Sitting on the main road that connects Pisac to Ollantaytambo and all the Sacred Valley towns in between, Hilo Imaginario is a tiny yet ever-changing cultural center in Huayoccari. Founded by Ximena Garcia Pereira, the space evolves with its owner as she learns more about herself, the local community and what she can share.
“I believe that humans are connected by an invisible string, an hilo imaginario,” says Ximena, commenting upon the name choice. “I don’t follow a religion or believe in a god, but this connection gives me hope that one day we are going to be able to connect to ourselves and to each other.”
Serving as a store and gathering point for events and workshops, Hilo Imaginario is also Ximena’s sewing and craft studio and an extension of her home. With no set hours, the shop is open to the public whenever Ximena finds herself there, be it while working on a lightweight patterned dress, discussing politics with her neighbor over a cup of coffee or taking care of quotidian tasks beside her Quechua-speaking landlords.
While perusing the books and artisan goods for sale, visitors have their curiosity piqued just the same by the mementos Ximena has collected over the years from family members and along her travels. Watching over the community art space is a framed black and white photo of her grandparents, whom she refers to as her pillars, having provided her as a young girl with lessons in sewing and household practicalities.
A native of Lima, Ximena grew up surrounded by the arts. “We carry art in our DNA,” she says, noting that her extended family includes painters, filmmakers and musicians. “My mother placed a lot of importance on exposing my siblings and I to ballet, theater and literature, and would open the house to artists and artisans of all backgrounds.”
Though passionate about arts and culture, Ximena has always preferred to be behind the scenes. She began working in the arts when she was 18 years old, beginning as a still photographer on film sets with her uncle. With time she moved on to working in the production area of movies, theater and music, picking up new skills and experience as she went along (“I was always given jobs that I had no idea how to do,” she laughs, a bit incredulously). But when she moved to the Sacred Valley five years ago, she left behind the world of production, frustrated with the lack of support for cultural projects in Peru.
“You see it here in the Valley too,” says Ximena. “Unless it’s an event promoting traditional music and dance, the municipalities could care less.”
With Hilo Imaginario, she’s able to promote the artists and projects that she wants while offering a fresh perspective of the arts to anyone who walks through the door.
We begin to eye the library of literature for adults and children, showcased in a wooden bookcase that once belonged to her grandmother. On the top shelf, next to the works of national authors such as Cecila Granadino, sit a series of carved wooden cats from Jauja artisan Flaviano Gonzales. Below is a collection of woven reed baskets from Chincha (“I have a lot of love and admiration for the Afro-Peruvian culture,” notes Ximena) as well as a few from the Cusco area. All of the items are hand-selected by Ximena.
Behind a rack of handmade clothes is a large working space with a sewing machine, fabrics and a few in-process items, such as restful eye masks stuffed with lavender. Ximena describes herself as scattered and that she tends to start new projects before finishing a previous one. Perhaps just curious and a bit of a dreamer, Ximena is no doubt multi-talented.
Ten years ago she helped found the Asociacion de Jazz en Lima (Lima Jazz Association), and periodically travels to the capital city to play her part as project promoter. She also has upcoming projects planned for herself and Hilo Imaginario.
“This year I’m focused on creating spaces that are welcoming to LGBTQ+ members and that empower women. I feel that this is my path, as I know so well that there is great diversity within just one person. We are all cyclical,” she says, pointing out that she is on a personal journey of understanding herself better, which includes acceptance and letting go.
Not wanting to play the role of a colonizer, she aims to create authentic relationships with locals, especially the women, perhaps by adopting an itinerant model, allowing her to come to their world rather than vice versa. “I no longer feel I have to be constrained by these walls. Hilo Imaginario is part of my interior world, it brings me so much happiness. And it will continue to evolve as I do.”
Follow Hilo Imaginario on Instagram or visit in person in Huayoccari (Paradero Hacienda).
All photos by Erick Andia