- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

HUANCAVELICA, Peru The long reach of Osama bin Laden's terror network changed lives as far away as the high Andes, where an Indian weaving cooperative lost an important source of income when its sales representatives' office in the World Trade Center was destroyed.

It was several weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks that Sonia Fernandez, leader of the cooperative, learned that the New York-based Peruvian Trading Co. had been forced out of business, canceling its Christmas season order for 200 sweaters.

Mrs. Fernandez established S&S Colecciones Artesenales four years ago to coordinate the work of about 80 local women who knit export-quality alpaca, wool and cotton sweaters. The lucrative American market had just begun to open when the Sept. 11 attack occurred.

"It is a big setback," Mrs. Fernandez said of the loss, which came just as the women were rushing to fill orders for the Christmas sales season. "That work is probably lost for the year, but we are looking for other buyers."

Huancavelica lies 12,000 feet up in the Andes at the end of a bone-jarring, 12-hour bus ride from the capital, Lima. Mrs. Fernandez's home on the outskirts of the town is part of a proud new community that has such luxuries as electricity and running water.

There, the women of the cooperative gather to knit, producing from five to 10 garments apiece between April and late November, depending on the intricacy of the work. The rest of the year is devoted to negotiating orders and providing samples for approval to buyers in Lima and abroad. The women often knit in the late afternoon after tending to their small farms, or chacras, where they grow mainly potatoes.

Their work earns them from $8 to $9 for each sweater, hat, scarf or pair of gloves they hand-knit with fine raw fabrics that arrive from Lima. The pieces are crafted specially based on photos and samples sent from Lima and abroad.

Knitters can be seen on almost every block of Huancavelica, sitting in doorways beside soda stands and pushcarts filled with candy and soda stands, or even knitting as they walk. Most are making garments for their relatives or occasional tourists, but the women in Mrs. Fernandez's group enjoy a special status.

The women say the setback will not crush them, because exports through Peruvian Trading Co. represent only about 8 percent of the estimated 2,400 pieces they plan to knit this year. But with many of the women among Peru's poorest surviving on about $2 a day it all adds up.

"We did not know who [Osama bin Laden] was or that he even existed," Santa Sullca, another leader of the cooperative, said of the man accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.

"He is some fanatic using religion," said another woman, Silvia Mallqui.

The women may only slightly understand the attack against the United States, but they are familiar with a domestic terror threat that has menaced the region for years. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Huancavelica province was known for fighting between the Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, terrorists and the military forces sent to eliminate them.

The weather-worn faces of the women grow tight and impassive as they remember the nightly curfews, the refugees caught between the Shining Path and military troops, and the horror of deaths and disappearances.

Across Peru, some 30,000 people the current population of the town of Huancavelica were killed during what Peruvians referred to as the "epoch of terrorism."

"Terrorism keeps on hitting us in one way or another," said Mrs. Mallqui.

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