31st July 2019
Sitting with a ball of yarn in her weaving workshop and shaking her head, she sighed and with a non-verbal shrug/lament seemed to say, “kids today.” This was just one of several reasons for not letting rural traditions die. The two Campesina women working in a community culture rescue project called the El Recreo Farm had given up hope that their kids would be interested in their traditions. But no matter, they were not going to let them fade away.
These Colombian women are keenly aware of the importance of rural traditions to their culture and are willing to work hard, long hours to make sure they stay alive. The project has been such a big success that their rustic wool products can not only be bought in shops in the nearby village of Villa de Leyva but can also be seen draped on professional models at fashion shows runways all over Colombia.
Surrounded by lush gardens and with an air of peacefulness and friendship, El Recreo is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon in rural Colombia. Located just 4 km outside the gorgeous Spanish colonial town of Villa de Leyva, inside an old police station, the El Recreo project keeps alive the ancient process of hand-dyed wool being spun into garments and accessories. Here visitors can experience (and participate in if they wish) a majority of the process, even hand-shearing a sheep and working on a loom to learn different weaving techniques.
Outside the weavers wrestled a dark brown sheep to the ground, tied off its feet and with a big pair of sewing scissors patiently sheered the animal of all its wool. They then collected the harvest of new wool to be stored for the next 48 hours before being further processed – the reason being an ancient belief that the sheep would die of cold if they did not store the fresh wool for that amount of time. Instead, the weavers spun yarn from an earlier harvest of wool and then demonstrated how they worked the weaving loom.
A visit to this workshop is part of Wild Frontiers commitment to responsible tourism. Your visit to El Recreo helps support this cultural rescue project and make sure that dedicated women like those in this weaving cooperative are able to continue working in something they love and know to be important to their community’s cultural identity. I was privileged to visit their workshop in June of 2019 and enjoyed the experience a great deal. Getting to witness the hard work of these women, their inherent kindness and good cheer, and then share with them a typical meal in their kitchen are all part of the experience.
Each of the regions around Villa de Leyva, Colombia – like Ráquira, Alcabuco and Santa Sofia – have specialized artisan crafts or trades, some of which can be seen on a visit. But the most popular to date is the El Recreo weaving project, and for good reason – it’s very close to Villa de Leyva and to the hearts of all who have had a chance to meet these incredible women.