A little history
Originally from South America, alpacas have always played an important role in the Andean culture history. Domesticated for its fiber around 6000 years ago, alpacas are direct descendants of Vicuñas which still roam to this day the highest plateau of the Andean Cordillera.
Alpacas are part of the Camelid family (Camelidae) along with llamas, camels and dromedaries. Just as their wild ancestor the Vicuña, alpacas typically live in high altitudes where the environment can be extremely harsh. In South America, many alpaca farms are found on high mountainous plains called the Altiplano (''Altitude plains'' in Spanish), an active volcanic region that spans almost 1 500km and which is mostly made out of semi-arid desertic landscapes.
Considered to be a gift of the Gods, alpaca fiber is harvested annually and used to hand craft a variety of clothing, traditional costumes and accessories. In ancient Andean civilizations such as the Inca Empire, the finest alpaca fiber was reserved for royalty.
Domesticated for its fiber and meat, alpacas became a central tool in the survival of many Andean aboriginal groups. Quechuas, an emblematic name given to many indigenous groups of the Andes sharing the same language (Quechua), were the first to domesticate alpacas. Although a great part of them were almost wiped out during the Spanish Conquest, Quechuas and a small population of alpacas survived the invasion and assured their continuance. For the Quechua people, raising alpacas is much more than just an agricultural venture, it is a symbol of the Andean resiliency and a lifestyle that is deeply rooted in the traditions and customs of an entire nation.
Loved and cherished, alpacas played a crucial role in the survival and prosperity of the indigenous people of the Andes. They still are today an intricate part of the Peruvian culture and of those of neighboring countries.