Forty-six-year-old Mery Neli Salazar Pedro has been running her family’s artisan business, Arte Yanesha Amazónica, from her home in Peru for ten years. Her husband, three of their five children, and three other women work in the business. They produce clothing, accessories, and homewares, all with Amazonian designs.
Mery, originally from the Loma Linda la Laguna community in the Amazon, moved to the Peruvian capital Lima for high school. It was here that she later met her husband, also from the same community. They decided to start a business together that would celebrate their heritage. Mery explains, “We produce ethnic, ancestral products. We use iconographic designs that our grandparents dreamed of through their knowledge of nature, the river, the sky, the forest, the plants, and of the animals. This is the culture that has been transmitted from generation to generation and we do not want it to be lost. Everything we make carries a meaning and we want the whole world to know us, our culture, and our identity.”
The lengthy production process for each item involves crushing and boiling husks and seeds from the Amazon, adding them to the fabrics, soaking, re-boiling, constant stirring and then fixing colors with natural products like vinegar and salt. A true labor of love.
“Everything we make carries a meaning and we want the whole world to know us, our culture, and our identity.”