In May of 2012, I landed in Bogota to snoop around their textile scene. I had just made my first trip to Peru to visit their premier trade show in Lima, Peru Moda and Home, and to explore the country a bit. While planning this maiden voyage to South America I thought, might try to make a more thorough expedition.. I contacted a few friends to see if anyone knew anyone, and the gods of hospitality extended their hand to me once again. A friend of the family in Bogota invited me to stay, so I booked an extra leg to my trip, and off I went. Lucky.
In Bogota I was advised to take taxi’s carefully, not to be out in the evening on my own, not to have that much cash on me, etc. I was super intrigued by the museums and gardens and parks, but not very confident about exploring freely. That approach wasn’t going to work all the time. At one point, the generosity and care taken by my host produced an invitation to lunch at the home of a distinguished professor and textile expert, Ricardo Carrizosa. For this trip I had to take a few buses and a publico, or van, to get to a mall where we had our rendezvous, that was absolutely nowhere on the outskirts of town. Then we drove into the hills to his beautiful home and art studio to have a charming lunch among his flowers and a brilliant chat surrounded by his cache of folkloric wonders and books. I was schooled in Colombian artesanias – in addition to hearing all about Ricardo’s travels and intrigues!
I admired the mantas antiguas Ricardo had thrown on the sofas – these handwoven beauties were from Peru and I had just picked up a few of the same myself while in the Sacred Valley. Ricardo had found a veritable treasure trove of these heirlooms in Puno, in a little shop on a street just off the main Plaza, with mantas stacked to the ceiling! That sounded like Valhalla to me having just been introduced to these collectibles and already obsessed. He insisted that I get myself there at some point. Never having been to Puno, I wasn’t quite sure I would ever locate it. But there was another clue.. The man to see at the shop was an avid collector of Peruvian handwork of all kinds, maybe a bit of a hoarder even as I was to learn. He went by the name of Cactus, quite a flamboyant character in the town and well loved by all. Ricardo was confident that I would find him if I ever made the trip. I thought, hmmm, sounds farfetched, but…..
This is me, a year later in Puno, looking for Cactus, with a nasty bout of altitude sickness that kept me awake for nights.. I’m smiling, but it’s only because I have chewed up coca leaves stuck to my temples. I was instructed by the giggling ladies in the market place to do so because they could tell I had a migraine that was out of control painful. It didn’t work, but it was a fun distraction.