Written by: Alyssa, summer intern
Towering over masses of people, in search for the only other gringo at the airport, I came to the quick realization that my adventure had begun. In the heart of Guatemala, I settled into a small apartment off of Lake Atitlan, anxious to begin my summer internship with Hiptipico, an ethical fashion brand.
I first discovered my love for adventure and travel six years ago during a community service trip in Latin America. Since then, I’ve taken advantage of every possible opportunity to meet new people, immerse myself in new cultures, and see the world. A few months after my trip to Latin America, I was invited to attend a traditional wedding in India. My passions for travel and adventure were confirmed, but it was here where I realized my career would also have to encompass the gift of service. I was so inspired by the generosity of the people I had met, and I immediately started dreaming up ways to make a positive difference in the world.
This leads me to Guatemala and Hiptipico. With my strong interest in social enterprises, women’s empowerment, and poverty alleviation, it’s safe to say I couldn’t have packed my bags fast enough to work with this brand. Hiptipico partners with Mayan artisans throughout different communities in Guatemala creating a sustainable source of income by presenting their products to a wider market.
Alyssa McGarry, her team, and every individual I’ve met in Panajachel have been the most welcoming and inclusive group of people, quickly making Pana feel like home. Despite the electric shower heads, countless number of ants and cockroaches I’ve had to kill, and vicious Chihuahua named Iron Man who seems to despise me, it’s hard not to be grateful for this experience…especially when you wake up to a sweeping view of Lake Atitlan and three breathtaking volcanoes.
As an intern, I am tasked with improving marketing techniques, implementing SEO strategies, and gaining a richer understanding of the Latin American culture. I have loved contributing to the growth of Hiptipico, but my favorite aspect has been going to the markets, picking out products to sell, and meeting the different artisans with whom we partner. I am by no means fluent in Spanish, but it was amazing to learn about each artisan and watch first-hand the intricate process of weaving objects such as table runners and traditional head wraps.
Guatemala is charming in all aspects. The vibrant colors of each textile is mesmerizing, the delicious street food has made walks down Santander frequent, and the friendly disposition of each stranger continuously makes my day. Not to mention, the traditional tipico huipiles, unique to specific communities, spark more and more curiosity about the history of the country.
Although my time in Panajachel is short and sweet, it has had an indescribable impact on my life. I may be leaving with a coffee withdrawal, but I’ve gained so much more. My dream to empower others through my career has only grown, and now, I have a deeper understanding of what it means to live consciously. I am so grateful to Hiptipico, the friends I’ve made, and the challenges I’ve faced, and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned to follow my dreams.