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Alpacas are among the finest wool providers in the world.
If 100% pure, alpaca wool is absolutely thermal. Even though you may not feel instantly warm wearing alpaca sweaters, this fibre will not let you lose your body warmth and you will never feel cold. This is because alpaca fibre is hollow, therefore light yet warm. However, when mixed with other fibres it will lose its thermal properties.
Alpaca fibre does not let water nor dust settle: if you wear an alpaca poncho you'll never get wet.
Alpaca wool is such a warm and unique fibre that for hundreds of years many countries have been trying to get it. However, they could never have herds of alpaca abroad. Alpacas never reproduce unless they live in the wilderness.
Peru and Bolivia have signed international treaties to ensure their monopoly over the alpaca since it is our national heritage.
For more than 3,000 years Peruvians have mastered the art of using this wonderful fibre. Today, just as it was 3000 years ago, women in the highlands walk with their herds and keep their hands always busy, spinning alpaca yarn with their pushkas. The crude wool goes along a stick with a round base and after being twined comes out as a yarn that can either be hand knitted or turned into a beautiful textile in a loom.
The alpaca yarn, when hand made, is dyed with natural colours and then separated by colours. Using looms, handicraft producers will make ponchos, tapestries, blankets or with knitting needles they will produce warm sweaters. And they will go to the marketplace to sell them.
The best price producers will get for their products will not even cover their inputs and yet they must sell them to buy matches and other industrial goods. A handmade sweater which took 1 week to be made (from wool into yarn and into sweater) will be sold at 10 dollars and once that sweater has gone across the incredible chain of middlemen the Japanese customer will be paying 180 dollars for it in Tokyo.
Some customers feel that alpaca is too itchy so they demand Baby Alpaca and Industrial Alpaca sweaters. So peasants prefer to shear their alpacas' wool and sell it to the factories. The factory dyes the wool with chemicals and industrial dyestuffs that pollute the environment. Furthermore, to obtain homogenous tones with the chemicals, the factory only buys white alpaca fibre from the alpaqueros. That fibre is then mixed with the same amount of lambs-wool, industrially dyed and sold as 100% baby alpaca wool. Do you know what this is causing? Alpaqueros want to rear white alpacas only. And brown, black, and coloured alpacas are being sold as 'vientres', i.e. pregnant. They are smuggled across the Andes and reach Chile, in Iquique they are kept in quarantine and exported to New Zealand, USA and Europe. And now in the Andes in herds of 200 alpacas you will barely see 1 or 2 coloured alpacas.