can feel good about your consumerism because you are helping to conserve a species
and develop impoverished rural communities
I argue that all of this is acting within the sphere of globalization, which requires
the exotic, the past, and nature. The promotion of the vicufia is based on an alteration of
identity and history in relation to contemporary politics. Consumption is a powerful
force. It, along with the very real hope of hitting a gold mine, are serving to create new
notions of indigenous belief and history. At issue are concepts that cannot be easily
defined: What is natural? What is wild? How do we define property? How do we view
indigenous peoples not only in Peru but internationally? And finally, how does our
consumerism serve to commodity culture and nature?
In Chapter 3 I calculate the aggregate worth of the fiber and quantify the
economic costs and benefits of vicufia manufacturing. For example, a vicufia scarf costs
$400-$1000 USD.1 Through my research, I calculate that a vicufia scarf produced
$53,865.00 of income for the Peruvian manufacturing plant and $28,702 for the Andean
communities. However, only 20% of the vicufia fiber is finished in Peru. The remainder
1 all monetary values in U.S. dollars.
is finished and sold overseas. Furthermore most of the fiber has been stockpiled as
evidenced in the small number of scarves sold and produced vs. the amount of fiber
purchased. I conclude that the monetary benefit for the communities stemming from the
sale of the vicuha varies by community with the majority of communities not seeing any
substantial monetary benefit. However, the communities with the highest concentration
of vicuha will and are benefiting greatly.
The last issue I investigate was not one I had anticipated, but one that merits
attention and thought. The entire conservation program of the vicuha hinges on Peruvian
law giving usufruct rights of the fiber to the communities. The communities are given
the right to shear the animal in exchange for community protection of the vicuha living
on their communal land. Underlying this action is the belief that if given rights to the
resource, poaching would cease. These rights, however, were not clearly defined and an
ongoing struggle over access to the resource has ensued. In Chapter 2, I begin to explore
how usufruct is conceptualized and the problems created because of this law. The chaku,
a dynamic ritual system that was newly introduced to the communities, came to be a
crucial component in my analysis of how tradition, belief, and power are altered.
My original hypothesis asserted that as the community becomes more involved in
the international market, the monetary and cultural value of the vicufia will become
stronger while class divisions will become greater. While it is difficult to assess causal
relationships stemming from the vicufia, my observations show that new hierarchies have
been created and indigenous identities are being manipulated by the state, local and
corporate levels to gain socioeconomic and political leverage. The process is not a top-
down domineering imposition. The local communities have very different perceptions,
problems, and projections for the vicuia. This is clearly manifested in the differences
exemplified in the chaku ritual and beliefs of each community.
Methods and Timeline
I operationalize my three research questions through the exploration of the
commodity chain. This research is somewhat different than classic anthropological
research because of the nature of the study. Instead of conducting all my fieldwork in one
community, my research required that I follow the production and consumption of vicufia
products. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in urban centers like Arequipa and Lima,
researching the main manufacturing plant, working with the Peruvian government,
community organizations, and other private companies. I also had to change my
community visits several times for a variety of reasons. In the end I worked in three
communities Rancas in Cerro de Pasco, Pampa Galeras in Ayacucho and Tambo
Cafiahuas in Arequipa. I also visited a research station outside of Cuzco and had plans to
visit another community in that department but due to a freeze that occurred, the visit was
My methods included participant observation, open-ended interviews, and simple
random surveys of community members. In the workshops sponsored by Conatura, a
NGO located in Arequipa, Peru, I passed out questionnaires and conducted shorter
informal interviews. I also used data from published materials and interviews to quantify
the aggregate worth of the fiber and the profits and costs of the vicufia production. Lastly
I collected and analyzed visual material culture, such as promotional pamphlets, posters,
photographs and marketing materials.
I visited four communities in four different departments, one research station
outside of Cuzco, participated in two chakus, and interviewed leaders of the SNV, Almar,
Conatura, National Organization of South American Camelids (CONACS), National
Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (INRENA) and Grupo Inca. In addition I
worked with Conatura in two community planning workshops and attended several
government meetings, local community congresses, and community meetings.
I began my study in Lima, Peru on May 12, 2002. Conatura had assisted me with
the initial proposal and helped me set up contacts and community visits. Because
Arequipa is located about twelve hours from Lima, I needed to contact the Lima
organizations first. I called the SNV and CONACS and set up interviews. These
interviews were the first of many and the discussions allowed me to get an overview of
the stakeholders and as well as organize crucial community visits. The SNV and
CONACS helped me gain entry into several communities and without their cooperation,
this study would have been difficult, if not impossible, to execute.
During this week I also met with the director of Conatura to organize my site
visits and workshops for the following weeks in Arequipa. Lastly, I visited the exclusive
retail shop, Alpaca III, which sells vicufia products in the LarcoMar shopping center. At
this shop I had the great fortune of getting the contact information for the only Peruvian
factory that is permitted to work with vicufia fiber, Grupo Inca. I contacted them while in
Lima and they agreed to meet with me the following week in Arequipa. Gilberto was my
contact at Grupo Inca and was open and candid about the vicufia production process.2 He
gave me a tour of the factory and introduced me to key players in the vicufia production
2 Names are changed, unless last name included.
process whom I later interviewed. I returned to the factory several times and Gilberto's
kindness, frankness and availability, helped me to gain more insight into the process and
understand how Grupo Inca viewed the vicufia in its overall business plan.
I had initial plans to visit a community in the department of Junin before
departing to Arequipa, but the chaku was canceled.3 This would become a common
occurrence and hindrance for not only my study but for the SNV. Instead, I flew to
Arequipa where I began my work with Conatura. They had facilitated my initial meeting
with the SNV and had agreed to help me with community visits in the departments of
Arequipa and Puno.
My first week in Arequipa I participated in a workshop sponsored by Conatura.
The two-day workshop was attended by all of the participating communities in the
Arequipa department. This session provided me with the opportunity to conduct a survey,
interview community leaders, and participate in discussions about community needs and
problems. It also helped strengthen my relationship with the SNV and Conatura.
With the assistance of Conatura I had originally planned to visit two communities
in the Arequipa region, Salinas and Pampa Cafiahuas, and Picotani in the department of
3 Throughout the summer several obstacles presented themselves. The community I was
scheduled to visit in Arequipa decided at the last minute that they did not want Conatura
to conduct the scheduled five- day workshop. Without the assistance of Conatura I was
also unable to visit the community. The two site visits I had scheduled in Cuzco were
canceled because Peru was experiencing a severe freeze and shearing of the vicufia was
canceled for fear that this would endanger the animals. My rescheduled visit to a
community in the department of Junin was also canceled because the corral holding the
animals broke and all of the vicuna escaped. Lastly, two community visits were
shortened because of national strikes and riots. These experiences, while extraordinarily
frustrating, also served to shed light on the instability of Peru and the difficulty of
planning and promoting the chaku as a development alternative.
Puno. However, due to a conflict between Conatura and the community the Salinas visit
was postponed and I was not able to attend. The Picotani visit was canceled due to
conflicting schedules and reports of dangerous travel in Juliaca, the larger town on the
way to Picotani.4 Consequently I only visited one community with Conatura, Pampa
Cafiahuas, which is an annex of four smaller communities. I visited Pampa Cafiahuas
with Conatura and participated in a community workshop and strategic vicufia
management planning session.
Following this, I interviewed the managers at Grupo Inca. I was given a factory
tour and initially they were quite open and willing to discuss manufacturing, marketing
and their business plans with me. However, as my search for more sensitive information
increased, their reluctance did as well. I interviewed the production manager, two textile
engineers, and the Director of Retail Sales and Marketing. I attempted to interview the
other major knitwear factory of Peru, Mitchell Company, (they were denied the
opportunity to export vicufia), but was refused an interview.
From Arequipa I returned north where the SNV had agreed to take me to several
different communities to participate in local congresses, meetings and chakus.5 First, I
4 Communities can be very fickle and in this particular instance two NGO's were vying
for the exclusive right to work the community. Conatura had this workshop planned for
several months but ARACUARIA, a Spanish NGO, had told the communities that if they
worked with Conatura they could not work with ARACUARIA. Competition for
community access continues to be a problem.
5 I had difficulties getting to and staying in communities. Because I had no reliable
transportation, I had to rely on the SNV, Conatura or CONACS to take me to sites. In
addition I needed them to help me enter these communities that would otherwise not
necessarily welcome an outside researcher. While I visited several different types of
communities I was unable to stay as long as I had originally planned, due not only to the
time constraint of the summer, but also due to transportation and planning. Consequently
visited Ondores in the department of Junin and then went on to visit Rancas in the
department of Cerro de Pasco. In Ondores I participated in a local congressional meaning
and monthly planning meeting. There was also a forum for discussing the problems the
community had experienced with the SNV and with Almar. Almar is a company named
after Alfonso Martinez, a lawyer from Lucanas, Ayacucho. Martinez has been a key
player in the development of the chaku program and in the promotion and production of
vicuia fiber as a method for increasing community income. The meeting in Ondores
stemmed from the fact that Almar was competing for rights to shear the vicuia fiber of
several communities, offering better prices and plans than the SNV. Almar was targeting
several of the major producers of fiber and threatening the stability and longevity of the
SNV. The SNV believed that Almar was spreading rumors about them and the SNV had
gone to Ondores in order to clarify and quell those rumors. Martinez was supposed to
attend the meeting but failed to show up. This raised the ire of the SNV because they felt
that they could not quell the rumors without speaking to him face to face in front of the
In Rancas, Cerro de Pasco I participated in my first chaku. This was also my third
community visit. What I had begun to see was that while there were similarities between
sites, there was much discontinuity. What was true in one community was not always
true in another community. Not only was there discontinuity in the way the historic ritual
was conducted, but also in terms of the presence of social capital, infrastructure,
I was unable to research much of what was originally scheduled. On the other hand, I sat
in on meetings and met people who I had not originally planned for either.
leadership, organization, and financial well-being. My idea of a unified rural population
and community structure was exploded.
Following this visit I returned to Lima and attended meetings with the SNV and
CONACS learning more about the SNV's battle to maintain exclusive selling and
shearing rights. The problems with Almar continued to be a thorn in the SNV's side and
they were at constant battle with this phantasm.
Accompanied by the SNV I went to the department of Ayacucho to visit the town
of Lucanas, the biggest producer of vicufia fiber. Lucanas is the site where "it all began".
Here in the late 70's a German NGO began a program to repopulate the vicufia. This is
also the home of the first leaders of the SNV and CONACS. This visit turned out to be
pivotal. During the Festival of Cheese and Vicufia, dignitaries, tourists, and government
officials had come to participate in the famous Incan chaku ritual. Creating the chaku,
totally different from the one I saw in Rancas, into a national event, people from all over
Peru came to participate and witness the shearing of the vicufia. Here I met Alfonso
Martinez, the first president of CONACS and owner/founder of Almar. He introduced me
to several of his friends and the first President of the SNV. The dialogues started to shift
as new perspectives, politics and agendas came into play. I felt as if I was in a novel and
the plot was thickening.
Returning to Lima I followed up on my new contacts and conducted several
formal interviews before heading off to Junin again. I was scheduled to visit the
community of Cachi Cachi and see another chaku. Leaving Lima I was robbed while
sitting in traffic and worse, the visit to Cachi Cachi in Junin never happened because the
fence surrounding the vicufia broke and all of the vicufia escaped, resulting in no chaku
for me to visit. At this point I had four community visits in four different departments.
My last community visit was in the department of Cuzco. I flew to Cuzco, took a course
in Quechua and continued to research. In Cuzco, a totally different angle was spun and a
politic that was separated from the vested interests of Lima was displayed.
Unfortunately my Cuzco visits were canceled because of the immense freeze that
Peru experienced, ultimately leading to a state of emergency and national campaign to
send blankets and aid to the farmers and herders living in the high plains. No shearing of
vicufia would be conducted during this time. Nonetheless I was able research in the
university library and met three anthropologists who would help me greatly with
literature and years of experience: Dr. Jorge Flores Ochoa, Dr. Carmen Escalante, and Dr.
After a few weeks of waiting and after the freeze let up, I participated in the
Department of Cuzco's Congress for Vicufia and met the Cuzco and Apurimac CONACS
workers. While I never made it to Quispicanchis in Cuzco, I did visit La Raya, a
university field research site that works with alpaca, llama, vicufia, cattle, and sheep. I
also attended a festival in Sicuani where community members brought and showed their
animals. La Raya is dedicated to answering biological questions of territoriality, family
make-up, illness, and issues of fertility with the captured vicufia. They have extensive
research facilities and are associated with the university in Cuzco. La Raya also performs
chakus and has benefited monetarily from the sale of the fiber. Their chaku ritual, as told
by my guide, was nothing like the one in Lucanas, but was similar to the chaku of
Out of all the research conducted I am most disappointed with the absence of
community visit in the Cuzco department. Cuzco communities are more isolated and
separated from the politics of Lima and Arequipa. Moreover Quechua is spoken without
shame in front of foreigners. This study would be improved with the experience of
another chaku in the department of Cuzco.
It is difficult to capture and set down on paper the feeling of dynamism that life,
projects and politics take on. A good example of this is that while in Peru the United
States lifted the ban on the importation of vicufia products. Witnessing how everyone
reacted to this policy change helped me to see the power the U.S. has in the creation of
policy and ideology in other countries. However, I left during the development and
opening of this new market. Being away from Peru and from contacts has left a void in
this new development in the ongoing evolution of vicufia management. What lies ahead is
unpredictable but watching it develop should prove interesting.
The conclusions of this research are not new. Rather this is a case study
supporting the work of many anthropologists who have looked at international trade and
the commodification of culture. Peru has been part of the globalized economy and trade
for over six centuries (Wolf 1982). "It is characteristic of the Andean area that the coast,
the piedmont, the altiplano highlands, and the tundra steppe (puna) afford very different
environments and resources, and hence require and enable different human activities"
(Wolf 1982:59). Trade between those areas was critical for survival and the Inca
flourished by trading through these areas. More recent, Peru followed another export
boom in the guano trade in the 1800s and in the 1900s wool was exported in mass
quantities. Copper, silver and other minerals continue to be a part the Andean export
economy. The vicufia trade is simply another iteration of adaptability to a flexible trade
My goal is that this research and observation provide insight into the way that
local communities participate in the global marketplace and explain how they mobilize
conventions of cooperative work and resource management to engage international
markets. Curiously, knowing how important indigenous heritage is to the sustainability of
the vicufia resource and its retail success may help empower the communities to take
control over the portrayal and use of their history, heritage, ritual and identity. This, in
turn, will allow them to actively engage in the development of their future.
HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
The gods had mercy on men
And decided to people the earth
By alpaca and llamas
By vicuha and guanacos
They emerged from the wells
From the pacarinas and the fountains
They offered their meat, their hide, and their blood
Thoughtful man in the darkness
That day they will be treated well
(In Silva 1994, my translation)
Apullarghagua had a beautiful daughter named Qhori Chaska. All the young men of the
region wanted her, but their parents did not accept any of them. One day when the Inca
arrived in the village to govern, knowing of the young girl, he wanted to meet her, but her
parents, to prevent this from happening, transformed the young girl into a vicuha.
Nonetheless, in his dreams the Inca saw her as she was described to him. Sick and sad
because of this, his servants brought to him the aforementioned vicuha. Healed by
contemplating the greatness of the animal, he ordered that she be released in a prairie
where he visited her every day. His wife, with jealous rage, killed the animal and ordered
a dress made with its skin. When the Inca found out about this, he prohibited all women
from wearing the vicuha skin.
(In Brack 1987 and reiterated in interview with Alfonso Martinez, 6/28/02, my
A History of Conservation
In 1553, a Spanish chronicler, Pedro Cieza de Leon described the following:
Before the Spaniards took this kingdom, there was all around these lands and
open fields great quantity of sheep of those lands, and greater number of guanacos
and vicuhas, but with the quickness that the Spaniards took to kill them, so few
remain that there are almost none. (Ochoa 1994:30, my translation)
The vicuha resides in the puna, or high treeless pampa plateau in the Andes
Mountains, and grazes in elevations between 4000 and 5000 meters (Wheeler 1997). The
puna, or high plateau, is a treeless pampa in the Andes Mountains. The vicuha is the
smallest member of the camelid family and its hair is considered the finest in the world
(Grewell 2002:2). "The fiber of vicuha, after natural silk, is the finest fiber the world
knows, with an average diameter of 13.2 microns, outdoing the wool of alpaca and
cashmere (Brack 1987:7). Others argue that the vicuha width is typically between 10 and
11.4 microns, while Cashmere is 15-19 and the Alpaca is 18-22. Duccio Bonavia states
that the vicuha is the finest wool that can be woven and is the only wild ungulate that
develops well in the high plains of the Andes (Bonavia 1996). In general, one vicuia
every two years produces approximately 200-250 grams of fine fiber. This preciousness
has spurred three centuries of use and abuse of the animal.
In 1825 Simon Bolivar signed into effect law #135 stating the prohibition of
killing the vicuha and limiting the shearing to the months of April, May, June and July.
A law in 1917 sought to increase the vicuha population through a teaching program of
caring for the young of the vicuha, llama and alpaca. In 1920 and 1926 two laws
prohibited the fabrication and exportation of the fiber (Silva 1994). In total between 1786
and 1964 over 40 legal motions were made to protect the vicufia and prevent extinction.
Most did nothing to protect the animal from near extinction and in 1964 there were
approximately 5000 vicufia left in Peru (Silva 1994). In 1965 the Peruvian government
along with assistance from WWF, UICN, Sociedad Zoologica de Frankfurt and the
Belgian government created a 6,500-hectare (16,061.85 acres) reserve in Pampa Galeras,
Ayacucho. Their goal was to protect the vicufia and eventually use these animals to
repopulate all of the Andes and to create income potential for the communities.
The German Society for Technical Cooperation in 1977 stated:
The vicufias although not domesticated, form part of the high puna ecosystem. We
consider the vicufias for the possibility to use them in benefit for the human
populations and for the need to conserve this valuable natural resource. The
Rational Utilization Project of the Vicufia has the basic objective of repopulating
the puna with a native species of grand economic potential and to augment the
profitability of the marginal lands of the Andes, through the use of the vicufia and
other wild fauna species for the benefit of communities and campesina businesses.
(Ochoa 1982:22, my translation)
Law 17816 in 1969 prohibited the exportation, importation and commerce of
vicufia fiber and pelt. In 1975 this law was reinforced through the Forest and Wild Fauna
Law. Argentinajoined the coalition in 1971 as did Chile in 1972 (Rabinovich 1985 in
Grewell 2002). The first technical conference for the conservation of the vicufia was held
in Lima and Nazca in 1971 and included the participation of FAO, OEA, UICN, and
WWF. Another conference was held in 1979 for the Conservation and Management of
National Parks in both Chile and Peru have successfully protected the vicufia. The
2000 census from INRENA reflects this growing cipher and shows that there are
approximately 134,000-150,000 vicufias living in Peru. This is about 65 -70% of the
world's total (National Institute of Environment and Natural Resources "INRENA"
Vicufias were transferred from Pampa Galeras in 1977 to SAIS and then to two
cooperatives in Junin. Following that, the vicufia was transferred to Arequipa. In 1980
SAIS-Cusco began a project to start a vicufia-breeding program (Ochoa 1982).
Table 2-1 Change in population for selected departments.
Department 1982 1994 1998*
Arequipa 630 2079 3310
Pasco 248 65
Junin 1853 7106 12341
Cusco 956 1849 3306
Puno 8618 16340
Ayacucho 20893 18430 39175
National Total 6781 120210
Source: INRENA 1994
The years 1983 to1993 are referred to as the grann matanza" or grand killing. In
this five year period about half of the vicufia were killed because scientific calculations
called for an optimal population of vicufia per hectare, permitting communities and other
members to trim their populations (Amy Cox interview with CONACS 5/16/02 Lima,
Peru). Exacerbating this were violent attacks by Shining Path guerrillas on the Pampa
Galeras Reserve. They dismantled the posts and the area was abandoned, making it
vulnerable to poachers (Lichtenstein et al 2002:3).
Table 2-2 Vicufia timeline.
1824 Simon Bolivar expresses concern about the vicufia and seeks to protect it
by enacting laws
1860-70 Vicufia enter into danger of extinction
1964 Grand alarm because only 5000 vicufia left. University makes program,
lots of news about the vicufia
1973 Begin practice of using park guards
1977 Culling of vicufia occurs. Still no talk of introducing the chaku.
1983- The vicufia population grows, but the Shining Path attacks this area and it
1994 is estimated that over 50,000 vicufias were killed during this era, due either
to their violence or to a massive drought.
1994 Chaku introduced
1995 CITES permits purchase of vicufia products. Commercialization to save the
vicufia. Involve the community, shearing and caring reduces poaching and
also improve lives of vicufia. Motto "a vicufia sheared is a vicufia saved"
Source: Interview with CONACS 5/16/02, Lichtenstein et al 2002
From the outset the vicufia project has been called ideal for what is considered a
combined effort of conservation with development motives for the financial betterment of
the local communities. A plan that works from a paradigm of natural, tradition, and
native has been hailed as innovative because it promotes the use of a natural Andean
resource for community development.
The first to create a government committee to promote the commercialization of
camelid products was Alan Garcia, who in 1985 created the National Institution for the
Investigation and Promotion of Agriculture. The organization was not well run however,
and several other institutions were subsequently created. Most of these organizations
focused on camelids in general or specifically on the alpaca. In 1980 the treaty for the
conservation and management of the vicufia was approved and then in 1989 the
CONACS was created. This legislative declaration, #653, stated that:
1. The state declares the vicufia a wild species under protection, prohibiting the
exportation of live animals.
2. The activities of management and utilization of the vicufia pass to the campesino
3. The use is extensive, making it possible to enjoy the usufruct of the fiber products
of live animals.
4. The campesino communities are the possessors of the populations of the vicufia of
the country, the law confers them the preferential treatment and guarantees the
custody and usufruct rights of the vicufia.
(Marin 1994:33, my translation).
In this same decree, the council was given power to dictate policy surrounding the
vicufia that was not specifically mentioned in the decree. In 1992 Supreme Decree 026
created CONACS with the function of promoting the protection and development on a
national level for South American camelids (Marin 1994:34). With the creation of
CONACS a national program of management and shearing was implemented.
The motto of CONACS during the 1990's was "a vicuha sheared, is a vicuia
saved". It was believed that if the community profited from the sale of the vicuha fiber,
then the community would be more encouraged to help protect and manage the vicuia
and therefore less likely to poach the animal. While poaching remains one of the biggest
risks for the vicuha population, communities have begun to see that working with these
animals can be a new source of income. In addition new and more potent laws have
Up until 1995 the vicuha was listed as level one on the endangered species list
meaning that any part of the vicuha could not be exported. In October of 1995 a petition
from the International Vicufia Consortium (IVC) was submitted requesting that the
vicufia be removed from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES) list. Eighty-five comments were received during the public comment period.
One comment from Loro Piana, one of the business members in the IVC argued that
strong economic incentive, through an open international market, would increase
sustainable management of the vicufia. However, there were also many comments from
stakeholders who did not support the harvest of fiber from captured animals. For Peru
many of the negative comments were related to the perceived detrimental competition
from domestic livestock and limits on watershed.
The CITES status of the vicufia was changed and downlisted to an appendix level
two species. The vicufia could be sheared and its fiber sold and exported. The U.S. was
the only market that continued to refuse importation rights and until June of 2002 it was
illegal to import products made from vicufia into the U.S. The SNV was created in 1995
in order to assist communities in bringing their fiber to market. The commodity chain is
explained in deeper detail in Chapter 3, but essentially CONACS overseas the
management of the vicuia, the SNV shears the fiber and sells it through their exclusive
contract. The company that has received the exclusive rights to manufacture and export
the fiber is the IVC, which consists ofLoro Piana, Agnona (recently sold), and Grupo
Inca. Grupo Inca is located in Arequipa, Peru and Loro Piana and Agnona are located in
Property Rights and Concepts of Wilderness
Today the laws surrounding the vicufia have entered a period of heightened
conflict. In 1991 Supreme Decree 653, which established usufruct rights for the
communities and affine organizations was challenged with Decree 26496, which gave
rights to private landholders to sell vicufia fiber. Prior to this only communities selling
through the SNV were allowed to sell the fiber.
Usufruct is a Latin word meaning use and fruit. Usufruct rights provide
organizations or individuals, in this case the community, an opportunity to take advantage
of the fruit of the wild animal. The government gave the communities usufruct rights as a
way to circumvent the detrimental poaching that plagued the vicufia population. It was
reasoned that the communities aided in and were responsible for poaching. If they were
given the rights to benefit from the animal, then the poaching would cease. Moreover,
since the animals lived on their property, who best to protect them but the community?
Usufruct rights were also used as a way to gain access to the international market after
CITES had restricted the exportation or sale of vicufia fiber. Commercialization was the
best protection for the species.
Giving the animal back to the community was considered a sustainable
development opportunity. The chaku allowed Peru to capitalize on the resource by
arguing that by shearing the animal, the animal would be saved. Markets needed to be
open in order to accomplish this. CONACS established a three-prong plan to protect the
vicuia; 1) The efficient response of the communities in the management of the species;
2) The opening of the legal international market; 3) Legal enforcement against poaching
This controversial law giving usufruct rights has spawned battles with private
owners, non-community members, and businessmen, who while wanting to profit from
the sale of vicufia fiber, were not explicitly included in the initial plan. How were private
landowners supposed to shear the vicufia and get their fiber to market? The legal route
was not clearly outlined in the original law and a subsequent law, conflicting with the
original law, was passed permitting another route for the sale of vicufia fiber. This law
has permitted organizations like Almar and Tupac Amaru to exist outside of the SNV and
promote and manage the vicufia in more private terms.
Confusing the situation even more, CONACS in 1996 began to sell fences to the
communities in order to improve the management of the vicufia. Fences were given to the
communities in exchange for vicufias; each vicufia being valued at approximately $1,000
USD (Lichtenstein et al 2002). The vicufias given to CONACS were then used to
repopulate other areas of Peru. Leaving questions of consanguinity and animal
territoriality aside, the use of fences as a way to protect and promote the conservation of
the vicufia has spawned a philosophical change in the perception of the vicufia that is
irreversible. It has also challenged the notion of usufruct with the notion of ownership.
As the animals, once virtually ignored by most community members, came to
occupy a large space of enclosed property requiring watchmen, the perception of wild
dissolved into domestic. In Agronoticias, they state that in 1996 107 fences were installed
and 128 the following year, making a total of 235 fences, in equal number of
communities. On a national scale they want to increase the vicufia population to 250,000
heads across Peru, produce 16,000 kg and install 300 sustainable use modules (fences)
for 1,000 operating communities (Agronoticias 1998).
This large-scale fencing program diluted the idea of wilderness and has further
created space for private landowners and ranchers to capture and cultivate their own
quarry of animals. After all, if fences are used in communities, why not with individuals
whose property lines those same fences? What is wild about fences? If the animal is no
longer wild, what is the rationale for giving communities exclusive rights?
The communities have come to relate to the vicufia in domestic terms. Two
brothers, who have worked extensively with the SNV, exemplify this perfectly. In a
meeting between the SNV and CONACS right after the notice that the U.S. opened their
market to vicufia fiber, Carlos and his brother were very concerned. They did not
understand that they did not own the animals and that the usufruct status was subject to
changes in Peruvian law. Although the lawyer for CONACS explained the concept, they
still did not understand. Usufruct, as concept of ownership and care for wild animals, has
created confusion and reinforced feelings of being tricked. Later that day at lunch, the
lawyer for CONACS felt the people were misled and that people "treat them (community
members) like children. They lie and make things pretty and are afraid to tell them the
truth because the communities have the power to kill the animals" (CONACS and SNV
meeting, 6/27/02 Lima, Peru).
The communities feel like they own the vicufia, but the reality is that they only are
allowed access to the fruits of the animal. "The vicufia is a resource of the state. The
vicufia belongs to the Peruvian state through the Peruvian legislation. But the resource
can be exploited by the communities" (Amy Cox interview with CONACS 5/16/02 Lima,
Peru). The communities do not own the animals and it is now difficult for CONACS to
legislate policy. CONACS is concerned that if the community members believe that they
fully own the animals that they will think that they can sell the animal and poaching will
rise again. This concept is further muddied when one asks: Why is this not a concern with
private ranchers? Why is the animal wild on indigenous land and property on private
The question of usufruct rights is not a simple dispute with the law. Philosophical
questions arise: What is wild? What is natural? Who owns the animal? These concepts
have become confused and problematic as community members, governmental
organizations and private partnerships see that they can profit from the animal. In
addition, as the community members have begun working, caring for, maintaining and
guarding the animal, notions of ownership and property have positioned the vicufia as
something other than a simple wild animal where the community can take advantage of
its fruits. The animal has become property and part of the community's identity.
Tradition, Chaku and Environmentalism
In a magazine advertisement for the chaku in Ayacucho, the chaku is described
The chaku is an ancestral ritual, realized since the epoch of the pre-Inca, in order
to round up wild vicufia in the zone toward a corral where they are classified and
sheared in order to obtain their valuable fiber without endangering the species.
