One of the things I love to do most when I travel is to browse through the shops, especially ones that sell things produced locally or made by local artists. If there is a craft market, you can be sure that I will be there.
I did not have much luck with this in Panama (but I probably wasn’t looking hard enough) but when we reached Santa Cruz, Bolivia I had read about a museum in the center that supposedly had a great selection of crafts by local artists. Unfortunately the museum did not seem to be open. By chance the next day I read in the Lonely Planet guide online about Artesano, an association that supports rural women in Bolivia and sells their handiwork.
It was a beautifully laid-out store with vivid tapestries in bright oranges, blues, and reds; gorgeous bowls and other items carved out of wood; ceramics; and other household goods. I seriously wanted to buy one of everything in the store, but in the end my husband and I picked out a straw doll with a brightly painted pink dress and a ceramic owl wind chime. Now we just need to figure out how to safely ship them home!
This morning we hopped on a plane to Sucre, one of the two capitals in Bolivia, where we will be spending the next couple weeks taking Spanish classes. It is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains that you can see in the distance.
This time it only took me a couple hours to find my first shop, Da Bolsa Boliviana. Similar to Artesano, this shop also sells locally-produced items made from alpaca, llama, and sheep wool (specifically made in the Andes), and from what I understand, 80% of the proceeds go directly back to people who made them, which include teenage orphans. Again, amazing products: stunning knitted sweaters and dresses, woven purses, hats and mittens. I did not buy anything there yet, but I plan on returning soon.
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