Treasure Trove of Textiles in Cusco, Peru

We were drawn in by the giant fluffy dog lazing at the entrance, and lingered because of the friendly cat circling the counter. A man sat behind a desk reading a book with his spectacles perched on the end of his nose; he glanced up at us and we exchanged a smile as we doted on his pets.

“Where are you from?”, he asked in Spanish. “I’m from the UK”, I replied. His face lit up and he immediately asked if I was from London. “More or less” was my response. He wanted to send his son to London for six months and thought I might know of somewhere to stay. “No, I don’t, I’m afraid”, I said apologetically. The topic of conversation eventually moved onto Mick Jagger who had visited the shop in 2011. Hundreds of people had apparently crowded in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas waiting for a glimpse of the Stone. “He stayed in the shop for 3 hours”, he said proudly. “There’s a picture of him and my mother over there”. And sure enough, there he was, hanging on the wall.

We were standing in front of the opposite wall filled with faded textiles and I felt that we had walked into somewhere special; the usual piles of synthetic aguayas were nowhere to be seen. Rather, the fabrics in front of us were subdued and seemed have a story to tell.

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I asked about the age of some of the pieces and was told that a lot of the pieces were about 80 – 100 years old, some were 500 years old, and he even had one which is about 1000 years old, but which obviously can’t be taken out of the country. The shop itself has been in his family for about 80 years; his mother, Josefina, was the owner before him and now, at the age of 87, she takes a backseat as Pablo runs the show.

He kindly told us that we were welcome to take a look downstairs at the rest of the collection without feeling pressured to buy anything. So we started down the stairs and were met by an Aladdin’s cave of Andean textiles: shelves and shelves of blankets and ponchos of all different colours and patterns lined the walls.

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We had the place to ourselves and Pablo would come down intermittently to tell us more about the fabrics we were interested in. He noticed I had my camera and promptly said we should try on some ponchos and he would take our picture. Only later I found out the particular poncho he had given me to try on was worth $500. With beautiful dark pinks and indigo blues, he told me that you could tell the age of the item because of the indigo blue details: 100 years old, as it turns out!

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Brittany and I spent almost two hours rummaging through the treasures in that basement, while Pablo would pull out books with images of the patterns we were looking at. One in particular was a book from 1981 about the Q’ero people – an ethnic group from just north of Cusco. The photographs were amazingly intimate and I wondered how much had changed in their community over the last 33 years. We were shown another gem when Pablo grabbed a tattered copy of French Glamour magazine and flicked through to a double-page spread featuring Helena Christensen and, on the opposite page, a regal looking woman wearing Andean textiles. This was Josefina, Pablo’s mother, who, we were then told, was sitting upstairs.

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Feeling utterly impressed by this, and endeared by Pablo’s attentive nature I wanted to buy something from his wonderful little shop. I found a small purse, which is apparently used for coca leaves and, not being completely out of my price range, decided I would buy it. We eventually dragged ourselves away from the treasure trove and made our way upstairs.

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On parting, Pablo gave me his card and e-mail address and told me that if I ever wanted to know anything more then I shouldn’t hesitate to contact him. I, in turn, gave him my e-mail address and said if I found something for his son in London I would let him know.

And so, we bade a final farewell to Pablo, his mother, and to the pets that had led us to such a wonderful afternoon in the Tienda Museo.

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