Bolivian artisans were at the height of fashion back in the 1960s and 70s when President Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress and Andean Knitwear, ponchos, face mask and caps with long earflaps, vied with Austrian stretch fabrics for high-fashion skiwear. Bolivian fine traditional textiles survived that fashion frenzy and have remained a steady source of income for many knitters and weavers as well as an enduring link to their ancient designs and traditions.
Aid to Artisans has been working in Bolivia with a grant from USAID since 2003, reaching beyond textiles into the less familiar but wonderfully unique work in wood, pewter, basketry, ceramics, and natural fibers. ATA committed to working with at least 800 artisans on the program, that more than doubled to 1,657. Numbers are important in an investment and they tell a story, though not the whole story. The real story lies with the artisans, many of whom had never exported before they began to work with ATA and whose livelihoods are better now and promising for the future.