(Agrovalle 2002, my translation)
CONACS actively promoted the chaku believing that if incentive was given to the
communities, poaching would decrease. "All people participated in the chaku, making a
human circle and closing the circle until capturing them. During the colonial epoch all
sense of the chaku was lost... The entire fiber went to the Inca. The fiber has always been
important" (Amy Cox interview with CONACS 5/16/02 Lima, Peru). There is reverence
for the past as the government pushes this lost history on community members. "The
chaku is promoted as an ancient way of protecting and conserving the species" (Marin
However, this historic tradition is not in the memory of the community. The
community members do not have any recollection of working with the vicufia and are
adopting this history as it is being promoted. Consequently this ritual is being reinvented,
both by CONACS and by herders, as it is refashioned from the past for the present.
Each community organizes their own guard for the vicufias and plans for their
chaku. "Each community has a set date for their chaku, the same as the Inca conducted
the chaku" (Amy Cox interview with CONACS, 5/16/02 Lima, Peru). The times set for
the shearing, while in line with the periods specified by the Inca, are not necessarily the
best for the animal. Many biologists argue that the summer months are the worst times to
shear due to cold temperatures. In addition, it is so early that pregnant vicufia are often
undetected and spontaneously abort during the stress of the chaku and shearing.
A few others argue that it is precisely shearing that will be the demise of the
vicuia. Alfonso, the technical director at Grupo Inca stated:
Each time you shear the fiber, the fiber thickens. With the alpaca, you should only
shear 3 to 5 times, no more. The alpaca can live to be 25 years old, but at age 14
they (herders) usually kill and eat the alpaca because the animal is no longer
producing valuable fiber. The problem with the vicufia is that you don't know
how many times the fiber has been cut. The ideal would be to shear every 2 years
only twice. No more. But what happens? Surely there are vicufias that have been
cut every year. Now the fiber is thickening (Amy Cox interview with Grupo Inca.
6/4/02 Arequipa, Peru)
Alfonso likens some of the vicuia fiber sheared today to cashmere and says:
"You can buy the bristle of cashmere. You can say that is cashmere but not tell anyone
that it is the bristle of cashmere. It is the same with the vicufia."
Further research disputes the benefits of the chaku.
The chaku has also been one of the causes that have helped without a doubt and in
an important manner, in the destruction of the native Andean fauna. While this
indigenous custom continued to be practiced in the viceroyal times, but without
the necessary order like that in the Incaic time, to such an extreme that the chaku
was forbidden. (Bonavia 1996)
Nonetheless, the SNV and CONACS argue that the main threat to the growth of
vicufia population is poaching not shearing. Grewell offers another perspective and
argues that "the threat to the vicufia is no longer dwindling population, but rather
encroachments on the species' habitat" (Grewell 2002:19).
In an evaluation conducted by INRENA they state that:
The census has received the support of the campesino communities, facilitating
the identification of the sites and they have contributed and participated in taking
the census. The vicufia resource is economically exploitable for its high value of
fiber, making it a mechanism of integration in the active economy of the country
and of the Andean population in order to improve their level of life through direct
advantage. The campesino communities, for their ancestral identification with the
preservation of the ecosystem and in general for their ideological concept, are
more suitable to assume the protection, conservation and management of the
vicufia. (INRENA 2000:27)
This is contradicted by the community members themselves, many of whom
stated that they had never imagined working with the vicufia. "No, we never worked with
the vicuha. We hardly knew they were there" (Amy Cox interview with community
member, 6/8/02 Ondores, Junin). The government and NGO's have a romanticized vision
that the communities are linked to the Inca and that environmentalism is embedded in
their culture. Watching people toss candy wrappers, and garbage in the pen of the vicuia
makes one question this assumption. While the herders obviously work in nature, it does
not mean that they know how to care and manage a wild animal that they have previously
never worked with.
The idea that ancient equals natural, authentic and harmless is the main marketing
tool for the chaku. NGO's refer back to the Inca, claiming that they knew best, and had
lots of vicuhas without fences, thus hoping to promote the pristine. CONACS argues that
the calendar is set by the Inca and they should stick to it. The SNV argues that the chaku
belongs to them and they are the authentic caretakers of the animal. There is a prevalent
belief that the chaku is naturally the best technique because old is sacred, and the Inca's
ways (native) is better for the environment.
In a book published by Grupo Inca titled Oro de Los Andes (Gold of the Andes),
several photos serve to depict the historicity of the chaku. One shows nude men with bow
and arrows chasing what might be a vicuha, but the animal looks more like a deer. The
Figure is titled Chaco (1582) (Figure 2-1).
The other graphic (Figure 2-2) is also titled Chaco, 1779-1789 and is a childlike
portrait that shows people constructing a fence around mountains and trees and stabbing
the vicufia that are inside of the roped in structure.
~!~I~-4$ ~FCLi3 ~~~ro~~;"~s~s ~Jq~
_____________________: ~ 2~~F~ne SF~Ij
Figure 2-1 Chaku I.
It is unclear in both graphics who the people are, who is hunting and whether or
not the animals shown are vicuha, guanaco, alpaca or llama. Grupo Inca publishes Oro de
los Andes. This book along with several other books and films are part of the holistic
marketing plan of the company to become the best and only producer of South American
camelid fibers. These drawings serve to legitimize the chaku not only as part of Peruvian
heritage but also as naturally good. The book also shows photographs of the vicufia as
depicted in colonial drawings and as part of the Peruvian shield (Figures 2-3 and 2-4).
These serve to legitimize the vicufia as part of the cultural heritage of Peru as well as to
provide heritage and pedigree for the vicufia, thus supporting usufruct law for the
communities, which are based on heritage and culture. Ultimately all of this buttresses
the vicufia as a treasured product, well deserving of space in fine boutiques, displaying
price tags of thousands of dollars.
Figure 2-2 Chaku II.
HISTORIC 1ATVRZ LIB.i
Figure 2-3 Vicuha; Figure 2-4 Peruvian crest.
Was a gold mine promised? According to CONACS there is land use of 13,800
hectares (34,100.5 acres) in the puna zone. Brack estimates that the carrying capacity in
Peru for the vicuha population is 3 million. It is believed that the vicuha has lower costs
and greater benefits than other sources of income like mining. Vicuha, although fragile,
are very adaptable. In addition, many argue that there are not a lot of other alternatives as
the alpaca sales are so low and pastoralists are looking for any option. Some communities
have even purchased the fence offered by CONACS without having any vicuha.
While no projection for consumer capacity for vicuha products is known, the
vicuha does represent an alternative source of income for Peru. The vicuha has become a
source of indigenous identity and a prospective economic gold mine for the future. This
is perpetuated not only by Peruvians, but also by those interested in exoticizing the
Andean people and the wildlife. The conflation of monetary value, development and
preservation battle against one another. Can tradition, environmentalism and growth be
combined? The answer is really not that it can, but that it must. People in Andean
communities are dissatisfied with a life of poverty compared to outsiders. In contrast
those in government and business must promote and preserve the rural Andean people, as
is, in order to maintain the exotic Incan ancestry. Tradition has to be combined with
COMMODITY CHAIN OF VICUNA MANUFACTURING
No object, no thing, has being or movement in human society except by the significance
men give it.
Vicufia to Market
The vicufia live in the high Andean plains around 3000 to 4000 meters. About 60
to 70 percent of the world's vicufia population live in Peru. The remaining 30 to 40
percent live in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. A harsh arid climate, very few animals and
plants are capable of living and thriving in this environment. Consequently the vicufia
have become an idealized resource for the people living in this resource poor area.
Several systems of commercialization for the vicufia exist: 1) A cooperative of
communities comprising the SNV have been given the rights to shear and sell; 2) private
organizations like Almar or Tupac purchase fiber from private owners or communities
and assist them in shearing and selling the raw material to manufacturers; 3) local artisans
use the shorter fibers that are useless in mass production to make lesser quality garments;
4) poaching. The vicuia fiber of Peru arrives to market in mainly the first two ways.
At every shearing a CONACS officer is present to insure proper care and
management of the vicufia. CONACS, established in 1992, is an autonomous institution,
independent from the ministry of agriculture, and was established to manage the camelid
resources of the state. For wild camelids the role of CONACS is to:
1. Conserve and protect the species
2. Evaluation of the population of the vicufia
3. Management and development of the vicuia.
4. Instruct, support and organize the communities how to manage resources.
5. Sustainable use of the vicufia.
CONACS has a direct role in controlling and supervising the management and
care of the vicufia from the state's point of view. They are given this power because the
vicufia is a national subject. They supervise the chaku because it is part of the
management process. In each chaku there is a CONACS member to see how many are
animals are sheared, captured, and how much the fiber weighs. They give their
certification that the fiber is sheared from live animals but do not have anything to do
with the sale. Although some argue that this is a crucial part of the management process
and, therefore, they should be more actively involved, CONACS does not want to be
involved in monetary issues and disputes (Amy Cox interview with CONACS, 5/16/02
The vicuia fiber is sheared utilizing a traditional method dating back to the Inca.
This method is called the chaku and consists of capturing the wild vicufia, shearing them,
and then releasing them into the wild. The chaku is conducted with assistance and
equipment lent to the community by either the SNV or a private company like Almar.
Private entities that have vicufia can also shear the fiber but CONACS members are
present for this as well.1
1 That private parties have access to the fiber has caused great conflict and concern that
such privatization will encourage domestication of the animal.
The capture is conducted with about 100 to 200 people who hold hands, making a
large human chain. The people hold a long plastic rope adorned with colorful flags and
gently persuade the vicufia into a holding pen. Several communities also use horses to
assist in the round up. Recently communities have installed large permanent corrals to
make the round up of the animals easier. Consequently the chaku can either be inside the
corral or in the open plains without the assistance of a preexisting pen. Capturing vicufia
inside the pen typically results in a more efficient and more productive capture. Some
communities like Ondores, Junin conduct both pen and non-pen chakus.2 Before the fiber
is sheared a ritual is performed. These rituals vary by communities but could be a
marriage, a pagapa, or another type of offering. Once the fiber is sheared it is weighed
and recorded with the CONACS technician.
If the fiber was sheared with the SNV the fiber moves to Nazca, Peru where it is
cleaned and bagged. If the fiber was sheared with Almar it goes directly to the buyer, the
IVC. Almar has negotiated a contract with the IVC whereby they sell un-cleaned fiber
directly to the manufacturer. Both parties have to secure verification from INRENA
insuring that the fiber has been legally sheared.
A contract is negotiated between the seller, the SNV, and the buyer. A call for
bids is sent out and a company wins the rights to be the sole manufacturer of vicufia
2 Because the fiber is so valuable, many people would like to exploit this valuable
product more efficiently and increase profits. Six months ago, there was much discussion
over the implementation of permanent corrals as a way of increasing efficiency and
profitability (Sahley et al 2002). This option has been tabled for the time-being and the
communities have returned to a more wild animal management policy. The question
remains, however, how will use and meaning of the resource change when more and
more monetary value can be derived from its sale.
products. In 1994 the fiber was sold for $816.38/kg. The price continued to fluctuate in
the following years and a system was developed to improve dependability and stability.
Now a price is negotiated with the manufacturer and set for a specified number of years.
During the first call for bids the fiber was sold for $358.00/kg. However, during the
second solicitation nobody submitted a bid. The SNV became very concerned because
they needed to sell the fiber. Because of their lack of financing and organizational
instability, they accepted a bid that was lower than desired. Vulnerability has forced the
SNV into a position of powerlessness.
Table 3-1 Price of vicuia fiber per kilogram 1994-2002.
1994 -I 816.34
Source: SNV data presented at May 2002 workshop
When asked why they did not submit a bid, the companies said it was because of
the Asian financial crisis. The crisis had a big impact on them because Japan is one of
their main clients. The SNV had no choice but to send out another solicitation. They
finally negotiated a price of $385/kg. This was satisfactory until one year later they heard
that the Chileans sold their fiber for $575/kg. They regretted making the contract and
wanted CONACS to assist in renegotiating. The IVC, the consortium that had agreed to
purchase the fiber, felt that they had paid market price and negotiated a fair and binding
There has been two calls for bids and the IVC has won each time. A third
solicitation was conducted in early 2003. The IVC consists of three companies, Incalpaca
of Grupo Inca, Loro Piana and Agnona. The IVC believes that they won the bids because
they offer the best marketing package, strongest alliance of manufacturing and the finest
manufacturing of natural knit fibers in the world (Amy Cox interview with Gilberto at
Grupo Inca 5/22/02 Arequipa, Peru). Besides Chile, Argentina has also opened up their
vicufia trade and last year also received over $500/kg for the fiber.
After the fiber is cleaned approximately 30% is sold directly to Grupo Inca in
Arequipa. The other 70% are shipped to the Italian partners of the IVC. Once the fiber
arrives to Grupo Inca it is either stored or cleaned again and readied for processing.
Typically after cleaning they get about 79-82% of usable fiber. They conduct this part by
hand because if do it by machine they only get about 64% (Amy Cox interview with
Alberto of Grupo Inca, 5/22/02 Arequipa, Peru).
The fiber is then combed, carded, spun, dyed and knit. Most of the vicufia
products are not dyed and kept in the natural cinnamon color. However, they do offer
vicufia products in black and navy dyes. Finally the product is finished and packaged.
From the vicufia fiber they manufacture only shawls, capes, scarves and an occasional
blanket. Currently they do not make sweaters but in the future hope to perfect this
technology. The highest grossing store in Lima sells about one vicufia cape per month
and three vicufia scarves per month. If other stores sell vicufia products it is because
Grupo Inca has licensed that store.
Grupo Inca is primarily a vendor of alpaca and baby alpaca, but are working with
the vicufia to complete their image as the only producer of all four South American
camelid fibers. They have improved their product immensely to get it to be as soft as it
can be. They have an on-line website and sell their wares at their Alpaca III stores much
cheaper than their European counterparts. The scarves made from vicufia are packaged in
a cedar box, lined with tissue. A decorative metal pin and authentication tag detailing the
item number and its legality, are pinned delicately to all products. The end result is
elegant, luxurious and treasured.
SNV vs. Almar
The recent battle in the vicufia management struggle has been between the SNV
and the corporation Almar. Almar' s president and founder is Alfonso Martinez. Martinez
was integral in the promotion and protection of the vicufia in the early 1990's under
President Fujimori and encouraged the creation of CONACS, later becoming its
president. Two conflicting laws exist regarding the commercialization of the vicufia. One
states that the SNV is the exclusive group to manage and sell the fiber to the IVC.
Another takes a loophole in the previous law and questions it by stating that private
parties and communities can opt to sell their fiber to any organization, not just the SNV.
People have to be with SNV to sell their fibers. They made the contract bid and
the SNV is the only way communities can sell the fiber, but there are particulars
that aren't a part of a community. This has brought jealously to the SNV not all
are communities. SNV wants to ignore them and say that they do not exist. But
the law did not say how they would sell their fiber. (Amy Cox interview with
CONACS 5/16/02 Lima, Peru)
The threat of Almar has caused the SNV to become very concerned about their
place in the vicufia business. Part of the problem arises because the SNV has not been
able to pay communities on time. The SNV is supposed to pay the communities when
they are paid by Grupo Inca. However, due to bureaucracy and inefficiency many
communities have not been paid for the previous year's fiber production. Moreover there
has been much corruption at the hands of past and transient SNV and regional leaders.
