Huancas is a small town, located 10 km from Chachapoyas, in the Amazonas region, north of Peru, about 15 minutes by car. Located at 2,560 m above sea level, it is known for its women association who maintains the tradition of utilitarian pottery. At this altitude, it is colder than in Chachapoyas and the wind is more frequent.
The craftwork of these ceramist women was proclaimed Cultural Patrimony of the Nation of Peru in 2012. The association is located in the main square. It is open on Friday mornings and on Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm.
They produce many variety of objects whose decorations in natural colours vary. You will find:
- Pans to “toast” the beans,
- Pitchers to conserve water and chicha called “chochos”,
- Dishes and sugar bow
- Small vases and large pots for the garden
- Candlesticks and perfumers who have small decorations or rituals.
These porous textured objects are contemporary witnesses of an ancestral culture
- The ceramist women mix yellow clay with crushed stone and water
- They form the pottery by hand
- Finally, they decorate it with reliefs, incisions and red varnish, simple patterns of ropes and zigzag
- The cooking is done in an open oven called cusana
On Friday, the women produce, that means, they begin to make pots. These pots should then be dried, but under ideal conditions. This means it should be hot, but not too exposed to the sun.This process can take several weeks, depending on the size of the ceramic. Women refine the product quite thick and as the drying process progresses, continue scraping gently and then smooth with water. And a new drying cycle starts …
Once a month, if the weather permits, the women bake their pottery. This takes place in the middle of the main square of Huancas, a day with a good weather that has warmed the road. The pottery is surrounded by old pots that cracked up during previous baking. In the middle, women put the fire and it is necessary to cook all afternoon. Obviously, they don’t bake on a rainy afternoon!
The ceramic pottery
With prior reservation, ceramic classes can be organized all year round and every day of the week. Our children have had the opportunity to work the clay themselves. They made a big pot, two small pots and a plate.
Buy a ceramic
Sunday is sales day. The director of the association tells us that Peruvian tourists buy big pieces. It makes sense; foreign tourists cannot bring the voluminous ceramics on the plane.
Ceramics are not really expensive. We bought a pot with a lid to put our eggs, but we could put it in the gas oven to cook soup or meat. To this is added a pot for an orchid. Both cost us 14 soles, not even 5 euros!
What to see in Huancas and its surroundings?
In festive times, the locals decorate the center of the village. All over, the stores of the associations are open. You can walk and admire ceramic elements, but also wood or knit. The houses open and turn into a restaurant. This is the perfect opportunity to try a good grilled chicken, with, of course, potatoes and rice.
The village Church
Another tourist attraction of Huancas: its beautiful colonial church with its image of “Señor de los Milagros“, unique in its kind.
From the village center, you can walk to the viewpoint of the Sonche Canyon. This canyon is a jewel of northern Peru, from where you have a spectacular view of the Andes. The Canyon extends for more than 11 km and reaches a depth of 962 m! There is the possibility of horseback riding and a walk of the surrounding area and immerse yourself in the town of Huancas.