Fostering Relationships Beyond Commerce
Marcelo Ballesteros, age 50, has worked with animaná for two years now as the link between the company and the local artisans who live in more remote regions of the area. A retired marine, Marcelo now lives in the city of Salta, Argentina and was referred to animaná by a friend of the brand’s founder, Adriana Marina. Since he used to work with his father on pottery and crafted mats on handlooms as a child, he has prior knowledge of handicrafts. When Adriana asked if he would like to act as the connection between animaná and the artisans, Marcelo accepted the offer as an amazing chance to explore and meet new people.
Generally, Marcelo’s day begins by preparing the vehicle, writing the waybill and noting the artisans he needs to visit. Sometimes, he explains, you can find them easily and sometimes not. If they are far off in the country feeding the llamas or sheep, it can take up 3 or 4 hours to walk from their houses. At times, Marcelo will sleep in the places he visits if the travel time makes it too difficult to get in and out in one day. Each exertive working day, however, is finished with a big smile because of the adventure lived.
Due to the diversity of locations and unstructured nature of the meetings, it is impossible to stipulate how long each visit will take. Marcelo describes these trips as traveling into the past where there are no mobile phones or televisions — just nature. Kids are the same color as their surroundings and always playing with their herds of llamas or sheep.
“A day of work for me is never the same as the other.”
Marcelo’s work contributes to the people of the Andes by creating community links and building personal relationships. At times the artisans will travel to Salta and visit Marcelo at his home. He is always ready to assist them and makes sure they are aware of just how much their hard work is valued. What he enjoys most about this bond is being able to talk with the artisans and hear about their lives in the mountains. As he puts it, it creates a link of friendship that goes beyond the commercial.
“You can feel the flowing streams. The sky is blue, and there is such a cleanness that you forget where you come from. You take some time and think that you are in an amazing place with amazing people, and that is when you realize that the way the village, that is so far from common luxuries, is able to give their touch to the world, is through their crafts.”
His hope for the future is that travel routes can be open every month of the year because now, in the rainy seasons, it is impossible to access the remote areas. He also dreams of easier transport for the artisans into the city, as it is only possible now with a pickup truck and at an expensive cost. Still, Marcelo and animaná work tirelessly to bridge the distance between commerce and the local artisans, and through their dedication they are able to foster relationships that extend beyond business.