Consequently the current SNV leaders have to contest with those memories and those
financial deficits. Almar has taken the opportunity to come up with a more efficient and
effective purchasing program whereby communities are paid when the fiber is sheared.
Table 3-2 Commodity chain of the vicuia.
Organize chaku between
community and CONACS
Chaku (shear vicufia) Round-
up, classify & tag, shear,
Fiber goes to SNV or private
company like Almar
Weighed, stored and
cleaned in Nazca
Sold directly without
cleaning to IVC
Secure INRENA verification
Fiber bundled and shipped
Fiber shipped in bulk to
Loro Piana and Agnona
Fiber stored for long periods
of time in a locked cabinet
Carded, Combed, Dyed,
Quality Control, Shipping
Almar is able to do this because they have secured financing and a different
selling contract from Grupo Inca (Amy Cox interview with A.Martinez 6/28/02 Lima,
Peru). Grupo Inca declined to comment about their financing with Almar or with their
Italian partners. Almar and businesses like it threaten the SNV because they fear a loss in
the control of production, an increase in poaching and illegal commercialization of the
fiber, and ultimately a decrease in the prices paid to the communities. The SNV feels that
a cooperative system would be the most beneficial for the communities.
Table 3-3 2002 Financing of SNV and Almar, price per kilogram.*
SNV $ Almar $
SNV arrives in communities Almar arrives in
and performs chaku. communities and performs
Sells fiber after cleaning Buys Uncleaned fiber
Discount 10 % regional assoc. $ 38.50
Discount to SNV 10% $ 38.50 60% to community $226.00
Total to community $308.50 40% to Almar $114.00
Total IVC Purchase $385.00 Total IVC Purchase $340.00
* Almar confirms their numbers but disputes the SNV's numbers.
The vicufia represents less than 0.5 percent of their business. The image of being
authorized to work with the finest fiber, one of the two finest in the world, Ahah,
is very good. This gives us a lot. It is very important strategically. It is very
important. (Amy Cox interview with Gilberto of Grupo Inca, 5/22/02 Lima, Peru)
The IVC buys a certain quantity of fiber. When ready, the fiber is processed and
sold. In the past, the IVC paid 10% royalties from the sales to the communities. This
payment is no longer part of the contract.
We are not going to get rich using the vicuia. I want to leave that well
understood. What we gain is prestige. Do you want a scarf of vicufia? I have it.
Do you want a scarf of guanaco? I have it. But my business is alpaca. (Amy Cox
interview with Gilberto of Grupo Inca, 5/22/02 Lima, Peru)
The entire platform for Group Inca's marketing plan is that they are a sustainable
company whose communities that provide the raw material, benefit through a unique
system of tradition and modernity. One of the conditions of the group is that they cannot
damage the environment in any way. To protect the environment is to protect the
industry. In their brochure, Grupo Inca states:
Promote ancient methods and modern technologies. Peasant communities are well
rewarded for the sale of the fiber and receive the necessary financing for the
preservation and raising of the vicuia. Worked by the hands of the virgins of the
sun, the company has grown from working with nature.
The directors follow this mission and one of the managers stated:
For example, our managers of the business are very preoccupied with providing
jobs in Arequipa where the industry is or to the Andean communities where we
have our raw material. Thirty years ago, the owners had a very open and modern
mind. During an era, which was all exploitation, they began with this mentality.
The group began with this philosophy and still today they maintain it. This is one
of the reasons the Peruvian government gave them the right to work with the
vicuia. (Amy Cox interview with Grupo Inca 6/4/02 Arequipa, Peru)
After speaking with several communities the biggest complaint, however, was
that they were not compensated for their fiber. This does not mean that Grupo Inca did
not pay. Grupo Inca paid but either the money vanished, was stolen or was excruciatingly
slow in arriving to the communities.
Vicufia sales are less than 1% of the total sales for Grupo Inca. For 2001 they sold
338 items (Table 3-4). However Grupo Inca only produces 30 percent of the total fiber
and the items are sold at significantly lower prices than their Italian partners.
One should be wary of extrapolating this number to $2,564,000.00 (to include
Italian partners) to obtain the total world's sales of vicufia because the European prices
are often three times higher than those provided to me by Grupo Inca. Raw fiber is
exported to Italy and only a small portion is processed within Peru. There is a strong and
somewhat complicated relationship between the Italian factories and the Peruvian
factory. When asked why the company would opt to export their fiber when they could
add value to the fiber here in Peru, the manager thought that either the Italians had better
financing or better access to markets. I asked if Grupo Inca was getting kickbacks and he
just shrugged his shoulders and said, "well I guess that might be possible".
Table 3-4 Sales 2001.
Item Sold Retail Price Total
Male Scarf 225 $ 400 $ 90,000
Female Scarf (wrap) 76 $ 800 $620,800
Blanket 2 $2000 (est) $ 4,000
Cape 34 $1600 $ 54,400
Total 338 $769,200
Source: Grupo Inca, store price reflects Lima retail price.
Table 3-5 IVC consumption, 2001.
Company % of Total Total Amount
Loro Piana 70% 1974 kg
Zegna (Agnona) 10% 282 kg
Incalpaca 20% 564 kg
Total 100% 2820 kg
Source: Incalpaca of Grupo Inca
Grupo Inca has stored much of the vicufia fiber for later production in anticipation
of the opening of emerging markets. For the last eleven years the U.S., under CITES, had
forbidden vicufia imports.3 According to the textile engineer at Grupo Inca, their biggest
customers are the Japanese, but the U.S. offers a profitable market. When the U.S. market
opened up in July of 2002, the marketing manager exclaimed that this was the moment
they were waiting for. Incalpaca exports 26% finished goods, approximately 290 pieces,
3 When President Bush visited Peru in 2001, the government gave him a present of the
Gold of the Andes made by Grupo Inca. This cedar box contains four scarves each one
made from a different South American camelid. Gilberto declared: "Your President is a
and sells 74% locally, about 810 pieces, through their chain of stores (email
communication Grupo Inca 9/14/02).
Grupo Inca has a strategic alliance because they are partners with European
companies. They formed the IVC because they wanted to insure that they won the
solicitation. If all three companies entered, only one company could win, creating
unnecessary competition and exclusion. The upper management of Grupo Inca is trained
in the Italian factories. The companies normally do not work on the same thing and try to
make sure that they do not compete. But, to weave the vicufia you need high technical
skills. The marketing manager still felt that "under my concept, as a Peruvian, it would be
good if it all stayed in Peru" (Amy Cox interview with Gilberto, 6/4/02 Arequipa, Peru).
Alberto, the factory manager, is very proud of the fact that they are one of three
companies that can work with vicufia. "Even that which is made by hand can't compare
to what we do."
You are buying 100 percent of fiber from a live animal. That is to say that to buy
the fiber you are contributing to the protection of this animal for that the major
part of the money is going to the highlanders. I don't say that better ways don't
exist, but ours, the manner in which we are working the fiber is adequate and
sufficient for a quality product. (Amy Cox interview with Alberto, 6/4/02
The prestige of Grupo Inca and their marketing platform culminates in one of
their products, The Gold of the Andes. A customer can purchase four scarves, each made
with a different animal fiber llama, alpaca, vicufia and guanaco, packaged together in a
tissue-lined cedar box.
This gives us an image; it gives us the power to negotiate. For us it is very
important. In economic terms it isn't, for example a cape of vicufia costs in the
international market $3000 and we sell it for $1600. We are suppliers of this. In
reality there is little profit, very little. There are many more personal gains than
what you get selling it. But for us it is worthwhile because we went the simple act
of supplying vicuia. (Amy Cox interview with Gilberto 6/4/02 Arequipa, Peru)
Costs and Profits
Arequipa is a very important economic center of Peru and Grupo Inca is a very
important business. Their net sales are 45 million dollars year and they employ more
than 1000 people. In the textile group alone they employ around 250 people. Because it is
such an important business they have much political power. When asked why they were
awarded the right to sell the vicuia, the retail manager remarked:
They gave us the possibility of working with the vicufia because of our
philosophy. We have won the public bid two or three times. We have won the
right to process the vicufia for the next few years and we'll see what happens in
the next bid. We enter equally with others from all over the world. The other
companies can win too. (Amy Cox interview with Gilberto 6/4/02 Arequipa,
Grupo Inca has two to three eight-hour shifts each day. During the high season
(September, October, November) they hire seasonal workers and have three shifts. In
addition, they contract piece workers for other projects to work out of their home. All the
workers wear navy blue overcoats and have time cards. They wear badges in order to
pass through security to enter the building.
Grupo Inca pays their employees about $150-200 USD/month including taxes and
health insurance. The workers are mostly young, staying at Grupo Inca for an average of
five years. They are permitted to employ workers aged 15 tol8 because the workers
formed a labor union, and fought so that they can work if they are under 18. If a worker is
under 18 they can work two to three hours per day but are paid the same per hour as the
I visited one out of Grupo Inca's three factories. The factory is extremely clean,
which is not uncommon for knit manufacturers. The factory floor is cleaned three times a
day and is spacious. At any given moment the managers know exactly what they produce
and everything is controlled through mechanization and computers. Each product comes
with a special printed tag so that the manager knows where and what is being processed.
We not only invest in human capital, which is our principal investment, but we
invest a lot in technology. You are going to see now and going to know the plant
and we are very very avant garde. Grupo Inca is not the biggest but they are the
best. There is not enough fiber to grow (the company) more. (Amy Cox interview
with Gilberto 5/22/02 Arequipa, Peru)
Grupo Inca processes vicufia one to three times per year. The total process, from
start to finish, takes approximately fourteen days.
The textile engineer at Grupo Inca provided me with the following timetable and
Table 3-6 Production and waste for vicufia processing.
160kg dirty fiber
56 kg washed (1 day)
47.2 kg yam (2 days)
46.8 kg crude fabric (2 days)
42.1 kg final fabric
Source: Grupo Inca
I tried to verify these numbers to see if the numbers were accurate and received
the following reply from an U.S. garment company:
With regard to loss in knitting and finishing, I am not sure what percentage, if
any, should be applied. I imagine it would depend on whether the fabric is washed
and tumble dried and what the shrinkage rate is. Your question is actually really
complicated and essentially almost impossible to figure out without some textile
engineering. It isn't straight match because it has to do with how tightly or loosely
the knitting is done. However, you know the weight of the scarf so you could
basically assume the weight of the scarf is the same weight of fiber +5-6% for
waste. That may be a little high but should cover 'whatever' issues. The only
other determinate would be if there is any finish added to the fiber or knitted
material. This would also add a little weight but fairly minimal. (email
The real difficulty in calculating cost is that all the 'waste' is recycled so it is
almost impossible for an outsider to determine the actual cost and profit of the product.
Each garment is made with 70% new and 30% recycled fiber. I do not know if the textile
engineer's numbers reflect the re-use of fiber and what percentage is actually lost and
what percentage is actually recycled. If they do not, and I presume that they do not, then
the actual cost will be significantly lower than what I have calculated (looking only at the
% waste from post-wash to end result).
Another discrepancy is that I have conflicting answers from Grupo Inca with
respect to how much waste there is from the dirty to the clean fiber. Alberto's numbers
show 160 kg down to 70 kg, a loss of 57%. Another contact said that they could get about
80% usable fiber from the dirty fiber, a loss of only 20%. Nonetheless I will use
Alberto's numbers which will reflect the highest possible cost of the garment:
Table 3-7 Percentage waste and end purchase price per kilogram.
Dirty Clean Wash Yam Crude End
160kg 70kg 56kg 47.2kg 46.8kg 42.1kg
$385/kg 26% (74% loss)
$61,600 per 160kg $61,600 per 42.1kg
Source: Grupo Inca
Sixty-one thousand six hundred dollars divided per 42.1 kg of processed fiber
accounts for the material cost and does not include the labor, overhead, profit, shipping
and general operating costs that Grupo Inca incurs from processing this fiber.
Nonetheless given these numbers, one can calculate the raw material cost per item. Sixty-
one thousand six hundred dollars divided by 42,100 grams results in a price of $1.46 per
gram. Looking at three items, the woman's scarf, men's scarf and the blanket, I calculate
that the actual fiber used by taking the final weight and dividing it by the waste (Table 3-
Table 3-8 Raw material cost ($385/kg) vs. retail price.*
Item Actual fiber Weight Cost Retail Price Difference
Men's Scarf 418.25 gm 110 gm $160.60 $ 400 $239.40
Woman's 760.00 gm 200 gm $292.78 $ 800 $507.22
Blanket 2661.50 gm 700 gm $1022.00 $2000 $978.00
Table 3-9 Purchase price vs. retail price.*
Item Total Sold Difference Total Net Profit Total Income to
Grupo Inca SNV
Men's Scarf 225 $239.40 $53,865.00 $36,135.00
Woman's 76 $507.22 $38,548.72 $22,251.28
Blanket 2 $978.00 $ 1956.00 $ 2044.00
Total $94,369.72 $60,430.28
*Cape not included because weight unknown
If in 2001 there was a total of 2820 kg of fiber purchased by the IVC, (see table 3-
5) and each animal produces about 200 grams of fiber, it will take four animals to make a
woman's scarf, two animals to make a men's scarf and thirteen animals to make a
blanket.4 At a total of 2820 kgs of fiber purchased, approximately fourteen thousand one
hundred animals were sheared or about 10% of Peru's vicufia population. Therefore, each
pelt is worth about $77.00.
Looking at the community of Rancas, they sheared 21.9 kg of fiber is 2002. It
took about 150 community members to execute the chaku, plus the CONACS technicians
and five SNV employees. About eight hours was spent between arrival, organization,
execution of chaku, shearing and weighing. For the 21.9 kg they received, the SNV
4 The back of the vicuna is the only part sheared. The belly, legs and necks are not
received $8431.50 in payment. The community received $6,679.50 (reflecting SNV price
to community of $305.00/kg after discounts). Dividing that number by the amount of
workers and hours spent, the hourly wage is $5.56. For the community of Ondores they
sheared 95.29 kg of fiber.5 At a price of $305 per kilogram, they earned $29,063.45.
Using the same number of workers and eight-hour day, these community members
earned $24.22 per hour.
The amount of money to be gained from this resource is unfortunately minimal
for most communities. In a survey taken at one of Conatura's capacity building
workshops, the communities had anywhere from 0 to 150 vicuia. Given this low number
and that they can only shear once every two years, this leaves very little fiber to be
sheared. If out of 150 vicufia they can shear 20% of the animals (between actual capture
and if the animal's fiber is long enough) that leaves 30 animals sheared. 30 animals with
200 grams of fiber each results in a total of 6 kg sheared for about $1800. The situation is
worsened when one looks at all of the kickbacks that are taken out of this and the fact that
about half of the communities have never received the money from shearing. The only
communities that will make any money are those with significant populations of vicufias;
and those are few.
