, Newburyport, MA

November 28, 2013

Finding a common ground

Yarina owner shares his culture, crafts


---- — NEWBURYPORT — Some immigrants settle in this area but never fully leave their old homes.

Roberto Cachimuel left Ecuador more than two decades ago, but the 39-year-old store owner communicates with his family by phone or Skype almost every day.

As owner of Yarina, a crafts store on Inn Street that sells goods made by indigenous people, he finds it useful not only to stay in touch with his family but to discuss with them the products they are developing for sale.

“Much of what we sell is made by my mother and my brothers and sisters,” said Cachimuel, who has nine brothers and two sisters. “With Skype, I can see what they’re doing and what designs they are working on. We can discuss what will work.

“I return with the technology today, we stay close when I am here,” he said.

Cachimuel came to the Boston area when he was 16, in part because his father was interested in determining whether there was a market for the village’s goods in New England.

His family lives in Otavalo, a city of 90,000 in the Andes Mountains. This community continues a long tradition of exporting crafts and clothing that reflect the culture of Ecuador.

“When I came here, I didn’t realize I would stay,” he said. “I bonded with a family in Somerville and went to Somerville High School. There wasn’t much offered to those who didn’t speak English, but I learned. I was also able to get involved in music, which our whole family is engaged in.”

Cachimuel pursued this interest by attending Berklee School of Music, where he learned music theory for the first time and met many professors and students who shared his love.

Accomplished as a writer, producer and player of flute and strings, the versatile musician plays as many gigs as can be arranged.

The band he belongs to in this country plays and records, and in coming weeks will be taking a jaunt to Midwest cities including Chicago to play music of his native land.

In Ecuador, the family band is called Yarina and is known widely for playing the music of indigenous people. Many of his siblings perform in this group.

“I consider myself a musician first, but it’s hard to make a living in the field,” said Cachimuel, who is married and has a 16-year-old son. “This works for us, to have a store that sells our own crafts and to be able to play music.”

Unlike some immigrants who came looking for “streets paved with gold,” his main mission appears to be developing a format where he can exhibit the crafts and culture of his people.

He said he chose Newburyport because he felt that residents in this community would appreciate not only the store, but the artistic efforts of indigenous people.

Also, the city hosts a growing number of tourists looking for quality goods.

“I feel thankful that I came to America so I can share our culture and enrich the views of others,” he said. “We are a welcoming people, and want people to know about our culture and our work.

“We’ve always been merchants, so the store is a natural outlet. But it gives us a chance to talk about our land and its products, and I appreciate the opportunity I have to establish a common ground.”