Picture yourself in the middle of a local market in a developing country. You’re completely overwhelmed--being shoved around from all directions, you hear people haggling prices in a language you don’t understand, you don’t know what to look at first and you’re not quite sure what you just got a whiff of…
Adventurous fashion designers, textile enthusiasts, and fair trade buyers flock to the markets of Guatemala for its famous fabrics, rich with color and culture. While these markets can be fun to explore and a great place to find unusual treasures, it can be difficult to find specific goods with authentic stories! Many travelers and visitors want to support local makers but don’t want to get ripped off for phony “handmade” products.
Interacting with vendors on a busy streets, it’s virtually impossible to get the true story of what you’re buying. Sadly, many street vendors will falsely assure you that their goods are handmade so that they can make a sale. If the goods are handmade, they were almost certainly not made by the person selling them on the street, and more likely than not they were produced under factory conditions. In this way, somewhat ironically, you’re not much better off than you are in a shopping mall!
Luckily, running Hiptipico from Guatemala for the past six years has allowed founder Alyssa Yamamoto to cultivate honest relationships with a network of local artisans. In this time, she’s grown with our partners, becoming deeply invested in their lives and always exploring how Hiptipico can better support them.
One of the ways we can do this is by connecting them with socially-conscious buyers who want to learn more about the handmade process and source ethically-produced goods. Alyssa acts as a liaison between buyers and our partners, helping them to place wholesale orders, customize new designs, and overcome the language barrier.
Our goal is to create a positive space where people can learn and share about the traditions of Guatemala. Alyssa is much more than just a personal shopper, she strives to educate visitors about the thriving Maya culture and facilitate relationships that will foster its preservation through local empowerment. This means that you can return home with your finished goods or raw materials knowing their meaningful cultural significance and authentic artisan story. Talk about inspiration for your next design or collection!
One of Hiptipico’s main objectives is to provide steady orders and opportunity for our partners during Guatemala’s low season when the tourists are sparse. With that in mind, we are happy to facilitate new connections with buyers if it means more work opportunities for our artisans! Even when buying trips don’t turn into orders, they still provide a great source of alternative income and a valuable learning experience to our partners.
What does a buying trip with Hiptipico look like? Upon setting up a consultation with Alyssa via email or skype, a budget and schedule is determined. We can also assist with trip planning--once you land in Guatemala we can have all accommodations covered!
Weaving lessons, artisan visits to cooperatives in San Antonio Palopo, or el Triunfo, Solola are all options for buyers, depending on what you’re looking for. Custom day trips to any surrounding towns or destinations are also available.
Since we work with a variety of artisans who specialize in different mediums, we’re able to connect buyers with virtually any Guatemalan products they’re looking for--from weaving and leather bags to beaded and vintage goods. Our artisans are also eager to take on customized projects with new designers.
Recently, the founders of El Merchante, a new online marketplace, were passing through our area and eager to meet up. We took them to the neighboring towns of San Antonio and Santa Catarina to visit our artisan partners Maria and Theresa who specialize in traditional weaving.
A trip to these quaint villages starts with a beautiful ride up the mountainside above the shores of the stunning Lake Atitlan. We like riding public transportation - in the bed of a pickup truck - but we can also take a private car if you prefer! The winding road hugs the cliffside and boasts incredible morning views of Lake Atitlan.
First we pull into Santa Catarina, where we meet up with our artisan partner Theresa. She normally makes the daily trip to Pana to sell her goods as a street vendor, but today we arranged for her to stay back to spend some time with our buyers.
Teresa demonstrates traditional back-strap loom weaving while sharing a bit of her story. She lives with her husband Andres and their eight children. Years ago, she and other indigenous women started an innovative artisan cooperative to support their growing families. Now, their kids help out with the family business and also manage to go to school. Through the sale of their artisan goods, Teresa and her husband have made a better life for their children.
If you met Teresa on the streets of Panajachel, you surely wouldn’t get this whole story. Hearing their stories firsthand and getting a feel for everyday life is a major perk of visiting our partners in their home workshops with Hiptipico. Business relationships in Guatemala are entirely built on reputation and trust so it can be hard starting out. A Hiptipico buying trip will help you break into this close-knit community and gather insider knowledge and experience from the get-go.
We continue up the mountain road to the next town to visit our second artisan partner, María. Upon arrival in San Antonio, we’ll give you a quick tour of the pueblo as we walk up to the weaving cooperative’s home workshop. Maria has an unusually outgoing personality and after years of selling to tourists on the streets of Pana, she is excited to meet foreign visitors. She’ll even surprise you with some basic English!
Our visitors are always blown away by Maria’s gorgeous handwoven products--ranging from table runners, scarves, and table cloths. She proudly demonstrates traditional techniques from separating the threads, to back-strap and foot-loom weaving.
On this particular visit with El Merchante, we helped them commission an exclusively designed product with María! We’re so excited to share the samples with them. Here’s what they had to say about the experience:
Later they again expressed their gratitude for the experience: “There's a physical and emotional connection between the weaver and their textile, and a story behind all of our products // thank you to @alyssaya from @hiptipico for bringing us to this incredible family.”
Another client had only good things to say!
"We can’t find the words to adequately express how enlightening and helpful working with @hiptipico was on this trip. @alyssaya has a deep insight and passion for the artists of Guatemala and our trip wouldn’t have been nearly as spectacular without her. You can look for the exact huipiles you see in this photo soon; repurposed into pillows for our ✨ Repurpose with Purpose ✨ collection!"
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