Some argue that the resource is free and waiting to be plucked. The rationale is
that any income is better than none. Leonidas Gutierrez Hermoza, a university professor
in Huancayo, explains "this resource does not cost anything to produce and costs very
little in exploiting it. They are a key species" (Cuzco Congress for Vicufia and Guanaco
51 was not present to verify number of participants.
7/23/02 Cuzco, Peru). This is not exactly true. The labor of the community members
should be valued. Moreover, if the community has a fence they also have the cost of the
fence to deal with, maintenance and supplying guards for the corrals.
Shearing a few vicufias from each community is not going to draw the
communities out of poverty. On the contrary it has inspired and taken labor away from
other jobs. Because the fiber is reworked and value added, most of the profit goes to the
companies and retailers. The SNV hopes that by combining all of the community's
vicufia that they will be able to form a political alliance that will help bolster the prices
that are paid to each community. It is a difficult and expensive task to include 700
communities into a cohesive unit. If they are not linked, however, the competition
between communities will increase and the price will plummet. Those with very few
vicufia will be left with a resource that is really not worth working with.
The SNV hopes to increase profitability with better shearing and management.
For example in Picotani, department of Puno, they increased their clean fiber from 68.24
kg to 74.18 kg. The profits could be increased if there were more efficient shearing and
control over the process. Another option is to sell dirty fiber to the IVC similar to what
Almar has negotiated. Given that the price in the last ten years has decreased from $800
to as low as $358/kg one must ask where about will the price bottom out? Will it go as
low as the alpaca? Furthermore, given the nature of the apparel industry, what will
happen if the vicufia scarf never catches on? Will the treasured aspect of the vicufia fade
Annual production ofvicufia fiber in Peru is 2000 kilograms. Production of
alpaca worldwide is about 5000 tons. Another comparison is that only 8% of fiber textiles
in the world are wool or animal fibers, 52% is cotton. Of this 8-7% about 93% is wool
and .001 % is alpaca. The vicufia fiber as a real resource on this scale seems minuscule.
The managers at Group Inca feel that in relative terms, the alpaca is a fiber that is
produced very little, the vicufia even less. The production of vicufia is for prestige not
profit (Amy Cox interview with Alberto and Gilberto 5/22/02 Arequipa, Peru).
As far as profits go, the vicufia is not making most of the communities wealthy.
What it offers for many is the prospect of wealth, a future to be capitalized on either in
elite apparel, artesania, or eco-tourism. The vicufia embodies hope. Identity is used as a
way of realizing this hope. In the next two chapters I look at how identity and heritage are
being transformed around the vicufia commodity. In Chapter 4 I show how the chaku
ritual is changed in order to create and enhance economic opportunities. These changes
are mostly based on the interests and desires of outsiders. In Chapter 5 I examine the
promotion and marketing of vicufia products to end consumers. I conclude that the retail
success of vicufia products is dependent upon Peruvian's indigenous history and current
Identity is best conceptualized contextually. It is not a stagnant concept nor do
people have one singular identity. Rather, identity is part of an ethnoscape, where
definitions are dependent on time and space (Appadurai 1996). Identity is used
selectively. It is slippery. If objects indeed represent a way of appropriating and
preserving symbols of identity (Garcia-Canclini 1993), then looking at how identity,
heritage and ritual are recontextualized and reinvented around the vicufia commodity,
allows one to see how trade and commodification alter and inform our concepts of self
THE GLOBAL MARKET AND ITS EFFECTS ON LOCAL COMMUNITY
Juana is 54 years old. Her husband is 86. They have six children. She wanted to
come to the meeting to ask for help, not really to attend the workshop on conducting a
census. Her husband cannot work because he is old and so she has no one to help her.
Nobody is at the workshop and she is annoyed because she walked an hour to get there
and everyone should know about the workshop because they talked about it at the prior
assembly. Juana's family has a few alpacas and llamas but they do not grow anything
because of the altitude. There are no jobs in the city. She wants to know what I have
brought her from the U.S. She asks if I can bring one of her children to the U.S.
"I want a nice warm coat. What have you brought? We need stuff. There is no
work. We are hungry. It is very cold. I want you to take my daughter with you." I weakly
explain the difficulties and I know that she thinks I am lying. My words fade off. She
gets close because I am foreign and she believes I have money and a way out.
"No, the vicufia has not brought us any money."
She has no idea where the money went. She does not know about the truck. The
other community members ostracize her husband and so this year she will be the one who
participates in the chaku. She wants part of the money. The money goes to certain
individuals and doesn't help the whole community. She doesn't get any help from the
community and she has come here to complain.
"I hope to God that the vicufia helps. I hope to God."
Nobody showed up that day, and Juan, the workshop leader, had to go door-to-
door asking people to attend tomorrow's workshop. There should have been about forty
people in attendance, and on the first day only five showed up. Unfortunately, some are
willing to miss work and attend the meeting and others are not. Everyone said they would
attend but they did not and this adds to a feeling of disunity and lack of confidence in the
word of their fellow community members. Juan is concerned because he needs to deliver
numbers to his funding agency and if people do not participate, he will not be able to
continue to receive money (Amy Cox interviews with Juan and Juana 6/14/02 Tambo
The town square in Tambo Cafiahuas is approximately one city block. Small
houses line the outer edges and in the center are a flagpole and plaza. The latrines are off
in one corner facing the river. The people have not showed up because they are working
and conducting the trueque (bartering) with people in the Colca Canyon. They are trading
fiber and meat to obtain other goods like flour, beans, and vegetables. Juana, along with
most of the people attending the census workshop, did not come to town to learn about
how to conduct a census of the vicufia. Rather they came to ask the NGO for assistance.
Four smaller communities have been annexed into what is called Pampa
Cafiahuas. Conatura invited 150 families, each consisting of about five to eight people.
Some people are not very involved with the community so the workshop leaders hope to
have approximately forty people. A few of the families have trout farms that they hope to
cultivate and sell either to a local restaurant or to Arequipa. They have a restaurant but it
is not open and not many people stop anyway.
The people of the community are angered and disillusioned about the sale and
income from the sale of the vicufia fiber. The money has disappeared into the hands of a
few individuals and this has spawned a dialogue of community vs. individual. Many feel
the money would be better served if it were divided individually instead of through a
community purchase that has risks of corruption and opacity. With the money from the
last sale, Tambo Cafiahuas purchased a truck and one of the community leaders stole the
rest. The truck has disappeared and now nobody has access to it. Many argue that
everyone would benefit more if the money were divided up individually so that each
family could use the money how they see fit. Conatura discourages this and says that if
the money was pooled together everyone could reap greater benefits. They argue that the
chaku, as ancient Incan ritual, should promote community, not the individual.
Market Participation and Its Effects Locally
Sahlins (1999) states that groups will absorb some symbols of modernization but
can be successful in maintaining their identity. "There is a determination on the part of
Eskimos to maintain traditional Eskimo culture and at the same time to adopt a pragmatic
acceptance of the benefits of modern technology (Jorgensen 1990:6 in Sahlins 1999:viii).
In short, an Eskimo is still an Eskimo even if he drives a pick-up truck. Indeed "changing
global conditions whether economic, political, cultural or environmental are
'relocalized' within the national, regional or local frameworks of knowledge and
organization" (Arce 2000:188). International symbols and conceptions are reworked so
that they will fit in with traditional practices and beliefs.
If Arce and Sahlins are correct in their assertion that indigenous communities are
able to maintain their traditions and culture, even in the face of global economic
interaction, then marketing the vicufia will have little "real" impact on their cultural
values and identity.
Sahlin's case concurs with Orlove: "What is striking about rural Arequipa, which
has largely been ignored by Andean ethnography, is that the social formation there has
remained remarkably stable despite changing articulations in state apparati over several
centuries" (Orlove 1989:150). Furthermore, Sahlins points out that the greater a person's
success in the money economy, the greater their participation in the indigenous order
(Sahlins, 1999:xvi). Following this logic, the communities working with and profiting
from the vicufia will experience greater participation on the part of the community's elite
and subsequent reinforcement of vicufia as a cultural symbol of identity and heritage.
While Sahlins and Orlove may glorify the potential for local communities to
retain their "culture" in the face of modernity, it is important to note that this is not
unilaterally agreed upon. Guillet asserts that the Andean community is illiterate and
monolingual which causes difficulties in dealing with bureaucracies (Guillet 1979:165).
Consequently, the groups rely on certain people (presumably those with greater success
in the money economy) who can communicate with those outside of the community.
Information is a powerful tool when allocating resources. Who makes the decisions about
the management of the vicufia holds the power of the community's economic
As a point of comparison, Kenya has attempted to implement communal ranches.
This serves as a useful comparison because shearing the vicufia is also an attempt to
harvest a communal property. In Kenya, the decision making of communal ranches lies in
the hands of a single owner/manager. "Policies that encourage private ranching in Africa
have only benefited the elite and mostly non-pastoral entrepreneurs. Group ranches in
Kenya have resulted in an expropriation of land by the rich and loss of access rights by
women and the younger generation" (Folke 1998:256). He further states that "communal
is actually a system of usufruct exchange and agreement between herders" (Folke
1998:49). He argues that the biggest problem with group ranching or communal farming
is that people do not respect the boundaries agreed upon (Folke 1998:120).
In the mid-1990's President Fujimori placed ownership of the vicufia into the
hands of the communities. In doing so, Peru hoped to increase the participation of the
indigenous community in the global and national economy. The Andean indigenous
communities have formed a national alliance, the SNV that is empowered with the sale of
vicufia fiber. The mission statement of the SNV reflects their commitment to the vicufia
not just as an economic resource, but also as an important part of their culture. "We are a
representative entity of wild vicufia, conservationists charged with its sustainable
development in benefit of the Andean population (and)... to treat our cultural identity
with respect, ethics, dignity, solidarity, democracy and transparency" (SNV 2002:22).
The SNV hopes to unite the Andean community through communal management
of a resource. They hope this will strengthen their social capital, which will strengthen
their bargaining power. At the same time, market forces are encouraging individualized
shearing of the vicufia through the use of fences.
Some argue that the vicufia provides social capital. Social capital has been defined
as the social relationships that people have with each other through the collective
knowledge of a group and the subsequent supervision that the group exercises over its
members (Winch 2000:5). Social cohesion is created when individuals form social
networks to produce goods, i.e. communal shearing of vicufia. Many contend that this
leads to a more productive and healthier community. "Social capital, then, is an amalgam
of moral, cultural and cognitive elements all dependent on one another" (Winch 2000:6).
For example, the nets used for funneling the vicufia into temporary shearing pens
during the chaku are sometimes shared amongst communities and their use coordinated.
Sharing the nets reinforces bonds of reciprocity and neighborly goodwill. "The chaku is
a ritual way of nurturing nature... The human community 'thins' or 'prunes' what is
strictly necessary... In this way nature is pruned to permit a regeneration, at the same time
the human community is nurtured" (Apffel-Marglin 1998:179).
What my observations show, however, is that this nurturing vision of cooperation
and taking only what one needs is simplistic and romantic. What in fact often occurs is
the nets are not shared even when it is in the financial interest of the community leaders.
Sharing the nets is a political decision not only an economic one. There is a continuous
adjustment of alliances as individuals negotiate this space. We see this readjustment and
example of agency in Enrique Mayer's and Marisol De la Cadena's study of conflict and
cooperation in Huancayo.
In the studies about communities there exists a black and white tendency full of
nostalgia of the past to qualify 'positively' the existence of collective
organization and negatively of the predominance of 'individual' aspects.
Accompanying this tendency is the concept that 'community' signifies
collectivity and egalitarianism. Correlatively the notion of the community
excluded individual aspects. Fieldwork reflected that the work of collective
organization did not offer the same benefit for all of the community members.
The validity of the 'campesino community' is relative... It is presumed implicitly
that private property of the family parcels changed the material conditions of
production in the Andes, something that evidently does not occur. (Mayer and De
la Cadena 1989:113) (my translation)
Mayer and De la Cadena rightly point out that the concept of community is a
romantic notion that does not allow for critique. Worse this notion obfuscates the fact that
community does not mean lack of hierarchy. There is a presumption with the chaku
program that it will benefit everyone equally and that a jockeying for its resources will
not occur. While local politics affect the chaku, it is more important to say that the chaku
is being reworked communally within their system of production as well as within the
local social hierarchy. The alternative proposal would understand that:
1) The campesino families technically need instances of collectivity (group or
communal) for their reproduction, for that which is the development of certain
individual aspects like the property of the land does not exclude the existence
of communal institutions. 2) The communal activities can benefit community
members or groups of community members in unequal form without that
signifying 'the process of communal destructuration'. (Mayer and De la Cadena
1989) (my translation)
The chaku program, while still in its adolescent stages is being absorbed into the
communal system. However, as Mayer and De la Cadena state this can and is benefiting
the communities and groups of communities unequally. The chaku is working
communally and individually on various levels. A hierarchy and culture of the
community existed prior to the conception of the chaku. This history, memory and
structure of that system is inserting the chaku into that system. In addition the chaku is
also acting to reinforce and remake certain politics and hierarchies of the communities.
Currently a reshaping of subjects occurs through a reshaping of the space in
which they live. Restructuring their communities by building fences and altering the
landscape acts on the individual and community to re-contour their daily lives, attitudes,
and tasks. Reshaping does occur but as Sahlins argues the culture of the community is
not lost in this.
Whether Asanaqi To Inca, Indian to Spaniard, or rural community or individual to
the Bolivian government, all have found themselves engaged not only in political
struggle but also in a struggle to mark out relatively autonomous spheres in which
to gain control over the meanings of their lives. Crucial to this endeavor are
efforts to gain and retain control over the definition, transmission, and
interpretation of the past. (Abercrombie 1998:5)
I argue that while integration into the global marketplace does affect rural
communities' social structure and subsequently their culture, individuals and
communities are active participants in this creation. The chaku is not a totalizing top-
down structural adjustment to the community life. Rather it is being negotiated and
integrated according to the conditions of the community.
We see evidence of this in the organization and mobilization of the chaku. As
Abercrombie explains above in his study of festivals in Bolivia, control over the
interpretation of the past and how it should be remembered today is crucial to
communities. The struggle over how the chaku will be performed and how the vicufia
will be managed reflect this struggle. Deciding what part of Incan history to keep or
reinterpret and deciding how the vicufia will be absorbed into the current communal
structure is part of the ongoing debate between communities, government and businesses.
Together, all participants are active in altering the perception of the past and the
subsequent promise the vicufia has for the future. An example of this is the chaku
"The calendar is important and most codified aspects of social existence"
(Bourdieu 1977:97). By this Bourdieu means that while there are always different
interpretations, of the calendar is understood because it is codified as it becomes the
custom. There is both a logic and a praxis behind the working of the calendar which is
exemplified in the codification and then the ignoring of that codification.
