July 2012


Not Your Average Craft Store

Forget La cancha and forget behind the post office. if you are looking for quality handmade Bolivian crafts, you must go to munama. a newcomer to cochabamba and to the craft scene, munama is quickly making a name for itself. Located in a sleek, modern space on avenida america, it has only been open since march of this year yet has already been garnering serious attention. at this year´s international Fair of cochabamba (FEicoBoL), the largest business event in the country, munama took the prize for best presentation of micro and small Enterprise. no small feat, this award was much deserved. You see, munama is not your average craft store, in fact, it is much more.

By: Camilla Morrison
Projects Abroad Volunteer
San Antonio, Texas – United States

Corn husk doll for sale in Munama
photo: Camilla Morrison

Quality and creativity are what set these products apart from others, but what prove more impressive are the women who create them. The women of Munama come from all types of backgrounds and from all over Bolivia, seven out of nine districts to be exact. What really distinguishes them, however, is that they are entrepreneurs whose unique visions and products have gone through a rigorous selection process for quality, utility, and innovation.

The National Network of Women Entrepreneurs and the Institute for Integral Women´s Training (IFFI) are the architects behind this venture. According to IFFI spokeswoman Sandy Dominguez, Munama was born out of a desperate need to empower and exhibit the products of Bolivia´s female entrepreneurs. “These women have a double role with their families and jobs”, Dominguez explains, “and Munama allows them to work from home.”

Another important characteristic of Munama is that the women work with available natural and raw materials, all the while ensuring care and preservation of the environment in the production process. As a result, there is truly something for everyone at the store; a quick glace around reveals everything from hammocks to corn husk dolls. Slippers and purses made from sheep wool are among the most popular while, for the environmentally conscious, there are recycled glass bottles adorned with beautifully painted Bolivian landscapes. Also, for those whose stomachs have fallen in love with Bolivia, there are even decorative nylon salteñas for sale. In addition to all of this, you can of course find the commonly sought after woven alpaca sweaters and scarves.

Decorative nylon salteñas
photo: Camilla Morrison

Although Munama has only been open for a very short amount of time, it has been successful so far. The big question remains: will it survive? With neither the largest nor the cheapest selection in town, it is up to Cochabambinos and passing travelers to recognize the importance and significance of Munama. It is no secret that the Bolivian economy isn´t as strong as it could be; many campaigns exist attempting to persuade Bolivians to buy Bolivian instead of opting for the more tempting prices of imported goods.

In addition to the importance of supporting the women entrepreneurs who play an increasingly important role in sustaining the Bolivian economy, an April sub-editorial from Los Tiempos raises an excellent point for why it is imperative to support projects like Munama. If the all too common mendicant and welfarist attitudes taken toward the consequences of adversity were more often replaced by such union of economic and human resources, “it is not difficult to imagine how different the situation of many households living in poverty would be if initiatives like [Munama] were less exceptional.”

Alpaca sweaters and scarves
photo: Camilla Morrison

Realistically, Munama cannot compare to the likes of La Cancha or other longstanding artisan markets in terms of quantity or price. However, by supporting Munama you do not only get a product of high quality and higher intention, you are supporting these women and, by extension, sustainably made crafts which may hold part of the key to improving Bolivia´s economy and future. Munama is located on Avenida America Oeste near Enrique Arze at #418 in the Gala building. Go and pay a visit to this exceptional store: you will not regret it!

a LooK at thE Trade and Uses of Tobacco

Nothing was known about the use of tobacco (nicotine herb) during the early colonial period in the Southern Andes. However, this lack of knowledge does not mean that people would not have known about or consumed it. On the contrary, it is possible that, at least within the Spanish and Creole establishment, the love for nicotine quickly became a popular result of the constant relations between Peruvian colonies and the Caribbean.

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