Where We Work
Mosqoy works in the Peruvian Andes, which make up the central region of the larger Andean mountain range, the longest north-south mountain range in the world. The land is characterized by deep, rolling hills and valleys nestled amongst breathtakingly high altitudes. These high plains, known as puna or altiplano, provided the ideal geographical structure to become the political and economic centre of Incan civilization.
The remnants of this magnificent civilization can still be seen by visiting the ceremonial site of Machu Picchu and many other Incan ruins throughout the region. Although Indigenous Quechua communities span the entire Andean mountain range, the Central Andes remains the heartland of Quechua peoples.
The Peruvian Andes are located in southeastern Peru, in the province of Cusco. One of the most striking aspects of the land is the vertical ecology, ranging from about 2800 to 4200 meters (9186 to 13,780 feet) above sea level. The climate is semi-arid, with two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.
Both seasons are characterized by chilly temperatures at night, yet there’s often ample sun during the day. The Andes are also home to humid, moisture-soaked cloud forests that sit high in the mountains. The plants and animals that live in these areas are unique, yet also largely undocumented, making the cloud forest a sensitive ecosystem.
Rural communities in Peru often consist of a number of farming families maintaining their chakras through subsistence agriculture and homesteading practices, so the majority of their food and livelihood is produced through working on the land.
In the high altitudes of the Peruvian Andes, agriculture is limited to a select few staple crops that manage to grow on the dry, steep hills. The potato is the most notable staple food, and it makes up the majority of the communities’ diet. Fortunately, due to thousands of years of knowledge-transfer, heritage strains have been passed down through generations, and over 200 varieties of potatoes are still grown and enjoyed.
Corn is another staple, bearing over 100 varieties of seeds. Other crops grown in smaller quantities include quinoa, kiwicha, wheat, and habas (large, broad beans). Cows, pigs, chickens and cuy (guinea pig) are often raised on Quechua homesteads, but eating meat remains a luxury rather than a daily staple.
Quechua, the Indigenous language of the Incas, is the main language spoken in the rural Andes, with Spanish as a distant second. While this has helped Quechua communities maintain their cultural traditions and identity, it often hinders them from participating in Peru’s economy, and therefore families are often very poor.
Quechua has no formal writing system, which makes its weaving iconography all the more important: symbols depicted in weavings convey knowledge of plants, animals, the local environment, and spiritual beliefs.