The calendar of the chaku operates exactly the way Bourdieu is suggesting. It has
been reworked and will continue to be reworked for each community. The dates are
planned a year in advance and negotiated with CONACS. As the date has become more
consistent through the last five years and as it coincides with the period recorded as
chaku conducted during the Inca period, this classification system will become more
solidified. Nonetheless these dates change as the community members see fit. The people
in the communities often change and ignore the times set for the chaku much to the
frustration of CONACS, the SNV and NGO's.
For example, community members in Arequipa wanted to change the date of their
chaku because all of the equipment was ready for them to use. They wanted to capitalize
immediately on the opportunity. The NGO Conatura fought with them about the change
because they had already planned the chaku and dignitaries had been invited. If the chaku
was changed at the last minute, all of their planning would be wasted. In the end the
chaku was conducted on schedule, but not without strong negotiation.
At root of Bourdieu's, Sahlins', Abercrombie's, Mayer's and De la Cadena's
argument is that the indigenous communities are not helpless. They have and wield
power in the politics of their lives. How international trade affects communities depends
on the individual community. A generalized assertion is an erroneous one and a dialectic
of power shows how the global and the local interact, resulting in a variety of outcomes.
The following discussion offers local perspectives from four communities in three
departments. How the community members view the vicufia and how the chaku is
performed are important for understanding how each community is benefiting and
reacting differently from the vicufia trade.
Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do
not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves. The tradition of all the
dead generations weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the living. (Marx
The communities are not homogenous. Each is unique and regional with different
feelings, attitudes, and problems with the vicuia. These categories of culture are subject
to reinterpretation and reinvention. "For any human group the tradition at issue is a set of
accumulated meaning: collective and historical theory, which makes their perception a
conception" (Sahlins 1995:65).
Tambo Caiiahuas, Department of Arequipa.
Lucia says that in the past there was lots of food.
We lived so well. Now it is terrible. We live. We die. We live. We die. So it is.
Nobody knows our poverty but God. God helps us. The vicufia is ajoke that has
not given us one cent. I participated and worked and nothing. I received nothing.
Some did but me no. I won't participate this year. They tricked us. We have
beliefs about the vicufias. My daughters know. (author's translation) (Amy Cox
interview with Lucia, 6/14/02 Tambo Cafiahuas)
The reason for poverty is too many people and not enough farms. Arequipa is
now nothing more than rooms. In the past it wasn't that way. Too many people
not enough farms. Now it is kilos and kilos for nothing. The price of meat and
fiber is really low. The intermediaries trick us and take advantage of us. Now we
have to go buy stuff. We have to make chicharrones of them. Eat the ticks. Ha
Ha!! (author's translation) (Amy Cox interview with Lucia, 6/14/02 Tambo
Lucia thinks the best way to develop is through handicrafts. She works with fiber,
knitting gloves and scarves to sell. She thinks that there could be a shop where they
worked and sold goods to tourists and exported their products. She wants to get rid of the
intermediaries because she feels they hurt them. She is at the Conatura workshop today to
learn even though she thinks the vicufia is a scam.
One boy said he liked the chaku. "Yes, all have to participate. There is a belief."
He wants to use the money to make more money. "The money is for business. They could
have a shop or restaurant for tourists, car traffic, also a hotel or thermal bath. They use
the money for the community, for example they bought the car."
Other women said that they would be better off splitting the money individually.
A pervasive feeling of distrust taints the workshop as many members argue that if the
money goes to the community leaders, then the money will disappear. "What then?" one
woman asks. She says that it is better to pay them for their work like individuals. The
truck they purchased is stopped and people rob money from their community. She will
participate today. But, many people have not participated today because the vicufia
leaders robbed the money. The vicufia is not a good investment.
Others are angry and exclaim during the workshop in June:
"You should realize quickly and make reality your promises or support us with
more certainty and more sincerity to be able to continue forward with our management of
vicufias." Another community representative argues that "there is a lack of
methodological capacity and technology. That is to say how can we organize our
community for its development if my community lacks organizational support?"
Frustration and loss of hope is the overarching theme in the Arequipa workshops.
It is unclear if the chaku will occur this year and if it does, no one knows how many
people will participate.
In 2001, Tambo Cafiahuas sheared 18 kg of fiber (SNV email 9/14/02). 18 kg of
fiber is worth approximately $6930 USD. Their chaku is conducted without horses and
there is no marriage ritual before the shearing ceremony. The only ritual conducted
before the chaku is a payment to the Gods consisting of burning an offering (Amy Cox
interview with Conatura 6/12/02 Tambo Cahahuas). This ritual is performed before every
harvest or shearing and is thought to insure prosperity.
Ondores, Department of Junin and Rancas, Department of Cerro de Pasco
"People were so nice to me. I can't believe that they were so open and wanted to
talk (to me)."
"It is because they want you to take them to the U.S."
"Cerro and Junin have their mines."
Ondores and Rancas are wealthier than Tambo Cahahuas. One of the SNV
workers commented on the large community center, electricity and improvements being
done to the church as evidence of this wealth. What I see is that Lake Junin is so toxic
that the colors match the bright hues of the Andean blankets. I traveled to Ondores for an
assembly and then to Rancas to participate in their chaku. I interviewed a group of six
people before the assembly in Ondores. Most of the men thought that the vicunfa money
should go toward improving dairy operations, creating another business or toward
protecting the vicuha.
Many of the workers of Junin City, ten minutes from Ondores, had been
contracted by U.S. companies to migrate and work for several years in dairy farms in
Utah, Wyoming and Montana. Their knowledge and labor are valuable in these areas
where migration out of rural U.S. towns is prevalent. The town has benefited from their
remittances. In Ondores, CONACS has complemented them because their vicuia
population has doubled in three years. Ondores is benefiting from the vicuha and are
1 Lake Junin is toxic from the mine tailings and other waste that occurs during the mining
experiencing growth in their vicufia population. This, opposite of the Arequipa region, is
reflected in hope and planning for how to invest the money from the vicufia in order to
benefit the community.
In Ondores in 2001 they sheared 18.424 kg of fiber, worth about $7093.24 USD.
In 2002 they sheared a total of 114.29 kg for about $44,001.65 USD (SNV email
University professors and NGO's in Cerro de Pasco are also planning for the
future. At the chaku, two university professors from Cerro told me of their plans to start
an eco-tourism business with the chaku at the center of the marketing. "How could it
work?" they wanted my opinion. "Don't you think it would be good? We have deer,
vicufia, alpaca, and vizcacha. Of course, then there is the chaku. We could promote a
package where people could come and stay and do trekking. It is a good idea right?"
(Amy Cox interview, 6/09/02 Rancas).
What the professors do not discuss is the toxicity that lurks everywhere. Lakes are
unnatural colors at 4300 meters. Views of the cold expansive plains are interrupted by
mines and hydroelectric plants. Many of the animals have sarcoma from the
contamination. The area is also politically unstable. The day that the chaku occurred, a
strike that would last four days began.
The chaku in Rancas begins early with people having to be bused from the town
to the corral. University students, CONACS officers, the SNV, and community members
are all waiting outside the fence. We arrive at the chaku around 8:30 am. People have
already arrived. The actual chaku starts around 10 am. Two buses and several cars bring
people to the corral. There, people mill around, chew coca, drink cane alcohol, and wait
for direction. A lady talks to me about menopause, aging, and the celebration of the saint.
Directions are given and the men on horseback start to go up to the top of the hill.
Young men and women pile into the truck, so full that the vehicle almost tips over. The
truck climbs to the top of the mountain and the rest of us walk up the mountain to
participate too. We group ourselves off and line up along the nylon fence, but sit still so
as not to disturb the animals. All of this takes several hours and it is now noon. The
vicufias begin to run down the fence. A few male vicuia jump the fence. The vicufia try
to escape back up the mountain. This proves chaotic and the struggle to herd them into
the corner of the fence lasts around 30 minutes. A line of people holding a long string of
colored flags appears on the top of the hill and they start screaming and whistling. The
men on horseback ride back and forth to insure that all the vicufias enter in tip of the
corral. Finally they close in and secure a net, making a triangle in the corner of the fence,
which serves to enclose the vicufia in a compact space. There is more chaos and decisions
are made about what to do next and a man is speaking into a bullhorn. Most of the
people are sitting outside the corral on blankets, having a picnic, unable to see anything.
The pre-shearing ritual begins. A song that the singer cannot remember all the
words to is sung before the marriage ceremony. This lasts 20-30 minutes, or at least it
seems that way. Two adolescent vicufia are selected and placed side by side, legs
wrapped around each other, "hugging" one another. Several people place coca, cigarettes,
wine, and candy on their bellies. On the "table" where the vicufia lay (a tablecloth laid on
the ground), aguardiente, cigarettes, coca leaves, cups, flowers, quinoa, crackers, maca,
wine and candy are displayed. A blessing is said and the Godfather, in today's chaku the
SNV president, cuts a slice out of the vicuha ear. The blood is mixed with wine and the
mixture is poured into the mouths of the vicuha. The Godmother and Godfather of the
now married vicufa consume the remainder of the wine mixture. Following this toast,
blood is wiped on the faces of those witnessing the marriage. The matrimony is a fertility
ritual that will insure that the population will grow.
Earrings (colored tags) and flowers are placed on the ears and the animals are set
free, "walking down the aisle". People have lined up in two rows and celebrate the
marriage by throwing candy and popcorn onto the couple. The animals run skittishly
around the mayhem back into the mountainside. People scream and are excited as they
begin to grab the candy from the ground while the two animals are set free. After this
people clap and mingle, celebrating the successful marriage.
Chaos again ensues as men enter the pen and begin releasing the babies and
animals that are too young to shear. The community members and CONACS feel this is
better because they do not want the animals in the crowded pen for too long. However
the babies, upon release, are constantly trying to reenter the pen, ostensibly to be with
their family, and then get caught in the net. The loud electric shearer is brought out and
the animals are selected one at a time, their fiber measured to see if it is long enough to
be sheared. Once they are sheared, they are released. The wind whips around and it is
cold at this altitude. After the fiber is weighed and certified, it is bundled and taken by the
SNV to Nazca where it is cleaned by women.2
2 The workers in Nazca are mostly women and make $5/kg. A good worker can clean one
kilogram in a day. I was not allowed to see the site because the SNV was embarrassed
about its condition.
When asked about the environmental effects and stress on the animal caused by
the chaku ritual, the CONACS officer said "it is what they do. We do not want to
interfere with their ritual because they will get angry at us and not want to do the chaku."
Everyone says cutting the ears and drinking the blood is a good thing but no one can
really tell me why. The drinking of the blood disgusts the girl who is acting as the
Godmother, but she drinks it anyway.
The fence is permanent and people think that it encompasses about 400 hectares.
However, the vicuha population is growing. What will happen when the population is too
big and the area is no longer healthy? People talk about this but it is not their primary
concern at the moment. They are worried about poachers and encouraging community
members to guard the fence. They are paying for the fence in kind with vicuhas. Each
vicuha is valued at $1,000 and each fence cost $23,000 (Lichenstein 2002). Unless they
shear a certain amount of fiber, the community does not have to pay that year. Most
people feel it is a fair deal.
Only a few people are allowed inside the fence. As we leave there are caramel
wrapper and bottles strewn on the ground. There are 700 people in community and about
100-200 people show up to participate in the chaku. Many are students from the
university in Cerro de Pasco. In 2001 Rancas sheared a total of 6.88 kg. For 2002 Rancas
sheared 21.9kg (SNV email communication 9/14/02). They are pleased with this year's
Lucanas, Department of Ayacucho.
The chaku is conducted in Pampa Galeras throughout the year from May to
October. Approximately $100,000/year is spent on vicuha management and about 25
people are employed year-round for the shearing. This chaku, in contrast with Rancas, is
very commercial and is widely promoted throughout Peru. In 2002 Pampa Galeras
captured 500 vicufia during the festival but normally they try to capture 1500. Although
they shear year-round, this is the only chaku celebration that is performed.
The night before the chaku there is a pagapa or payment to the Gods. Garcia, the
CONACS officer, says it is a small demonstration because normally a pagapa will last at
least four hours. Shamans conduct the ceremony and they chitchat, hang out, and smoke
their cigarettes. This pagapa is two hours long because CONACS feels that tourists really
cannot wait for four hours. The pagapa in conducted in Pampa Galeras with a small group
and the shamans bury a package wrapped in newspaper consisting of alcohol, coca,
cigarettes, maca and a variety of other things. The purpose of the ceremony is to give
thanks and payment to the apus or mountain Gods.
After the pagapa there is a street party. Lots of groups are dancing, celebrating,
and drinking. The music is folkloric with bands from all over, but mostly from the city of
Ayacucho. Rock in Quechua is also sung. The bands are excellent and the performances
are conducted on a stage, with lights, and television crews surround the stage. No snacks
or hot foods are sold, but there are the ubiquitous soda carts with cigarettes, gum, candy,
and soft drinks. Mostly though there are hot alcoholic beverages made with eucalyptus
syrup, rum, and orange juice. Sometimes the beverage is made with bee honey. Bottles
are shared and swigs are taken out of a little Dixie cup that is passed around until it the
bottle is empty. Then someone exchanges the bottle for another one or a woman comes
by selling another bottle. There is also straight cane alcohol sold to keep the cold at bay.
Large groups stand around talking, dancing and drinking. In my particular group, made
up of current and ex-SNV and CONACS workers, contentious debates about vicufia
management are the focus of the evening.
Mario, a schoolteacher from Lucanas, believes that the money can go to build
roads, and pay for electricity. The vicufia has been helpful there. Carlos Espinosa, the
first SNV president and close friend to Alfonso Martinez, is revered in the community for
helping to stop terrorism and promote the vicufia. He and Martinez helped to start the
SNV and CONACS. He argues that today the money is not going to the communities and
this is why he is supporting Martinez's efforts to begin a new company, which can help
the communities. SNV members argue that Espinosa and Martinez are criminals and stole
money, which has now imperiled the SNV because it, as an organization, is being held
accountable for those actions. Nonetheless Lucanas has obviously benefited from the sale
of fiber in Pampa Galeras and are working on expanding the operation.
Umberto, a CONACS member, whom I met in Rancas was participating in the
festival. Umberto warned me that it was very dangerous and that I should be careful who
I spoke with and what questions I asked. He was worried about me and was embarrassed
by the behavior of his fellow Peruvians who were all extraordinarily intoxicated. "Don't
trust anyone not even me." He wanted to show me a non-commercial chaku where the
people are excited and are into it. I told him I did not think that existed and that the chaku
was about making money. He disagreed with me and said that Lucanas was too
commercial. He has seen the pleasure and spirit of community members totally
enraptured with the chaku.
