When plans were set for a whirlwind trip to South America in 2010, Sydney locals Roberto and Liz anticipated the fascinating discoveries and historical wonder to come their way. What they didn’t foresee was the deep and undeniable connection to the land and its people they would leave with. So great is this connection, they now travel to Peru every year, and have launched el hummingbird: a gateway to beautiful handcrafted products all the way from South America.
How did el hummingbird come about?
Roberto and I embarked on a trip to South American in 2010, and based ourselves in Peru, which is where Roberto’s mother is originally from. As soon as you arrive in Peru, the first thing you notice are the colourful and talented works of the local artisans such as their silver, alpaca accessories, and amazing textiles.
The textiles were definitely a stand out for us. When we first saw these incredibly intricate and bold works of art known as ‘frazadas’, we were hooked! We tried to take as many home with us as we could, however, they’re quite large and heavy and we had a lot more travelling to do. This is where the idea for el hummingbird came about. We wanted to help travellers take a piece of the Peruvian Andes home with them.
Tell us about living with Frazadas. How can we use them at home and whose style are they suited to?
Frazadas are incredibly versatile textiles that can be used in countless ways such as rugs, throws, bed coverings, picnic blankets, or wall hangings – the possibilities are endless! The one thing our clients from all over the world have in common is their love for traditions and appreciation for skilled craftsmanship.
People nowadays are fascinated by history and culture, and want to hold onto anything that’s authentic in a world that’s so superficial and mass produced. That’s the beauty of frazadas: they are all handwoven and one of a kind. They all tell a story through detail and colour. Not only are they beautiful, but also they are incredibly durable. We have come across frazadas in Peru that are over 50 years old and still in good nick.
How do you use your Frazadas at home?
We love to use our frazadas as rugs or over the end of our bed. They’re 100% sheep’s wool and are great insulators. This is one of the main ways the locals use them, too, as they’re woven at high altitudes in the freezing Andean mountain range.
What’s involved with sourcing an el hummingbird product?
Roberto’s family works for us in Peru and source the frazadas from local artisan families around Cuzco. Sourcing good quality frazadas is quite difficult. Due to the time and effort required to create these incredible textiles, and the rise of the mining industry in Peru, artisans are going in search of better sources of income to provide for their families, and as a result the practice of weaving these textiles is in sharp decline.
Our aim is to ensure that this ancient tradition continues to be passed down through the generations, and this beautiful expression of Peruvian and Andean culture has the opportunity to be showcased in people’s homes around the world.
Can you give us an insight into your connection with Peru, and what kind of an impact this special relationship with the country has had on you?
Roberto has such a strong connection with Peru with his family calling this land home since the 16th Century, some of which still reside in the small Andean town of Pampacolca that’s 3000m above sea level. If you’ve ever met a Peruvian, you know they’re extremely proud and patriotic. Roberto’s Peruvian mother has been in Australia for over 30 years, and when you go to her home you feel like you are in Peru.
They love speaking Spanish at home and there is never a shortage of delicious Peruvian food such as their famous empanadas (South American version of a meat pie). Family dinners are always filled with stories about Peru and its history, and you can see how this sense of pride has been passed down to Roberto. This love for Peru is so infectious, which is why we love having an excuse to visit this beautiful country so frequently. We venture back every year and stay for months at a time, reconnecting with existing suppliers and artisans, as well as discovering new ones.
What do you recommend travellers put at the top of their to-do list when visiting Peru?
Hurry up and get there if you haven’t gone already! Save your pennies and book a one-way ticket because you won’t want to come home for a while. Spanish is such a beautiful language, so once you get there, book yourself into a course and immerse yourself in the culture. You’ll land in Lima, the capital, which is great for food. You can also visit one of Gastón Acurio’s restaurants in Mira Flores. He is the most famous chef in Peru and well-known around the world.
Other great cities for food and culture are Arequipa and Cuzco, and from there you can go on and trek to Macchu Picchu. We love the spectacular Colca Canyon where you can see one of the largest and most elusive birds in the world: the condor. The mysterious and unexplained Nazca Lines are also incredible to see, and you can only really appreciate them from the air. Stay with a host family on Lake Titcaca and see how these incredible people live on floating islands made from reeds. If you want to see all of Peru you need years! All the different weather climates, terrains, and ecosystems will allow you to experience a diverse and exciting trip filled with scenic beaches, deserts, lakes, and mountains. It really is incredible!
© 2015 The Home | Images via elhummingbird.com