Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Julio in Peru

Some amethysts I bought from Julio

One common theme in my life overseas was the pursuit of crafts.  In every country I lived in I immediately set out to discover the beautiful craftwork of the region.  Often, the craftwork came to me.  Back in Jordan in early 80’s, the Arab vendors would always know who the new expats were and where they lived.  Within the first month, they were knocking on my door.  Americans were prime targets, but so were European residents.  Over twenty years after my initial forays into souks, pursuit of native arts, I began sponsoring craft shows for the embassy community in Lima.  This way I got to know the artists and learn about their lives and families.  In one show in the large side yard of the house, I had Willi, the painter, Oscar the woodworker, Ana Miranda , who had a sweater business, Pablo the gourd carver, Jaime the chess set maker, and Julio, the Rock guy.

Lima was difficult for me in some ways.  My Spanish was only so so.  While I could communicate, my comprehension was not adequate for the rapid language that bulleted back at me.  I felt handicapped and inadequate in my Spanish.  And while Peru is a beautiful country, Lima itself is cold and grey and crowded with nine million people.  I was so fortunate to have discovered Julio.

He was a small man, probably Quechua.  He talked fast and walked fast and liked to do business fast.  He arrived in a taxi and brought  bags with stone beads in them.  Sometimes he had old Venetian beads from old houses in Cuzco.  Usually he had amethysts or quartz or chrysocola to sell.  I like to think that I started designing necklaces out of some creative explosion in myself.  But in hindsight I realize that I started making/ selling necklaces so that I could buy beads from Julio.  He would arrive, run-walking up the walk, come in, and we would do business.  He would name his price, and I would balk, but I wanted the beautiful beads and so I would make offers, and then try to get them ALL for something much less.  Julio’s business plan was to move his inventory.  And I know that he loved coming to my house for that reason.  I learned the prices; the serpentine and onyx and orange jasper were very inexpensive, while he could ask more for the Peruvian opals and turquoise.  Once he caught himself up because he asked more for small quartz heishi beads than the large quartz beads.   When I asked him why the small ones cost more he told me that there was so much labor involved in the cutting.  I didn’t fall for that one; and I told him so. 

I miss my bead buying with Julio, and I remember those business transactions with nostalgia.  The thing is-- Julio didn’t know one word of English.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is wonderful. I really enjoyed it. John