Saturday, June 28, 2014

Born Without Hands, She Needs No Handout

Morales and her niece in her shop near San Victorino Plaza.
Mastering their tightly woven craftwork is a challenge for any young woman of the Zenu indigenous people in Cordoba Department. But Odalis Yaneth Moralez Velásquez had an added obstacle: she was born without arms.

Nevertheless, when she was eight, Morales began learning to make her people's traditional handicrafts: with her toes.

Weaving with her toes.
"I said, 'if I can do other things with my feet, why can't I weave?'" she recalled.

At first, it was difficult: "What a normal person learned in a week," she said, "I learned in two months."

Made by toes, worn on the feet.
But Morales persevered and succeeded.

But then appeared of a terrible force nobody could cope with. In 2009, right-wing paramilitary groups, which roam much of Cordoba, murdered Morales' father and older brother and stole the family's property. She says she has no idea why.

Devastated, Morales fled to Bogotá.

"I had to start from scratch," she says.

A rare sight: Customers in the La Fortaleza mall.
For years, Morales wove and sold her crafts on city sidewalks, where she often drew a crowd. I profiled her several years ago at work on La Septima.

Recently, however, she said police increasingly harassed street vendors, and so, when a mall owner who'd seen her on television offered her a shop rental, she moved in. She now sells her work in the La Fortaleza mini-mall off of San Victorino Plaza, adjoining Ave. Caracas.

Hidden indoors, however, she has much less foot traffic and fewer customers. Morales is a single mother with two children to support and a long commute from south Bogotá.

"This week, I haven't really sold anything," she says with her characteristic smile. Whereas on the sidewalk "there was always someone to buy, someone to help."

Artesanias Odalis: Cra 13A No. 12-13 Local 02. Pasaje Comercial La Fortaleza. 
Cel: 311-414-6865 / 300-715-7060. Land line: 795-5951. E-mail: . 

Related post:

The Armless Weaver of La Septima

Let your fingers do the dialing.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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