Camelids are arguably the cutest family of animals. They are even-toed ungulates, like pigs, deer, and giraffes, meaning their middle two toes tend to bear their weight. And what a weight these two toes can carry!
This endlessly adorable family, Camelids, is comprised of the Arabian camel, the Bactrian camel, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos. As far as the history of pets goes, llamas and alpacas maintain a particularly profound role. For nearly 5,000 years, they have been domesticated by humans due to their immense value.
The Inca Empire portrayed llamas and alpacas incessantly in their art, honoring their important foothold in Incan culture and progression. Llamas provided work, food, transportation and religious symbolism. Alpacas were also provided food and transportation, but were highly prized due to their coats, which produced only the nicest wool. Both animals exhibited an inhuman ability to thrive in harsh conditions. They are living metaphors of hard work and devotion.
Today, the Camelids are still deeply revered. This could not be more true for Awana Kancha (awanakancha.com), a location in Peru established by three animal-loving, Peruvian brothers.
In 1989, these brothers set off on individual treks throughout Peru. Their indelible love for the Peruvian flora and fauna eventually translated into tour-giving, facilitated by their acquisition of 4×4 vehicles. In due time, it became clear to them that their passion for the Peruvian environment and culture needed a more physical representation. Hence, Awana Kancha. This “Exhibition Centre of Textiles and South American Camels”, literally means “Palace of the Weaver” in Quechua. Comprised of 420 families that represent 14 communities, it is celebrated as the first living museum of the Peruvian Andes.
At Awana Kancha, llamas, alpaca, vicuña, and guanacos are kept in highly pleasing conditions and treated with utmost respect and care. Awana Kancha is not just an animal care facility, though. It is a vast exposition of Peruvian culture, doubling as a textile center (so much to peru-se!).
At Awana Kancha, traditional Peruvian dyeing, spinning and weaving techniques are on display to help generate appreciation and passion for a culture that has long stood the test of time. Camel clothing abound. If I ever have the joy of visiting Awana Kancha, alpaca light!
According to the brothers, whose constant efforts have helped bring to light the richness of Peruvian culture, “…South American camels are an inexhaustible and valuable source to Peru and the world.” They go to show that, with a little perseverance and a true love for animals, there is no hump you cannot get over.