Antiquity is woven into the sacred textiles of Bolivia’s mountain communities. But hundreds of these precious fabrics were stolen and sold to collectors in North America, depriving them of key artefacts of their cultural heritage.
After years of struggle, including numerous trips to the United States to identify weavings and initiate legal proceedings, and two appearances as a witness in trials in Canada, social psychologist Cristina Bubba Zamora has been able to recover roughly 500 weavings from the US and Canada. They were originally lost through the systematic plunder of Coroma, a community of 30 villages in the high plains of the Bolivian Andes, as well as from other indigenous communities in Bolivia.
The villagers feel that they have won a battle against a world power. It has given them the confidence to take control of their problems.
She also organizes photos of the textiles for exhibitions, and she founded, in 2003, the ILLA Foundation to promote the ethnic identity of the indigenous people of Bolivia. Largely as a result of her work, laws were passed in Bolivia and the US banning the export/import of Bolivia’s sacred textiles. Millions of people in Bolivia have benefited from her work. “My work,” she says, “has also contributed to the valuation of the weavings in general, especially their historical and ceremonial importance.” Bubba Zamora hopes to undertake research on textiles in other communities in Bolivia.
The approximate number of fabrics that Bubba Zamora has recovered