Spools and spools of fique fiber fill the shelves of Colombia’s artisan shops next to colorful woven bags, shoes, sacks, tapestry and little sombrero key chains.
This material comes from the fique plant which has long green spiky leaves. It’s in the same family as the pineapple plant. When it is grown and strong, the highest leaves are cut. This is repeated as time goes on.
I was able to watch part of the process – two men extracting the fibre from the leaves using a machine that shreds them. The leaves are pushed in and pulled back out. A loud buzzing sound from the machine fills the air along with the thick smell of the plant.
The fibre is then gathered, the juice squeezed out and then it’s hauled to the river where it is washed. (Unfortunately, this is no good for the fish….)
It’s hung out to dry, a sight often seen along the sides of the mountain roads.
Depending on its intended use, it can by dyed a multitude of different colors. The fibres are separated and spun around spools using another machine. They are sold on to artisans who weave their products and sell them in local shops and abroad.
Santander area of Colombia where I’m staying is one of the areas most famous for their fique artisans. Check out my Made in Mogotes section for photos of lots of fique products produced right here.