Of all the many excursions available to visitors of Tahuayo lodge, there is one that has a deeper more meaningful history behind it......the Artesanal Market. Here you can buy handmade crafts from the women of Chino village. During my stay at Tahuayo there was a journalist there who went to the village with Dolly Beaver interviewing these women and getting their stories.
In order to launch the artesan market these women had to learn how to make crafts and take lessons. They would return late to their homes after taking these classes and their husbands thought they must be prostituting themselves and would beat their wives, not believing that she was simply taking a class. Many of these women would show up at classes with bruises and strikes on their bodies.
It is also important to understand that in this culture women did not have alot of opportunity career wise. I found out that it wasn't uncommon in previous generations for girls to become pregnant at 13 yrs old simply because there was no other life for her other than to have babies. My heart breathed a sigh of relief when i looked into the faces of my students and none of them had signs of pregnancy.
So for these women, selling their crafts was the first kind of financial freedom they have ever had. Pretty soon as they began making money from their crafts their husbands would ask for money to drink to which they said NO. Finally they were able to take control of things and draw a line in the sand with just a little bit of economic prosperity.
Perhaps the most enduring symbol of womens empowerment is the Artesan Centre that stands in Chino village. On my first trip at my visit to the market it was housed in an old run down house made of wooden planks. However when i returned as a volunteer the Artesan Centre had been launched. They now had a beautiful housing just for the market for tourist to come buy handicrafts.
From what i was told Angels of the Amazon donated some money and each of the women contributed abit from their earnings and now the women have a place of their own where they can sell their handicrafts with pride. Basket by basket they began weaving hope and prosperity for their families.
Each one of these women were born to a generation where women were only good for making babies. They endured beatings, bruising, and jeering from their husbands to break a cultural stronghold and belief that women had no power. And in the end they became the breadwinners and set an example to the next generation of what being a woman meant. These are the thoughts that echo through my mind as everytime i gently caress the image of a toucan that has been handcrafted with love onto a gourd bought from one of these amazing women of Chino village.....