TEODORA

I miss Teodora.  In all my history working as a handicraft producer/importer/exporter, working with Teodora was the most fun.  She’s a chola, a partially acculturated citified Aymara Indian.  She’s way cool, wearing the little traditional bowler perched on top of her head, just like the pictures.  She lives in El Alto, a suburb of La Paz, Bolivia, not more than about a long stone’s throw from the international airport.  The altitude there’s about 13,000 feet, and there are peaks all around over 20,000.  The sun beats down unmercifully, but it’s not hot at that altitude, just bright.  The clouds look like you could just reach out and grab a handful.  That’s where Teodora runs her sweater business.  It was hopping a decade ago back when I still had a US-based business.  I made a video of her and her crew going through all their phases of production, a dozen or so friends and family working it all out by hand.  I went back last year for the first time since then.  It’s pretty quiet now, the crafts business being what it is.  If indigenous people get better incomes now doing other things, then more power to them.  I would’ve made more money doing other things, too.  Others made lots, but I didn’t.  Many more than that made nothing and went on to one job after the other, selling real estate, insurance, whatever.  It may not be much, but I’ve given some people some work, and I’ve allowed some people to maintain a traditional lifestyle with a decent income rather than live in the shantytown of a city without much of anything.  For an indigenous person with traditional lifestyle, even poverty in the countryside has more dignity than anonymity in the city. 

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