Alpaca’s Place in History

What do all of these items have in common?

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If you guessed that they are all Global Goods Partners products, you are correct! But did you also guess that they are made of Alpaca wool?

Alpaca wool is one of the finest luxury materials in the world, and was once only reserved for Inca royalty in the Peruvian Andes. Alpacas have been domesticated in this region for over 5000 years, and were utilized by the Incas for almost everything, including transportation, food and fuel. Nowadays they are mainly used commercially for their fleece.

In Andean mythology, Alpacas were once worshiped due to their association with the goddess “Pachmana”, also known as the Earth Goddess. When the Spanish Conquistadores came across the Inca civilization in Peru, they soon discovered that this society relied heavily on the Alpaca, even building infrastructure out of the fibers from this animal. Cloth was akin to currency in this ancient civilization, as textiles made from Alpaca fibers were widely traded and armies were even paid in the form of Alpaca textiles. The Spanish attempted to conquer the Inca by slaughtering herds of Alpaca, yet Alpaca wool is still widely used even today.

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Alpaca wool is incredibly strong and is also considered to be as light as cashmere and lighter than sheep’s wool. There are 22 different shades of Alpaca wool, including white, black, brown, grey and tan, which are some of the most popular colors used commercially. The finest and most usable wool is found on their back and sides. Alpaca’s are shaved like sheep, and after their wool is combed and cleaned it is ready to be spun into usable wool. Alpaca wool also retains dye very well which allows for the creation of a wide variety of products. The two breeds of Alpaca that are most commonly utilized for wool are the huacaya and the suri. The former has a denser, thicker fur and the suri is known for having long and separated fur.

Interestingly, Alpaca’s are known for being environmentally friendly animals. They have padded hooves which do little damage to the Earth. Additionally, they drink very little water and their stomachs are comprised of 3 compartments which means that they digest grass and hay with ease.

Here at Global Goods Partners, we have a wide range of Alpaca scarves that are handmade by women in Bolivia and Peru. In purchasing these scarves, not only will you be contributing to sustainable agriculture in the Andes, but you will also be positively influencing the lives of women and entire communities in South America. Check out our website for some great Alpaca scarves to keep you warm this winter season!

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