By Mike Safley | January 22, 2023

Vicuña Salvation Premiere in Peru!

October was a big month for Quechua Benefit’s feature length documentary, Vicuña Salvation. We participated in three premieres in Peru, each a little different than the other. But each audience loved it.

Dale with long time Quechua Benefit supporter (and photographer), Maria, at the Vicuña Salvation premiere in Picotani.

The audience at the premiere in Picotani.

This success would not have happened if you had not continued to support our organization during the COVID pandemic, keeping our programs strong during tough times, by virtue of your generous hearts. 

The first premiere took place in Picotani and the community did all of the leg work to make it big! They promoted the film, invited government officials, held a ceremonial chaccu, and gathered the press. To the amazement of the community, Derek Michell of Michell & CIA SA and his entire executive staff were there in support of their efforts, most of whom had never been to Picotani. We were interviewed by a Quechua radio station that broadcasts from Puno. Thank goodness for translators!

Everyone watched in awe and loved the film. Soft murmurs and chuckles were heard in the audience as they recognized various community members on the big screen. They laughed, they cried, they applauded to the very end. A woman from the community thanked Quechua Benefit for visiting every year. “I don’t know how you find us here. The government in Lima does not know where we live.” Another women once told me: “Say we are here, say we exist.” I think this film will not only put our communities on the map, but make their story heard for the first time. It will be available for streaming on National Geographic – South America, beginning March 2023. This is all possible, thanks to you and our wonderful community. 

Dale holding the water pipe that provides water 24 hours a day! From left to right: Dale, José, Felipe, and Guillermo.

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the reveal of the Water Project in Picotani.

In addition to the premiere, the community proudly took us on a tour of the completed first phase of our water project that provides water to vicuña during the dry season. The 14 lagoons and 28 individual drinkers built across 2,500 acres will be able to support an additional 1,250 vicuña. It has the potential to double the size of the existing herd that historically grazes the site and provides the Picotani community an estimated $75,000 of additional annual income in perpetuity.  

Proud is the best way to describe the energy felt during the ribbon cutting ceremony. This project was completed by community members, digging through the dry dirt and hand placing the miles and miles of pipe. This project would not have been possible without your generosity. Our Executive Director, Dale, worked closely with the community leaders to engineer the system. This water increases the pastures available for both vicuña and alpaca, which means more income for our alpaquero families. Thanks to your support, this is just phase one! 

Students and staff at La Molina University pictured with Mike and Dale.

The next premiere was held at La Molina University, the only agricultural university in Peru. We had the opportunity to visit their campus and meet all the department heads. Our guide was Dr. Gustavo Gutierrez, head of the animal science department. He joined us in Picotani to witness the first of its kind water project and wanted to discuss the potential research project to establish the carbon footprint of alpacas. This study could make alpaca fiber more valuable worldwide if we can, together, establish its true sustainability and quantify what we believe is a much lower carbon footprint than competing fibers on the market. 

Everyone at La Molina loved the film, especially the vet students. Many had no idea of the vicuña’s story of salvation from extinction. From the late 60s to present day, the vicuña population has increased from a mere 5,000 animals to approximately 500,000. During our visit, Dr. Gutierrez offered an open scholarship to their veterinary program for a potential Casa Chapi student who may be interested in the field of study.

The audience at the Arequipa premiere was full of alpaca industry movers and shakers.

A warm welcome to the Quechua Benefit team during the Arequipa premiere of Vicuña Salvation, hosted by Michell & CIA SA.

The last event was held in Arequipa, at the home of Michell’s founder, Frank Michell. Michell & CIA SA donated $50,000 to sponsor the making of our documentary. They put on a spectacular affair which coincided with the 90th anniversary of Michell & CIA SA.  

There were over 600 attendees, dressed to the nines, sipping cocktails and noshing on tiny tidbits. What fascinated me was the crowd’s response was similar to that of the audience from Picotani. They were unfamiliar with the story of the vicuña, the animal that is on their country’s coat of arms. This crowd represent Peru’s elite and many of them were alpaca textile executives. I’ll let the photos illustrate the wide gap between the culture of Arequipa and Picotani. 

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