Survival of the Spirit in the Grips of A Pandemic

Stranded hundreds of miles from his wife and children during the COVID-19 pandemic, one Peruvian artisan discovers a powerful way to survive loss, theft, and the fears of a deadly virus.

As an artisan in the United States, I find myself thinking about artisans in other parts of the world during these uncertain and difficult times. How are they handling this year, void of tourism, the freedom to move about, and the commerce they so desperately depend upon?

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NOVICA Textile Artisan, Wilfredo Herencia

NOVICA artisan, Wilfredo Herencia, comes to mind first. Wilfredo was visiting his mother in Arequipa when the lockdown in Peru went into effect. His wife and children were at home in Lima, over 600 miles away. Adding to this strife, Wilfredo’s workshop in Lima was robbed, leaving him devoid of his machines and yarn stock.

Though I cannot travel to meet Wilfredo in person, I had questions that only he could answer. I imagine him sitting in the beautiful city of Arequipa with its bustling Plaza de Armas, a gentle breeze rustling the palm fronds. Before COVID-19, its white-pillared walkways would entice passersby. In the distance, Mount Misti crowns the city like a precious jewel.

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Mount Misti – Arequipa

How are you and your family holding together with this unexpected separation, I asked him?

“Overnight, we had to adapt to a new way of living. I am very fortunate to be able to spend this time with my mother. Obviously, I miss my children and my wife. We are always in communication until I can return to Lima again.”

That sounds really difficult. How does your art sustain you during this time?

“I love the process of first imagining a piece; then taking it through creative processes to completion of the finished product. The final reward is seeing my clients purchase and wear them in their daily outfits in the colder seasons.”

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Alpaca Ruana Wrap “Evening”, Knit Scarf “Lady in Antique White” and Reversible Knit Hat “Warm and Contented.”

That is a rewarding feeling, isn’t it? How old were you when you began creating in fiber? Who was your first teacher?

“I remember my grandmother knitting a fretwork with very thin wooden needles and using cotton threads of various colors, equally thin. I marveled at the speed of her fingers handling those sticks while she spoke and looked away. Perhaps that was the starting point.”

Wilfredo is an inspiration with his desire and drive to continue his work during such a trying time. We are honored to count him among our artisans.


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