2022/2023 Alpaca Owners Guide

discoveries the alpaca played a significant role in everyday life, much like the bison did for the native people of North America.  Time of the Incas The story of the alpaca becomes much clearer beginning in the early 1400s with the formation of the Incan Empire. The Incas conquered virtually the entire western half of South America, from what are now Columbia and Ecuador in the north to Chile in the south, and to Argentina in the east. They were noted for their incredible architectural feats, evidenced by such marvels as Machu Picchu, and for their advancements in the fiber arts—accomplished primarily during a period of less than one hundred years. The Incas bestowed special religious significance on the alpaca, sacrificing alpacas to appease their gods. Primarily because of this special religious significance, the Incas sep arated their alpacas from llamas and other forms of livestock and segregated the herds by color. After several generations of careful husbandry by the Incas, alpacas produced more

than 22 distinguishable fleece colors. So revered were these animals that only specially-designated couturiers were permit ted to spin and weave alpaca fiber. Clothing made from alpaca was reserved exclusively for members of the royal family and highest government officials.  Devastation Under the Spaniards Unfortunately, the alpaca population was decimated during the period following the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores in the early 1500’s. The Spaniards brought with them their European live stock —horses, goats, chickens, and sheep—particularly fine-fleeced Merino sheep. Those animals competed for scarce pasture lands and damaged the fragile terrain along the coastal and mountainous regions of Peru. European livestock also car ried diseases to which the alpacas were not immune, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of alpacas.

Photo courtesy of Lizz Giordano

Preparing the offering to the Pachamama with coca leaves in Ipsaycocha. This ritual is performed before the first shearing of young alpacas.

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