Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Textile arts in the Andean region have long been experiencing a decline. The success of the Jalq'a textiles program, growing over the last ten years in southern Bolivia, however, demonstrates a possible alternative path for Andean textile arts.

For various reasons, in the 1970s, the beautiful and complex textiles that were the emblem of the Jalq'a communities were disappearing. The fleece spun by hand was replaced by acrylic thread, much of the arts of spinning and dyeing were lost, and with those, went the chromatic harmonies as well. The beautiful animals that had defined the Jalq'a style (often called Potolo) were thrown out and replaced by small schematic figures, and the "lIamero" style from the ethnic groups located north and west of the Jalq'a infiltrated the designs, turning them into simply decorative.

A program to support the traditional arts has been in place for the last nine years and it has instigated a renaissance. These very fine textiles, made using ancestral techniques and born from the hands of more than 1,000 weavers associated with the program, are producing a true ethonogenis-that is to say, a new creation of culture. The ethnic and spiritual content of the designs (the weaver's world visions expressed through their own aesthetic) combined with the excellent craftsmanship have created a specialized market-one for true works of art.