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About 22 years ago, Anna Hosbein Aliaga and her husband, Carlos Aliaga, were gifted two baby puma cubs by rural farmers in Bolivia. After much time spent trying to find a national park or zoo that would take the cubs, the couple decided to care for the baby pumas themselves. Needless to say, this was a very costly and slightly dangerous undertaking given that Anna was seven months pregnant with their first child. After initially nursing the cubs in their home, the couple ended up building a zoo-like habitat on the famous Isla del Sol to house the growing pumas. The maintenance cost for these habitats quickly became prohibitively expensive for the Aliagas, and so some creative brainstorming was undertaken.
Carlos and Anna ended up making a trip to the United States shortly thereafter to sell handmade artisan goods as a fundraiser for the puma habitat. The fundraising stunt raised enough money for one year of maintenance, but more was needed (pumas live about 14 years).
It was from this fundraising venture that AHA Bolivia was formed. Anna started talking to designers and artisans, becoming more and more impressed with the quality and variety of handiwork found throughout the country. The success of the artisan fundraising venture coupled with the skill Anna saw in the country lead to the formation of the company as a production house of knit goods, leather products and recyclable bags. A portion of the profits from the company was still applied towards the puma habitat. In the meantime, a socially responsible organization had been created; employing local artisans, creating quality handmade products and adopting a fair trade manufacturing business model.
AHA Bolivia consolidates its presence in the United States market through a strategic alliance with CAN10 LLC under the “Wayuna” brand.
The tradition of handcrafted, quality work is a long one in Bolivia. Intricate textile and knit pieces have been coming out of the country for centuries, preserving the local culture but also providing the world with unique and skilled handiwork. Techniques passed down by generations are still used today to create masterfully produced garments, handbags and accessories.
Not only are the artisans an extremely skilled bunch of people, but also the country’s unique position in the Andean nation gives it access to many specialty materials that are now coveted on the runways of New York, Paris and Milan. Luxurious alpaca, pima cotton and organic cotton are some of the more demanded specialty fibers coming out of Bolivia and neighboring Peru. The leather industry in the country is also quite developed and becoming more and more of an international player.
Bolivia is considered to be one of the more marginalized nations in South America due to its largely informal economy and inland position on the continent. This does not mean the people do not have the capacity to work – on the contrary, the people are hard working individuals interested in keeping their heritage alive via hand production techniques. Contracting with these artisans gives them much needed economic opportunity and can create lasting change in their communities.