Chincheros, which means town of the rainbows, is a beautiful little village located in the center of the Sacred Valley halfway between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Like many of the villages in the valley, Chincheros still holds onto its pre-Hispanic days of traditional clothing and centuries-old houses. Perched high in the Peruvian Andes, Chincheros was an early Inca center during which textiles were woven and offered to mark special occasions, from peace treaties and sacrifices to marriage ceremonies and puberty rites.
For the Chincheros, weaving is a way of life, as important for preserving ancient traditions as it is for earning a livelihood. Chincheros produce extraordinary textiles, woven with ancestral tools with Incan designs and natural colors. Children grow up playing with their mother’s spindle and loom. By age six or seven, most children learn to weave by watching their elders. They begin by weaving jakimas, or narrow ribbons, before moving on to more complicated pieces.
From shearing, spinning, and dying the wool, to weaving the brightly patterned cloths, Chincheros textiles are created entirely by hand. At weekly markets, Chincheros villagers trade their handcrafted weavings for fruits and vegetables that are difficult to grow at Chincheros’s high elevation of more than 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). With each exchange, weavers earn a living, carry on their ancient art, and share a piece of Chincheros’s culture with the world. In different cultures wealth can be defined by things other than money. In the village of Chincheros, wealth is tied to weaving textiles using traditional Inca techniques.