"I was the oldest of three siblings, my mother was a widow at 29 and, living in a machista society, she struggled to keep everything we had achieved so far."
"I was born in a village within Churubamba, a community situated in the Andes, at 3500 meters above sea level. At the time there weren't any roads to get to the nearest city, Sicuani. We could only get there by horse, and it would take two days – three by llama.
"My parents' home was built of stones and hay, like most houses in the Andean area where people reared alpacas. We did not have the luxury of basic services such as electricity and running water. I grew up among alpacas, and my favorite pastime, like every little Andean boy, was playing with them and riding horses.
"Father taught me how to work the land. He was a good worker also dedicated to breed alpacas. Often he and my uncles, as well as other people from the village, would travel all the way to La Quebrada to exchange potatoes and other tubers for meat, rope and alpaca fleece. These trips would last between 20-34 days, and they would return with enough provisions to last us the whole year.
"My world changed completely when I was 10 years old, when my father died from a work related accident. Those who were there told us he was trying to lasso a wild horse – there were so many around at the time. Apparently the horse pulled so hard he fell down a 100 meter cliff filled with rocks. They brought him home, still alive but he lasted only about a month.
"We were greatly affected by all of this – our world was turned upside down. I was the oldest of three siblings, my mother was a widow at 29 and, living in a machista society, she struggled to keep everything we had achieved so far. Out cattle was stolen bit by bit, and people kept coming to collect alleged debts.
"I became the head of the family when I was 14 years old. At the time we were really poor and had lived through very sad and difficult times. We worked hard and four years later things started to look up. My siblings began to study and work in shops.
"We got together with some people we knew and we began to work with alpaca fibers. My first sweaters were quite special, we had no idea of sizing, colors nor about designing. During those first years we received some support from a local project. They trained us and gave us a small sum to get set up.
"Today, after some trial and error, we understand everything there is to know about quality and customers’ requirements. We select the best quality materials for our designs – and we know teach those who want to learn.
"My daughters support me the most: with Flor de María we develop our designs and select the colors, Maya helps me out costs and pricing, and Jaqueline, my youngest daughter who is studying confection, helps us with the finishing details.
"We work with young people, teaching them not only about the production process, but also fostering their creative vision and their ambition to start their own venture. In time we hope to become a foundation and to be able to achieve this we need to look for new markets and meet new customers who recognize and appreciate all the effort we put into each piece."