This past week Hiptipico had the privilege to interview Maria, a 30 year-old, hard-working indigenous woman who handcrafts and sells embroidered headbands, scarves, table runners, bracelets and more. In addition to sourcing those products, Hiptipico also repurposes Maria’s traditional Maya hair “cintas” as fringe wrap belts. Read on for her story!
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Maria grew up in the small village of San Antonio Palopó, one of the beautiful pueblos on Lake Atitlan, with her mother, two sisters and two brothers. Her mother taught her and her siblings how to weave on a back-strap loom from a very young age, and they continue the tradition today.
Each morning Maria shares the workload of chores in her house by cleaning, cooking, and handwashing clothes in a Guatemalan large outdoor sink called a pila. With three basins, the middle is filled with water, one side is for hand-washing your laundry and has a ribbed surface, while the other side is for washing dishes and the surface is smooth.
After organizing the house, she gathers the items she plans to sell for that day and catches a public pickup truck to the tourist town of Panajachel. Panajachel is 20 km (12 miles) of windy dirt roads that takes sometimes upwards of a half an hour to travel especially when the truck is packed with commuters. It is in Panajachel that Maria learned English, on the streets, on her own, and now she says her favorite thing to do is talk to foreigners.
She was very proud to share with us the English words she's learned to communicate with tourist clients.
In rural Guatemala, by the age of 30, most women have already started a family of their own. This is yet another reason Maria is so special; she has broken this trend, and chooses to focus on her family business instead. Helping her mom and family are her priority. Although in the future she said it would be nice to have her own family, she is content and fiercely independent right now.
Maria has lots of friends, most of which also sell in the street of Panajachel, and have grown to be like her extended family. Every day they eat together and all help each other out. For example, if Maria doesn’t have the exact color or style product a tourist desired she would send the business to another vendadora. They always look out for each other and help each other to make sales. We (and visitors alike!) love seeing that camaraderie; it makes for a friendly atmosphere in town.
At Hiptipico, we are grateful for our friendship and partnership with María. This is what she had to say about it:
“Alyssa is my friend. She always thinks about me first and brings her groups, family and visitors to buy things from me to help me make money and support my mom. Once she even brought her own mom to buy products from me! They came to my house to talk and make tortillas. I love being her friend, I will never forget what she has done for me.”
Maria and her family have opened their home to many Hiptipico groups, including Alyssa’s own family. Each time has been a treat and Maria and her fellow artisans have shared lessons in using the back-strap loom, and other traditional wooden apparatuses that indigenous makers use to handcraft the many beautiful woven pieces. During these visits, we’ve been shown how much intricate detail goes into the embroidered headbands, scarves, table runners, bracelets and more. We also loved learning how to make tortillas and, of course, eating them!
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