Tucked away in an old courtyard, the centuries-old casa del corregidor (the mayor’s house) now serves as a little courtyard housing some of Puno’s socially-minded businesses.
A couple of travel agents and a fantastic cafe can be reached via the peaceful courtyard.
But tucked to the right of the main entrance was the surprising find, k’antu. It was, as the sign proudly displays, a fair trade shop.
K’antu is a retail part of the organisation CIAP (Central Interregional de Artisanos) that for more than 20 years has tried to assist the more vulnerable people (women in particular) in various parts of Peru, particularly around Puno and Lima, the capital. Individual members of CIAP are organised into associations that typically comprise around 15-20 members. Nearly three-quarters of CIAP members are female. In the Puno region there are about eight different associations.
William Flores is the manager at k’antu and when he wasn’t chatting to one of his local artisan members, he gave me an insight into k’antu’s origins.
Puno is a relatively poor region. The idea of the k’antu shop was to try to take advantage of the tourism in the area and create a space to sell the products made by local artisans.
It’s membership of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) ensures that all the producers are paid a fair price for the products they create.
Using local materials, the biggest sellers here are clothing (made from alpaca and llama wool), jewellery and handicrafts. Each product carries a WFTO label, the name of the artisan who made it and the association name they belong to. In our virtually-connected world it felt more appropriate that I was able to connect to a real person by buying an item from k’antu and supporting fairly the livelihoods of people who’ve lived here for generations.
And what better way to finish up a hard afternoon’s shopping than with a cup of local fair trade coffee sat outside in the sunshine.