August 28, 2009 Rebuilding New Orleans: the St. Bernard Project

Browsing through a recent issue of Real Simple, I came across their “simple list” with these startling stats:

The number of families still seeking housing assistance
in the Greater New Orleans area – a full four years
after Hurricane Katrina.  Help get a new roof over their
heads by donating your time and money to
the St. Bernard Project, a grassroots non-profit
organization that contructs homes in less than
12 weeks for about $15,000 each. 

The St. Bernard Project is named after the working/middle class community adjacent to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, arguably the area hardest hit by hurricane Katrina. The St. Bernard Project is a nonprofit, community-based organization. They carry out their mission through three primary programs: a rebuilding program, a wellness and mental health center, and senior housing program.

Our new Holiday 2009 catalog was shot in New Orleans in May of 2009. This was our 2nd photo shoot there: the first was right after 9/11. Almost four years had passed since the devastating Hurricane Katrina, and we weren’t sure what to expect. What we found was the same character and beauty that we had hoped for, in the crumbling but gorgeous Antebellum mansions and unique Creole-style bungalows. Some were dangerously close to the floodwaters. While residents had rebuilt what they could, many kept the red X’s on their porches, serving as grim reminders of the tragedy and the government attempts to tally the losses.Katrina house

As the four year anniversary approaches, the city of New Orleans has made vast improvements, but still has a long way to go.  You can help in the rebuilding process with donations to the St. Bernard Project, and by spending vacation dollars amid the charm of old NOLA.


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August 24, 2009 Balancing the Scale

Paul1920On August 26th, 1920, American women finally achieved victory in their struggle for equal voting rights with the passage of the 19th amendment. While American women were proudly waving the flag and casting their ballots, women across the Pacific were only knee-deep in the river of feminist revolution. These revolutionary concepts quickly flooded Latin American shores, but it was an arduous battle for Peruvian women against the patriarchal currents of control.

The highly stratified, aristocratic society of Peru made it extremely difficult for Peruvian women to break free from the "housewife" mold men had created for them. However, the flood gates could not withstand the international pressures promoting equality and universal voting rights.

María Jesús Alvarado is considered the "Elizabeth Cady Stanton" of the Peruvian suffrage movement. Her socialist writings and motivated activism fueled the fire for women’s suffrage in Peru at exactly the same time American women were celebrating their victory. María succeeded in founding Peru’s first women’s rights organization, Evolución Feminina, in 1915. By 1924, she was imprisoned for her "radical" ideas and then banished to Argentina.

After Carrie Chapman Catt, a forerunner of the American suffragist movement,visited Peru in 1923 the National Council of Women in Peru was founded. It was then that Peruvian women relentlessly began fighting for their right to vote. With the reality of American suffrage in the background, it was no longer a hopeless dream. However, it was not until 1955 that Peruvian women finally balanced the gender scale and gained the right to vote from President Manuel Odría, who hoped to secure their support in the upcoming presidential election.

Today is not only a day to celebrate our political freedoms here in America, but it is a day to recognize the unforgettable heroism and fervor of women worldwide.

Amanda Hart

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August 12, 2009 What’s old is new again

In flipping through the pages of this month's Allure, I was intrigued to read that the cover story on Amy Adams was shot in a "bone-cold 289-year-old Georgian mansion in Dublin".  This sounded very familiar, as we had been in just such a place back in March of 2002, while shooting our Autumn catalog. 

We left Kansas on a warm spring day and travelled all the way to Ireland. We soon found that we had not packed adequate clothes for the cold and damp conditions.  In an old Georgian mansion that had gone though periods of elegance and grandeur, and times as a bullet-ridden tenement, we were chilled to the bone, building fires of peat bricks in an attempt to keep warm.  Our French model, dressed in a tweed wool turtleneck and leather skirt, looks quite cozy as she stands next to the fireplace.  Note the woodwork on the mantel and the frame of the mirror – same as the mantel and woodwork next to Amy Adams in the September issue of Allure, even cozier next to a roaring fire.




…and speaking of Fall fashion magazines, don't miss this month's Lucky, featuring PC's own Abancay Ruana!

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July 24, 2009 A Time to Celebrate: Peruvian Independence

Flag This July 28th, help kick off Fiestas Patrias, which commemorates 188 years of Peruvian Independence! Peruvians celebrate this time-honored event with 2 full days of festivities which includes exciting bullfights, parades, fireworks, fairs and exhibitions. Indigenous crafts, from the elaborately embroidered textiles of the Paracas to the glorified monoliths of the Chavín, and traditional foods, including Alfajores and Ceviche, are showcased during these celebrations. This year, Peruvian Connection invites you to join in the festivities of sweet liberation with recipes, history and our famous textiles.