The following day the chaku occurs. This one begins later than the one in Rancas.
Two men from Lucanas offered their opinions of the vicufia.
We suffer. Only the people who work come to the chaku, CONACS, dignitaries.
We are community members. We do not really have alpaca, or cattle. We work
and try our hand at other things, but there is not a lot of vicufia. (Amy Cox
interview Pampa Galeras 6/24/02)
The chaku is a much larger performance than any of the other events I had
witnessed. A large circular pen is surrounded by hundreds of on-lookers. Buses line the
highway. A large group of high school students are dressed in bright colors and enter the
ring where the vicufia are held. They dance and chant and are followed by the Incan
King. Another high school student, selected to play the part of the King, is carried on
their shoulders on a wooden structure. The King and Queen climb to the top of a stone
mound. The stone mound represents the apu. Two vicufia are again carried out and are
married. The ears are cut and the blood mixed with wine. The Inca King offers the wine
up to the Gods speaking the entire time in Quechua. Cameramen swarm the area
preventing those outside the fence to see what is actually going on. After the offering is
made, the King and Queen exit and more dancing occurs. One vicufia is selected and
ceremonially sheared for the audience and cameras. The rest of the vicufia will be sheared
tomorrow under more efficient conditions. Following this the vicufia are released into the
larger enclosed circular pen and visitors can enter the pen to get their picture taken with
the vicufia. These vicufia are much more docile and less jittery than those of Rancas. The
ceremony and performance lasts about an hour most people go to the visitor's center
where lunch is being served. At the visitor's center there is also a small museum and a
band beginning to play.
Three girls, all around 16 years old, come from Picquoi, the community further
along the highway from Lucanas. They wanted to come and see the event but do not
know much about the vicufia. A lady from Nazca, a few hours down the highway from
Lucanas, has come to sell cakes and beverages. She is from the sierra but moved to Nazca
for variety and to give her children a better education and more opportunities, a chance to
improve life. She came to see the chaku but really she came to sell bread and soda. She
thinks this year is so-so. There are not many people and therefore she has not made a lot
of money. Also she is disappointed because there are very few vicufia captured this year.
A family from Lima is on vacation, visiting Lucanas to see the chaku. The mother
states: "We wanted to see and enjoy. It is our first time. I remember vicufia from when I
was younger." They enjoyed it but had seen enough and were taking the bus home that
During this chaku Pampa Galeras only sheared 25 kg of fiber. I do not have the
total amount sheared for 2002 but in 2000 the entire Department of Ayacucho sheared a
total of 1,376,410 kg of fiber, Lucanas being the main producer shearing approximately
44,000 kgs/year. The second largest producer is Puno shearing 393,510 kg (SNV
2001:27). The remaining departments shear an average of 126,493 kg/year, Cajamarca
shearing the least at 4,661 kg. The vicufia trade is big business for Lucanas and for
Memory and Power
Bourdieu (1977) discusses mimicry as a way of creating memory and power. A
logic of mimicry, he argues, supports the notion that through mimicry a beginning of
memory occurs. At this point a change has occurred as social history comes to bargain
with the dynamic system. Bourdieu contends that there is a historical consciousness,
whether it is remembered or not. The chaku ritual was taught to the communities. There
was no current memory of working with the animal. However through mimicry of the
ancient ritual, participants are active in the creation of a new memory that is derived from
knowledge both political and historical.
In practice, it is the habitus, history turned into nature, i.e. denied as such, which
accomplishes practically the relating of these two systems of relations, in and
through the production of practice. The 'unconscious' is never anything other than
the forgetting of history which history itself produces by incorporating the
objective structures it produces in the second natures of habitus... .Conversely, we
are very much aware of the most recent attainments of civilization, because being
recent they have not yet had time to settle into our unconscious. (Bourdieu
An ancestral linkage to the chaku is absent from today's consciousness of the
communities but through historical ties these habits and practices are performed and
included into the structure. A re-creation and reinvention of this ritual has occurred
through mimicry and memory making on the part of historians, NGO's and the Peruvian
government. So much so, that this new history is writing a future whereby the
communities will be delivered out of poverty through the shearing of this sacred animal.
Peruvians are returning to history and heritage in order to be saved from the poverty that
engulfs their Andean communities.
Eric Hobsbawm in The Invention of Tradition shows that traditions have their
own political and economic history. During the 1700s political institutions, ideological
movements, and groups were so new that they had to invent their own historic continuity.
New symbols that personified 'the nation' came into existence. He cites such devices as
the national anthem, national flag or the personficiation of the nation in image, i.e. Uncle
Sam (Hobsbawm 1983).
'Invented tradition' is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by
overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to
inculcate certain values and norms of behavior by repetition, which automatically
implies continuity with the past. In fact, where possible, they normally attempt to
establish continuity with a suitable past. (Hobsbawm 1983:1)
CONACS began to encourage communities, because of their heritage, to shear the
vicuia, cashing in on the fruits of this wild animal, by utilizing the ancient chaku ritual
once used by their Incan ancestors. CONACS taught the communities how to conduct the
chaku and through mimicry, and agency, a ritual tradition is born. Through an indigenous
heritage belief that categorizes the vicufia as sacred, Peruvians are actively creating a
memory that spins heritage for political and economic gain.
Originally, this ritual was constructed from the point of view of CONACS.
Commodification of heritage by the state is not unique to Peru or to the chaku and has
been researched by countless anthropologists in places like the Southwest United States,
Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and Ecuador to name a few. Lynn Stephen in her research
on textile production in Oaxaca, Mexico, states:
The ideological package, which was and is sold to tourists who come to states
with high indigenous populations, is based on a homogenized image of "Indian
culture" and the material remains of that culture which can be visited or
purchased and taken home. Of primary import in this cultural package is the
"Mexican Indian". (Stephen 1993:39)
Along similar lines, Garcia-Canclini argues that "Artisans are not there to talk
about what they know, but to find out how their work can appeal as a commodity based
on a logic created by others" (Garcia-Canclini 1993:64).
The communities, however, are also working with this system for their own
purposes. Some communities do not shear every year because it might not have worked
the first few times or they might not have received their payment. Most have added new
steps to the ritual such as the pagapa and the marriage ceremony. There is dynamism on
the part of the community that is shaping this ritual. The communities have begun to take
ownership of the chaku and the vicufia.
Rules are broken as a form of resistance and power on the part of the
communities. Both CONACS and the community are negotiating this space to create a
ritual that will fulfill their needs. In The Practice ofEveryday Life, De Certau argues that
humans work within systems of structure and classification to make it their own.
La Perruque is the worker's own work disguised as work for the employer.., he
cunningly takes pleasure in finding a way to create gratuitous products whose sole
purpose is to signify his own capabilities through his work and to confirm his
solidarity with other workers. (DeCertau 1984:25)
Extrapolating this logic from the workplace onto the chaku (after all it is labor
output), communities have worked within the structure of CONACS to make the
ceremony their own. In the smaller chakus, picnics are set up and chicken dishes sold to
outsiders. In the larger chaku, embellished dances and costumes are inserted. Marriage
rituals have been added. People sell cakes and beverages. This is a "cleverness that does
not recognize itself as such" (De Certau 1984:55).
All four communities display different perceptions and feelings about the vicuia.
Some are hopeful, others are not, and still others have achieved a distance that comes
from mechanization and commercialization. The chaku and the discussions around the
vicufia reflect these different hopes, perceptions and place they have in the political and
economic structure of the communities. Community members are active agents in the
pragmatic acceptance, rejection and restructuring of globalization, heritage and their
"However, insofar as there is such reference to a historic past, the peculiarity of
'invented' traditions is that the continuity with it is largely fictitious" (Hobsbawm and
Recently globalization and international trade was severely criticized in the
Global Social Forum 2002 in Brazil. Is globalization the ultimate homogenizer? Does
international trade really have socio-economic benefits? In the last five years, the vicuia
has been spotlighted because of its growing significance in the world as a luxury good
and commodity for rural development. Through an investigation of the promotion and
commodification of vicuha, I argue that it is globalization that is encouraging
heterogeneity not homogeneity by actively producing constructions of indigenous
identity and otherness.
In my original proposal I asked the following:
The community believes that the vicuha has cosmological and cultural heritage
value. If, after several years of working in the western marketplace, they come to
believe that the vicuha is nothing more than a commodity for development then
consumer demand is indeed driving cultural meaning of a resource. This is a
critical question not only for Andean communities, but all rural communities who
are beginning to interact in the global marketplace.
While my research shows that consumption is indeed a powerful and political
force, the result is not that the cosmological value of the object decreases with an increase
in monetary value. Rather, it is the contrary. It is precisely this increase in monetary value
and the emphasis on the chaku ritual as part of Incan history that is working to develop a
historical memory and cultural value. However, this return to heritage is malleable and
influenced by today's politics.
Consumerism and capitalism has been criticized as fears that globalization will
remove localized aspects of culture. This fear of homogeneity coupled with our desire for
the exotic combines to create traditions, perpetuate erroneous histories and strengthen
identities of indigenous.
There is probably no time and place with which historians are concerned, which
has not seen the 'invention' of tradition in this sense. However, we should expect
it to occur more frequently when a rapid transformation of society weakens or
destroys the social patterns for which 'old' traditions had been designed,
producing new ones to which they were not applicable, or when such old
traditions and their institutional carriers and promulgators no longer prove
sufficiently adaptable and flexible, or are otherwise eliminated; in short, when
there are sufficiently large and rapid changes on the demand or supply side.
(Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983:5)
Applying the above statement to the chaku, Hobsbawm and Ranger are correct in
that this ancient Incan ritual applied today stems from a change in the supply a decrease
in the vicufia population. However, the chaku is also being created from the promised
wealth from increased consumption and demand. The chaku was resurrected as a way to
conserve the species and prevent poaching. Nonetheless, its ongoing invention and its
promotion are derived from increased consumer demand, not only change in supply.
Appadurai describes this creation more accurately. "Elite tastes, in general, have
this 'turnstile' function. Selecting from exogenous possibilities and then providing
models, as well as direct political control for internal tastes and production" (Appadurai
1986:31). It is not that globalization is the ultimate homogenizer. Rather, it is currently
the ultimate creator of nationalism, specialized identities, and otherness. The international
trade of the vicufia, and Peru's place in the global economic sphere, is not smoothing
edges. It is working hard at creating these edges so that the consumer can purchase
culture and difference. Steiner agrees and in his work on African art argues that
purchases of African art are made in order to "buy a piece of the cultural system" (Steiner
A certain evangelism aligns itself with the question of the vicufia. "The vicufia
will get you. You won't leave Peru" (Daniel Zevallos, President SNV). In an effort to
dissuade community members from purchasing corrals from CONACS, the President of
Conatura declared that "the Inca knew more than us and they did not use fences." Not
only is there a belief that touches on values and identities (indigenous or environmentalist
or Peruvian nationalism) but this belief is proselytized to the communities. "The vicufia is
a unique richness, there will be much more", an employee of Conatura declares assuring
community members of the promise of wealth from the vicuia.
The entire chaku program came about through efforts to convince communities to
reclaim their heritage, perform the chaku, and participate in the creation of a new source
of income. CONACS visited communities and convinced them to reserve a day to
perform this ritual. CONACS taught the communities the ritual and convinced them to
purchase corrals and fence in 800 hectares of their property. Furthermore, CONACS
introduced the implementation of the marriage ritual before the Lucanas chaku as a way
to strengthen the event (Amy Cox interview A. Martinez 6/24/02 Lucanas).1 These
efforts are shaping the place the vicufia and the ritual have in Peruvian society and the
world. The importance of today's ideology is grafted onto the history of the people and
1 It is unclear how the ritual was disseminated to other communities.
the place the vicufia has had in history. History, identity and culture are the foundation
for the success of the vicufia trade.
One of the necessary components for the survival of capitalism has been the
procurement of raw materials. Historically the north has extracted a variety of products
from Latin America tin from Bolivia, copper from Chile, oil from Venezuela, rubber
from Brazil. In the case of the vicufia, fiber is sold to an international consortium where
the fiber is made into treasured products for elite consumption. Treasure and scarcity are
important to outside consumers.
"Vicufia fiber is the most expensive natural fiber in the world and fetches a price
of around $500/kg" (Sahley et al 2002:1). "The products made from the fiber reflect this
price and are considered luxuriously fashionable. Scarves made from vicufia fiber sold
for $550 $1000 pounds" (Symington 2001). "Agnona Italy, one of the world's top
woolen mills, supplies the largest design houses, like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein,
Chanel, with vicufia knitwear. Agnona is one of three members that holds the world
exclusive for the sale and promotion of vicufia" (Conti 1997). Agnona's financial plan is
to boost sales from $41 million to $59 million by the year 2001 (total knitwear including
alpaca, cashmere, etc.). Hernan Blacazar, who sells the merchandise in his exclusive shop
in Britain, claims that: "Increasingly, people demand quality as well as luxury. Once
they experience vicufia, they will be hooked. It's not a trend that will disappear" (Morgan
Consumption has become a more powerful political and economic force than
production (Arce 2000). Because consumption has become such an important force it
shapes meaning through its promotion of resource extraction and emphasis on monetary
value. One of the implications of economic globalization has been that consumer taste in
the first world is increasingly able to impact the third world by encouraging rural
communities to become more export oriented (Arce 2000:107). The meaning of those
material goods is important because it is linked to cultural identity and social formation
(Bauer 2001). The increasing demand for vicufia fiber increases its value and therefore
increases the community's desire to export more fiber. The discussion and marketing
surrounding the vicufia, the myth making that goes into shoring up conceptions of
treasure, exotic and sacredness, increases its preciousness and value to not only those
purchasing the unique and elite final product but also for those responsible for procuring
the raw fiber.
Along with a promotion of the vicufia as scarce and elite, the fiber is marketed as
a sustainable, ecological and indigenous. This marketing plan of conservation and nature
have elevated the importance of the vicufia and created a new indigenous ritual history
based on nature, the pristine, and Inca. Consumption indeed has become a more powerful
political and economic force than production.
Creating the Neo-Indigenous Identity
'Tradition' in this sense must be distinguished clearly from 'custom' which
dominates so-called 'traditional' societies. The object and characteristic of
'traditions', including invented ones, is invariance. The past, real or invented, to
which they refer imposes fixed (normally formalized) practices, such as
repetition. (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983:2)
The chaku tradition, as Hobsbawm and Ranger define it, has not yet become
tradition. It continues to be constructed. We see this in the comparison of how individual
communities are inventing the chaku. For example in Ondores, Junin during a community
assembly the women were very excited to work with the vicufia because they felt it
would bring great fortune. Other community members argued that the income derived
from the vicufia fiber could be used to make more money and improve other important
operations of the community like cattle and alpaca. They want to continue to perform
both the fence and non-fence chakus. The SNV and many communities are interested in
developing the chaku as a tourist attraction. In Rancas, university professors believed that
tourists would love the area. They could come, go hiking and see exotic animals and then
participate in the ancient Incan ritual, helping to round up the vicufia. In Picotani, a
community in the department of Cuzco, three communities work communally for four
days conducting the chaku. They capture the vicufia bringing them to the pen and on the
fourth day shear the animals. They have plans to build large structures to house tourists.
