Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:05 AM
xchrom (100,302 posts)
Chinese Knockoff Sombrero Drags Colombian Tribe Into Trade Fight
An indigenous leader speaks during a meeting in Monteria, Colombia, on Jan. 19, 2013.
Faride Velasquez Morales weaves a sombrero vueltiao in the village of Tuchin, Colombia, on Jan. 19, 2013. Morales says her family-run handicraft wholesaler, Artesanias Divino Nino, has seen sales plummet by half to about 300 a month after street merchants began hawking the made-in-China hats at tourist centers and festivals over the past year.
In the Caribbean village of Tuchin, Colombian families who’ve woven straw hats for generations are seeing their livelihoods threatened by competition that shows China’s double-edged impact in Latin America.
Chinese-made imitations of the black-and-white sombrero vueltiao, as the hat is known, sell for half the $20 price of the least expensive originals. In response to plunging sales by artisans who spend up to 15 days cutting, sun-drying and braiding cane leaves to make a single hat, the government is rushing to protect one of the nation’s symbols and ban plastic, machine-made rip-offs.
“The Chinese are stealing our culture like the Spaniards did 500 years ago,” said Eligio Pestana, mayor of Tuchin, where 90 percent of the 34,000 residents, descendants of Zenu Indians, depend on the handicraft trade.
An anti-China backlash is on the rise throughout South America as businesses, from automakers in Brazil to shoemakers in Argentina, demand protection from foreign competition. The trade tension highlights the downside of the continent’s increasing economic ties with the world’s most populous nation, fueled by China’s appetite for commodities from copper to soybeans.
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