Juana sells traditional handmade items from all around Guatemala in one vibrant stall. Located right on the main street of Calle Santander in Panajachel makes her items extremely accessible to tourists passing through. Her bright stand displays everything from vintage embroidered huipiles and traditional Mayan textiles to classic Guatemalan rainbow blankets.
Juana has a quiet demeanor and a sweet laugh. She positively lit up when she met our rescue pup, Mona, because she also has a rescue doggie who she adores. We were so thankful for the opportunity to talk to Juana to get to know her a little more. While we have done our best to share her story in the past, it can take some time for the indigenous people to quickly open up, especially about their private lives. Even more so, Mayan women are culturally more reserved, making it difficult to talk freely about their personal lives.
So, we delicately approached the situation, explaining that in sharing her story we are hoping to help sell more of her products and let people all around the globe learn about Mayan culture and further support indigenous communities. When we gave her a print copy of this portrait, she responded "que calidad" (how cool!) We are very grateful for the opportunity to hear Juana’s story firsthand and to share it with you.
Juana grew up in Quiche, in a small Mayan village surrounded by the colors and traditions of the Mayan world. She traveled to Panajachel one day over 30 years ago to explore more of the artisan culture, where she met her now husband and moved there shortly after marrying him. From there, they took their passion for textiles and growing a business and started their tipico stall together. Juana and her husband now have six beautiful children but even with the business, they struggle to put them through school. When asked about the most important aspect of their business, that is what Juana said: that it is a means to send the kids to school!
In Guatemala, making it past primary school is considered a good education, and Juana's children have even made it through high school. At this time, they wish to attend college but unfortunately cannot afford the high university costs. The opportunity for higher education in smaller communities is extremely limited. The cost of transportation, books, food and housing is well beyond the normal means and public or private financial aid is practically non-existent.
At home, the family continues to maintain their traditional culture primarily speaking K'iche, Juana’s mother tongue. The whole family helps from time to time with the business in Panajachel but Juana is definitely the boss-lady who manages stock, pricing, clients and daily sales.
Juana and her family have been selling goods from this stand for nearly 29 years. Each day she carries her products to the Calle Santander from her home because she does not have a proper tienda--that is, a brick and mortar store. At home, she stores everything and then carries it back the next day.
Juana says her favorite part of her job is connecting with people in the community, especially regular customers like us! Unfortunately, sales fluctuate drastically. Like most street vendors, it's very difficult for her to get by during the low-season when there are very few tourists.
That's where Hiptipico comes in: we hope help fill those gaps and give Juana regular sales all year round! By purchasing from her collection on our website, you directly benefit Juana and her family, and their future. Visit our store today to shop beautiful home goods + support our artisan partners!
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