Arts & Entertainment

Bolivian Aymara designer opens boutique to products made by inmates

By Gina Baldivieso

La Paz, Dec 9 (EFE).- Ponchos, blankets, sweaters, gloves, accessories and a variety of baked goods are some of the products made by Bolivian women inmates that are now being sold in the boutique of the Aymara designer Glenda Yañez.

Located in the northwest of capital La Paz, Yañez’s café-boutique “The Chola” opened its doors to host the products of the inmates of the Obrajes Women’s Orientation Center (COF).

The start of sales began Friday with a simple opening led by Yañez and COF director Major Cheryl Sempértegui, in which policewomen and others dedicated to weaving and sewing also participated.

Sempértegui thanked Yañez for having opened a “solidarity space” in her store to show the clothes and food made by some 40 prisoners, many of them mothers who seek to continue supporting their families.

“This is an innovation. It is the first time that a designer with Glenda’s career has opened the doors of her establishment, allowing us to show what the ladies do,” Sempértegui told EFE.

The official added that the sale will be a permanent fixture and that through Yañez, people will be able to access the products made by the women of COF and even order bespoke designs.

Through this initiative, the inmates “receive the message that society has not abandoned them, that they have an opportunity to get ahead,” Sempértegui said.

“It also means daily bread for many homes. It means solidarity, love, all the good things that we should defend at this time.”

The products include crocheted blankets, woolen garments such as sweaters, jackets, hats, scarves, gloves and vests in various colors, as well as accessories such as woven handbags, bracelets and key rings.

There are also small blankets and baby clothes, all woven by skilled women who take between a day and two weeks to make the items, Lieutenant Judith Mamani told EFE.

In the cafeteria, Christmas cookies, cakes and biscuits, chocolates and empanadas are offered.

The initiative arose from a phone call in which one of the inmates invited Yañez to visit the COF to see their crafts.

When visiting the prison, Yañez was able to verify that “there is a good workforce” there and aside from that, “that the ladies really need it,” because when they are incarcerated, some are abandoned.

“The majority have children, they have to support them and to survive they carry out all these activities. And I started to think that I could buy a sweater or two, but what they need is a place to sell their stuff,” she said.

That is when she decided to give them a space in her café-boutique and become a link between the clientele and the artisans.

According to Yañez, “there is no percentage” of monetary gain for herself.

“What I want is to make a small contribution as a woman,” she said.

Yañez has spent more than 15 years in the field of fashion design for cholitas, the emblematic Bolivian Aymara dressed in full skirts, a bowler hat, a blouse, a poncho, and two long braids.

The designer first had a store on Max Paredes street, in the populous El Rosario neighborhood, and in March she moved to the neighboring area of El Tejar and opened her café-boutique on Kollasuyo Avenue, characterized above all by the sale of clothes for cholitas.

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