Wealth of the Wild: How Indigenous Animals Have Brought Many Cultures to Prosperity

Various cultures throughout the world still hold on to ancient traditions, practices and artistry as a way to bring prosperity to their people and their community. Those ancient techniques and materials are considered sacred, not only because of the history and the fact that these artistic practices have been passed down for tens of thousands of years, but also because of the wealth that these traditions have brought to those cultures, especially throughout South America.

You might not realize but chances are, many of the gorgeous fabrics in your home and your closet are the product of ancient artistic traditions using fabric from indigenous animals in South America. That heavenly throw blanket you’re snuggling? Alpacas from Peru. That deliciously soft and delicate sweater you adore on a cool day? Llamas from Bolivia. From blankets to upholstery to sweaters, ponchos, tapestries, shoes and more, indigenous animals have brought many cultures to prosperity over the years, and continue to do so, both giving back to their communities and giving consumers handcrafted, luxurious fabrics and goods that cannot be manufactured anywhere else.  

5Indigenous Animals are A Key Source of Prosperity

Fiber Indigenous Animals

When you think about delicacies and unique products that originate from countries in South America, you probably think about a handful of obvious goods. Of course, you think about the produce and grains that come from those countries. Perhaps your mind goes right to coffee beans, cacao or sugar. A lot of goods are exported from South America and enjoyed around the world. But in addition to all of those goods, grazing animals such as llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas also thrive in these countries. Thanks to the cold climates in the region, these animals flourish and ultimately provide much-needed and highly valued resources and materials used to create textile products that are exported across the globe. Just look around your home — if you’re lucky you are enjoying the fruits of those labors as we speak.

These indigenous animals are bred and herded for their wool, and that material is then used in very high-quality, highly luxurious textile products ranging from home decor items to apparel and more. And while most of us primarily think of sheep as the source of wool, animals such as alpacas and llamas are equally, if not more valuable in South American countries thanks to their ability to bring prosperity to those communities, one handcrafted good at a time.

Long before the globalized market created an economy focused on cheap, fake, machine-made products (we’re looking at you rayon and polyester), cultures focused on using the animal materials and the ancient traditions that had been preserved and protected for thousands of years.

According to the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC), a non-profit organization that promotes the empowerment of weavers through the sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region, historically there was a very specific order of importance in their empire in the Incan empire in ancient Peru. Nobility was at the top of the order, but shortly after the nobles came the indigenous animals — the alpacas, vicuñas and llamas — that produced fiber, and third were the textiles that those fibers created. For context, all of those materials and objects were ranked above gold and silver in terms of value and importance.

And while so much has changed in the world since then, some things still remain the same. These indigenous animals have helped bring several cultures to prosperity, and continue to do so thanks to businesses and entrepreneurs focused on creating goods that also give back to their communities.