After 300 years of advanced development, the prominent Quechua Empire of the Incas collapsed in 1533, shortly after the arrival of the Spaniards. Lima was quickly established as the imperialistic capital for Spanish economy. With the vast wealth that was developing in Peru, exploitation of mines and workers erupted; killing millions of Indians as labor increased and food supplies dwindled. Unfortunately, internal uprisings for independence were continually stifled by Peruvian Royalists helping the Spanish crown. In the end, revolution was bred by foreigners: Argentinean general José de San Martín and Venezuelan commander Simón Bolívar.

San Martín, revered as the Father of Independence, landed on the shores of Peru in 1820, quickly capturing the port of Pisco. After monumentally claiming victory over Lima, he officially proclaimed Peruvian Independence on July 28th 1821. However, Spanish domination over South America was not fully achieved until 1824 under the commanding forces of Simón Bolívar, who took over leadership of the liberation movement in 1822. He secured Peru’s Independence by defeating the Spanish troops at the battles of Junín and Ayacucho.

Fiestas Patrias begins at dawn every year on July 28th with a 21 cannon salute. Ever since Independence, it has been customary for the President of Peru to deliver an Address to the Nation, which provides an account of the nation’s progress to date. If a new president has been elected, it is on this day that he will assume his active duties.

The second day of festivities, July 29th, is in honor of the Armed Forces and the National Police of Peru. On this morning, the Archbishop of Lima commemorates the Mass of Te Deum, an early Christian hymn of praise. Following mass is The Great Military Parade, in which the Peruvian Armed Forces and the National Police participate in a grand procession. Along with these official ceremonies, decorations, foods and crafts fill the streets of Peru.

Pisco To join in the festivities, wear your red and white, the national colors of Peru, whip up a batch of traditional Alfajores (see recipe in our Christmas newsletter) and enjoy a cool, refreshing Pisco Sour, the national cocktail of Peru. To prepare this wildly popular cocktail, simply combine 1 egg white (or 2 T pasteurized egg white), juice of ½ lime, 2T sugar and 2 oz of Peruvian pisco (1/4 C) and blend until frothy. Top with a few drops of Angostura bitters for an authentic taste. If Peruvian pisco, a Muscat-grape brandy, is unavailable try grappa or white rum as a substitute. Salud!

Amanda Hart

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July 22, 2009 A family journey on the Amazon

DSC04675 Lima, July 2009

My family and I (kids ages are 10, 9 and 6) had such a pleasant trip to the Peruvian jungle that I wanted to share this beautiful experience with you.

Last May we flew to Iquitos, the capital of Loreto, and a bus from the boat company was waiting to take us on a 2 hour drive.  In Nauta, our boat, “Delfin I” waited, ready to host us for the next 3 nights and 4 days. We had welcome drinks of exotic fruits and an amazing dinner that night…..this is when we found that it was a gourmet cruise: what a great discovery!

DSC05950 Every day the tables were set up beautifully in the dining room with different decor. We navigated day and night through the Dorado river, the Pacaya river (part of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve) and finally reached the Amazon River on the last day.

DSC05957 Every morning from 8 to 11 am and every afternoon from 4 to 7 pm (both optional, but included in the trip) we went out on different excursions in 2 boats, each one with a guide and a captain. They took us to the most amazing spots we’ve ever seen. We could see all kind of animals in their natural environment, such as the incredible sloth (Oso perezoso), anteater, birds (it is a paradise for bird watchers), iguanas and all kinds of insects. While we went deep into the jungle in the boats navigating through the river branches, we found some spectacular “black water” lakes, in which we swam in between hundreds of pink dolphins. We could fish for piranhas and other local species, and even did cayman and night safaris.

DSC04805 The last day we visited a small village named Puerto Miguel, where we couldn’t walk more than 100 yards without needing a canoe or a boat to go to the next spot. We bought some interesting and unusual handcrafted pieces from the villagers.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about our adventures as much we enjoyed the experience:  it really exceeded our wildest expectations.

For more information on this cruise, visit their website:


PS - don’t forget to take binoculars, a swimsuit, sunscreen and a hat!

For more stories of adventures on the Amazon, read the LA Times travel story.

See our blog on Shipibo Art for more information on handcrafts from the Amazon jungle.

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