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Peruvian Alpacas

Did you know that this beautiful animal is one of the main sources of income for thousands of high Andean families in Peru?

Known as one of the most beautiful camelids in South America, the alpacas are indigenous to the Peruvian Andes. Since pre-Inca times, this wonderful species has been and still is part of our culture, and is an integral part of everyday life in the Andean region. Alpacas inhabit different regions of Peru, such as Puno, Cusco, Arequipa and Huancavelica and other departments from the central highlands.

The Alpacas and the Inca culture

Alpacas were treasured as the most important animal for the Inca civilization. Their meat was consumed fresh in traditional preparations such as charqui and chalona; with their wool they made yarns and fabrics; his bones, leather, fat and excrement had diverse applications such as musical instruments, footwear, medicines and fertilizer respectively. Due to this consideration, they were preferred animals for religious sacrifices, the Incas thought that sacrificing an alpaca served to appease their gods.
The textiles were very significant for the Inca empire because they had religious and social value. A piece of cloth was considered the most precious gift, it was a sign of social status and was exclusive only to members of the royal family and the highest officials of the Inca civilization. Therefore, they allowed only designated craftsmen to weave the alpaca fiber.

Baby alpaca in the Peruvian Andes

Alpacas nowadays

Nowadays, when passing through the grasslands of the Peruvian Andes, you will see herds of these camelids. But can you differentiate them? There are two kinds of alpacas, which can be recognized by the following characteristics:

  • Huacaya: They are the type that predominates among the alpacas, representing 90% of them. Its main characteristic is its coat, since it is conformed by different colors in natural tones. In addition, its appearance is strong and vigorous.
  • Suri: You can differentiate it by its fiber which is long, limp, silky and bright. It is known for its wide range of colors ranging from beige, brown, gray and black.

The livestock of the camelids is one of the most important productive and economic activities that take place in the high Andean area of Peru; 150 thousand families belonging mostly to peasant communities depend on camelid meat and its textile fiber.

Alpacas grazing in the Andes

Alpaca’s textile

Natural fiber of the Alpaca

Alpaca fiber is considered one of the most luxurious in the textile market. It is appreciated by vendors, designers and customers because of its unique attributes:

  • It is three times stronger than sheep fiber and seven times warmer.
  • It has excellent insulating and thermal qualities by having microscopic air pockets inside, which makes it lighter but still very hot.
  • It’s very thin, it can go from 12 to 28 microns.
  • It has a silky shine that remains despite production, dyeing or washing.
  • Does not contain fat, oil or lanolin.
  • It does not retain water and can resist solar radiation
  • It is resistant, achieving very durable and easy care garments, being a saving for people and greater care for our environment.
  • It is hypoallergenic due to its great refinement
  • It has more than 22 natural colors.
  • The alpaca fiber is not only spun, it can also be felted to obtain beautiful cloths and manual alpaca felt.

The shearing season is once a year, from November to April and is usually done manually with knives or scissors.

Alpaca wool is used to create different products such as fabrics, scarves, sweaters, blankets, carpets, etc. and it is also mixed with other fibers, usually natural. Due to the beauty and quality of this beautiful camelid’s fiber, thousands of textiles have been exported to the whole world, including the United States, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands.

In your visit to the Peruvian Andes do not lose sight of the alpacas, one of the most important auquénidos in the history of this country. Take home a unique and lasting memory home with you!


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