"They can come and sleep in dormitories with food and participate in the ancient ritual"
(Picotani Representative Conatura Workshop 6/2/02). In Lucanas, where the chaku has
been in existence the longest and has the most vicufia, an elaborate display of Incan
ancestry has been added to the performance.
While this might be taboo to say in Peru, all of the Quechua speakers are not
descendants from Inca. The Inca were the nobility and several other indigenous cultures
existed in Peru prior to the Inca and were conquered by the Inca. The conflation of
indigenous as Inca reflects the value Incan identity has in Peru. No one is claiming to be
of Moche or Wari descent. Steiner argues that people in Cote D'Ivoire manipulate ethnic
identity for perceived shift in economic advantage (Steiner 1994:90). "Ethnicity is
claimed rather than determined" (Steiner 1994:81). Where this process is evident is in the
pamphlets of Grupo Inca and CONACS. Incan identity and heritage are being invoked to
promote an exotic product tied to history as well as to promote a notion that indigenous is
more primitive and therefore closer to nature, the environment and better for conservation
and preservation. The mean of production is disguised and is replaced with an elegant
final product. The indigenous population of Peru nothing more than a nostalgic remnant
from the past.
Grupo Inca markets the vicufia and themselves through a captivating presentation
of wealth, ecology and indigenous camaraderie. The first picture in the Alpaca III store
catalog, the retail face of Incalpaca, shows a fashionable European woman in a lovely
coat standing imposed upon a scene in the Andes of Suri Alpacas feeding on green grass
(Figure 5-1). In the lower corner a tag line states: "Gold of the Andes, Vicufia, Guanaco,
Alpaca y Llama".
ALPACA; I I
Figure 5-1 Front cover of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet.
On the first page, A tradition knit in time, shows pre-Hispanic textiles and an
anglo model in a multi-colored alpaca sweater (Figure 5-2). A full page photograph of
two indigenous woman hand spinning yarn, complete in their skirts, neck scarves and
hats convey a picture of purity, harmony and a turn away from industrialization to a
simplistic harmony that indigenous Peruvians still enjoy today. Indigenous peoples are
presented as Peru's living history.
Figure 5-2 Page one and two of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet.
The second page titled, Preserving the Millenarian Heritage and Gold of the
Andes, Treasure Dressing the World, shows a brunette, olive skinned man and blond
pigtailed woman with a baby alpaca lying comfortably in their creme colored luxurious
scarves. Beauty, happiness, and contentment shine through this golden-lit frame. On the
opposite pages, four pictures of each animal highlight and promote the natural resources
that Peru boasts (Figure 5-3). We see the transformation from primitive to modern.
A double-truck layout of Vicuia, Fiber of the Gods follows (Figure 5-4). Here,
against an Incan wall (possibly the famous puma wall in Cuzco), a light colored brunette,
adorned in a vicufia cape, confidently strolls by. Behind her is an indigenous woman with
a bright fuchsia colored blanket holding her possessions. The text under this photo states:
Figure 5-3 Page three and four of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet.
The hair of the vicuha, the finest in the world was reserved in the time of the Inca
for only the emperor and his nobility. Presently vicufia fiber is obtained through
an ancient Inca tradition called the chaku which consists of using a large human
chain to capture the animals and herd them into a corral where they are shorn and
then liberated back into the wild, converting this magical ritual into a colorful
party. (Grupo Inca Marketing Pamphlet 2002)
In this photo the European woman is wearing the vicufia cape. The picture, along
with the text, serves to promote the vicufia product as noble, treasured and elite. This
picture also serves to take past hierarchies and graft them on to today's privileged
populations. Who wears vicufia is noble.
The following page, one that is the most perplexing in this series, is titled
Woi king i i/ h Nature. It features a white brunette woman and her white Aryan male
partner sitting next to an indigenous woman weaving. They are dressed in Alpaca
sweaters and baby alpaca scarves. All wear white straw hats (Figure 5-5). Who or what is
nature in this photo? Who is working with it?
Figure 5-4 Page five and six of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet..
Figure 5-5 Page seven and eight of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet.
The middle section shows off some of the colors and products that Grupo Inca
designs and manufactures (Figure 5-6). Again they link their products with Peru's
history, showing how they have improved on the past and nature's resources in order to
offer a garment made for today's standards.
Figure 5-6 Page nine and ten of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet.
The pamphlet concludes with the brunette woman dressed in a lovely knit dress,
with matching scarf and hat (Figure 5-7). She strolls in tall black leather riding boots next
to a campesino man and woman. The man is wearing rubber boots and is steering his
donkey laden with straw. The woman, walking in sandals made of tire rubber, is carrying
her bundle of goods in her brightly colored blanket.
Our products which take advantage of the best that nature has to offer are
produced using fibers and materials of the highest quality and their transformation
is a harmonious union of modem technology and the capacity of our Peruvian
workers, whose ancestral abilities ensure 'hand finished' products of excellence.
(Grupo Inca Marketing Pamphlet 2002)
What is interesting about these photos is not that these images do not exist. All of
the people are Peruvian. However, the mixture and juxtaposition tells a story that blends
nature, conservation, indigenous, and industrialization into one. The goal for Grupo Inca
is to profit from Peru's resources by promoting themselves as benevolent capitalists.
Modem luxury is combined with its historic Incan past. The animal fiber is harmlessly
plucked from nature and made better through technology. All of these pictures seek to
Figure 5-7 Last Page of Grupo Inca marketing pamphlet.
conflate and unite the current Peruvian indigenous population into the past and
subsequently into the natural. Indigenous as natural and good is pictured in harmony with
examples of today's achievement. The pictures, although depicting the difference in
wealth and lifestyle, ignore this conflict and tension and place the two groups as working
and living together in harmony. Grupo Inca promotes indigenous Peruvian history as
ecological and natural in order to sell their products. Without this heritage and exotic
other, the scarf would not be a treasure.
In their handout Incalpaca describes the vicuha as:
The vicuha is the most graceful and scarce of the South American Camelids.
Vicuha fiber, the finest in the world was reserved in the time of the Inca for only
the noble class. In the 1960's, the vicuha was on the brink of extinction, today,
after an intensive recovery program, the most luxurious fiber of the world returns
to the markets in very limited quantities. Our company, member of the
International Vicuha Consortium, has the worldwide exclusive rights of the
production of the vicufia product.
In the same pamphlet they say the following about Alpaca:
Alpacas are the most numerous of the four South American Camelids. With a
population of approximately 3.5 million head in the Peru (near 75% of the world
total). Alpacas are the main means of subsistence for thousands of families for
whom it constitutes an inexhaustible source of soft, beautiful and resistant fiber
occurring naturally in a fantastic array of colors characteristic that is impossible to
find in other natural "noble" fibers.
In order to gain a niche, they play on our love of nature, native, exotic and elite.
The vicufia is the perfect commodity for the 21st century. It includes historic Incan ritual,
conservation, environmentalism, and Indians, all knitted together in a treasured, silky
soft, exorbitantly priced garment. Wearing a vicufia you can feel good about your
elitism- helping to bring money to needy communities and not pollute the environment.
"It is more, to personify the Incan nobility and be a specialist in the Quechua
language was a means to acquire aristocratic rank" (De la Cadena 2000:298).
Grupo Inca is not the only party promoting indigenous. This is also claimed from
community members. Marisol de la Cadena in La Decencia en el Cusco de los Anos 20:
la Cuna de los Indigenistas argues that people living in Cuzco created a social hierarchy
within a racialized hierarchy based on intellectualism and education. "Since colonial
times, the local upper class had glorified the memory of the Quechua dramas written by
Incas and acted by elite gentlemen. Reviving and preserving the past was an academic
mission (De la Cadena 2000a:293, my translation).
She discusses indigenaity and how the indigenous elite in Cuzco formed a group
and had a political discourse, and academic daily life to dispute the supremacy of those
from Lima. They did so in order to help them acquire political and intellectual influence.
This intellectualism and decency, through a promotion of Inca as generous, wise, decent
and good, converted itself into the ultimate protection against the nobility through the
creation and strengthening of indigenous. "On the contrary, this group of Cuzco
regionalists searched the racial regeneration in the reenactment of the spirit of the Incan
race" (De la Cadena 2000a:283, my translation). She goes onto argue that the creation of
the Incaic Theatre "was an efficient tool in order to demonstrate the cultural purity of the
elite and self-perception as superior Cuzco group in bio-moral terms: the decent people"
(De la Cadena 2000a:296, my translation).
While the social hierarchy is still in place today, Peru's place in the global
marketplace has resulted in Peru's placement into another hierarchy. This hierarchy is
encouraging an emphasis and return to indigenous. In the same way Cuzco elite
positioned themselves against a racial hierarchy, Peruvians are acting within a global
world to secure an elevated position in this new hierarchy. While this does not imply that
the higher echelons of societies are returning to the farms, it does imply that there is a
continuing emphasis on the history and noble past of Peru; particularly the Incan past is
used in order to participate in today's globalized hierarchy.
Inca is used to varying ways; either to show a naturalized intelligence, a native
sense of environmentalism or a proud history of power and strength. What is rarely talked
about is the Incan history of brutality, forced societal restructuring, enslavement,
conquering and tithing. Similar to what De la Cadena argues happened in the 1920's in
Cuzco, we see a return to the Incan nobility in order to sell vicufia products, sell the
chaku method of shearing the vicufia, and compete in the global marketplace.
The chaku is nested in this hierarchy and is an ethnic performance and display of
power. In Pampa Galeras, where the chaku has been performed the longest and is the
most widely advertised and promoted, personifies this performance of political
maneuvering and promotion of indigenous power and desire for the exotic. The press is
allowed inside the ring after the vicufias have been corralled. Lining the outside of the
fence are the spectators. Prior to the singular shearing (only one vicufia is sheared that
day) there is an Incan celebration of giving the vicufia to the Gods and thanking the Apu.
Students from the local high schools are dressed in traditional costumes, some dance, and
an Incan King is carried out atop the shoulders of several people. Gold Aluminum
medallions and fabrics of bright oranges, fuchsias, greens and yellows adorn their bodies.
The King and Queen are brought to the top of a stone mound. After the King, in this case
played by a high school student who resembles what they think an Incan should look like,
drinks the blood and speaks in Quechua, the animal is sheared.
The marrying ritual performed before the chaku, actually comes from something
that the ranchers use with their cattle and acts as an offering and prayer for fertility,
health and prosperity. However, it was not until the third year of the chaku in Pampa
Galeras that they had the matrimony ceremony. The first two years performing the chaku
they didn't include this rite. Moreover this is the first year that they have the Inca
celebration with costumes, dances, and Quechua representation. I was curious about the
marrying rite and I asked some people in Tambo Cafiahuas about whether or not they
perform the marriage. They said no, and actually had no idea what I was talking about.
They perform a small pagapa before shearing.
I am not arguing that the ceremony is inauthentic. Rather I am arguing that this
ritual is active, dynamic and political. With each new ceremony, memory, nostalgia and
identity become embedded in the consciousness of the nation. The chaku in Pampa
Galeras is nine years old and is closely linked with the promotion and tourism enterprise
that Peru hopes to create around the vicufia. Eventually this ritual will become more
solidified but it is currently being perfected to perform and achieve the ultimate display
of indigenous heritage and nostalgia.
A national identity with Inca at its center is further developed through the ritual
whereby the Inca is invoked as a better time, before the Spanish colonists. The European
presence and power encourages a return to the native and exotic because authenticity and
purity are desired. The Peruvians are capitalizing on and supplying what is in demand.
Incan history has provided tourist dollars and interest from outsiders. A country in need
of income reshapes itself in order to become more marketable. From phone cards to hotel
signs, images of Inca are promoted as powerful and intelligent, a nostalgia of yesteryear.
While it seems false, it is very real in the minds of the performers. As globalization bears
down and blurs the lines and definitions of communities, culture, and personhood, a
return to the past is inspired.
Steiner in his book African Art in Transit discusses an anxiety over authenticity
and a crisis of misrepresentation as our boundaries become blurred through
transnationalism and a confounding global dialectic that often reinvent their objects of
While Western notions about the authenticity of African art are constructed by
privileging aesthetic forms imagined to have existed in the past worlds that
never were but might have been African beliefs about Western authenticity are
projected into the future worlds that aren't yet but someday could be. (Steiner
The value of the vicufia is not strictly monetary. Its promise to act not only as
economic savior but social power has come to play an important role in the ideological
importance of the animal has in Peruvian culture and beliefs. The local communities and
their institution, the SNV, exist because of the usufruct rights given to them based on
their Incan history and identity. A political force has arisen that strives to preserve the
vicuha and perpetuate a sustainable development alternative through a platform of
community rights, indigenous power, and environmentalism. Indigenous is important for
The myth that Peruvian indigenous peoples are isolated and pristine is a simplistic
representation that ignores the dynamic of the human capacity for change. The idea of
indigenous community, however, is a necessity if Peru wants to continue their promotion
of Incan tradition, history and identity. In order to sell things like vicuha scarves it is
essential to have a current indigenous population working with the animal.
The notion of indigenous is bound up in a colonial history that is currently being
transformed into an industrialized history. We see this in the fact that these groups were
given usufruct rights to shear the vicuha because they are indigenous and deserve rights
to the resources that exist in their land. If they are no longer considered indigenous and if
this 'privilege' and othering ceased to exist, then this exclusive right would break down.
The notion of native as being more environmental and closer to nature is a construction to
be used when necessary. The reality is that these groups can be impoverished, some more
than others, some are descendent from the Inca, some only speak Quechua, some are
bilingual, some only speak Spanish.
The Othering separation is being actively promoted and used in different ways
and in different contexts. With respect to the vicuha, it is used as a way to promote
conservation, authenticity of the past, and the vicuha as sacred treasure. It perpetuates a
separation based on race and encourages further hierarchy in Peruvian society. It also acts
as De la Cadena asserts, as a way to gain socio-economic and political access. The
creation and consumption of identity is acted upon by the community members, the
government, the consumers and the businesses, in order to promote, purchase and sustain
this resource. It is especially powerful in this case because it adds much value to a
commodity like the vicuia. Without the indigenous identity, people lose their rights to
shear the animal, the state loses income, the corporation loses a crucial marketing
component, and the end consumer loses out on an authentic elite scarf that was once
reserved only for the Inca. "For Incalpaca TPX, the vicufia is not just a symbol of Peru's
past, but is now part of the world's future" (Grupo Inca Marketing Pamphlet 2002).