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    • Evergreen

      Luis and his father are the last natural leather tanners in Cotacachi, Ecuador. They use the huarango tree seeds to tan leather, as opposed to chemicals; it takes 24 hours to tan a hide using chemical processing whereas the natural huarango seed method takes a whole month. "All good things require time and patience", - Luis explained, and it's hard to disagree: he and his family seemed to have embraced a very special Andean zen and found happiness working together.

    • Evergreen

      Luis' mother Maria - a woman with a thousand smiles - offered us some homemade chicha , a local corn and grain flour drink that is cooked and steeped overnight. "You'll live a hundred and ten years if you drink this instead of Coca Cola and beer!", - Luis' dad declared.

    • Evergreen

      We talked a lot about tanning leather, making drums from llama skins and growing long hair - something that's very special to the local indigenous people of the Andes. "Long hair is part of our identity. Not too long ago, my mestizo co-workers in Otavalo would make fun of me telling me I was wearing my "tie backwards", referring to my braid. Or they'd say I should cut it because I looked like a woman. But it's part of who we are", - Luis explained.

    • Evergreen

      Working quietly in their little tannery in the outskirts of Cotacachi, the Yamberla family was so welcoming and friendly we stayed there for hours, just chatting and sipping chicha. Luis fixed my ripped pants by patching them up with this gorgeous handmade patch that he'd made then and there.

    • Chris

      Great photos! Thanks so much for writing this. For people who don't know, Evergreen is from Lithuania and RODE HER MOTORCYCLE all over South America and has incredible stories to tell. She's on a Cake panel tomorrow for women who motorcycle.

      She recently had a fabulous story published in BBC Travel, Guna Yala: The islands where women make the rules

    • Evergreen

      All photos are by rtwPaul, www.rtwpaul.com - I'm just telling the story!

      These are the huarango tree seeds that Luis and his father collect themselves, then boil for two hours to get a dark liquid. They then soak the hides in it for a month, converting them into leather.

    • Evergreen

      Luis's father is very proud of this python skin brought to him by a friend from the Amazon. He's been planning to make boots and bags from it for a while now, but just can't bring himself to cut this beautiful skin up.

    • Evergreen

      This is an early 20 century drum for drying and dying the leather - probably the last of its kind in the whole Imbabura province.

    • Evergreen

      When Luis's father was a small child, a lot of indigenous people were still forced to work on big landowners' farms for free or for a scrap of land for their own use. The feudal system is now gone - but not forgotten. "There still are very few indigenous people in power positions because in Ecuador, the belief that only whites can give orders and make important decisions still linger. We own our land now, though. All my sisters have small farms and grow corn, beans and potatoes in the mountains".

    • Evergreen

      "The life of a Quechua woman? Work, work, and more work", - Maria said, when I asked her about a female perspective. "Girls get married when they're eighteen and make babies. But they must also work, at home and on the land or in the market". I told Maria my country had a woman president serving her second term. She paused a little and said, "yes, Ecuador should have a woman president, too. But girls just can't afford universities".

    • Awais

      Great set! thanks for sharing love all of them especially portrait of Maria is so refreshing

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