Embrace the Change
It is our last week in Guatemala and, whilst we are sad that this trip is going so quickly, we are beyond grateful for the strong connections we have made, the life changing experiences and the inspiration that beautiful Lake Atitlán has given us.
Wherever Moacir and I travel to, we seem to constantly come across incredibly creative, hardworking and talented people. Developing relationships and a mutual respect with the artisans we work with has been so important. To have spent time in their homes, their work spaces and with their loved ones, means the world to us.
Since meeting each inspiring artisan that has contributed to Cielo, this passion I have has increased even more. Because of this, I am so excited to travel home and share their stories, their creations and their hopes with my community, and whoever is willing to listen. I want others to develop respect for these unique artisans and their artistry. At a time where there is so much chaos happening in the world, developing understanding for other people and cultures can make the world a stronger and healthier place.
On Tuesday we did just that as we took a boat to the Tz'utujil speaking town of San Juan La Laguna in order to learn more about our new friends. Here we visited Ingrid, her mother Victoria and her little sister Betty at the ‘Madres Solteras Asociacion’ (see here).
Meeting Victoria was beautiful, a very strong woman who raised 3 children on her own. It was very special hearing Ingrid talk about how her mother strived every day to give her and her siblings a better life. Now that Ingrid is also a single mother to an adorable 2 year old boy, her mum is her biggest inspiration. Victoria taught both Ingrid and Betty that family is the most important thing and so they stick together through everything, a dynamic they exercise across the cooperative too.
During our time at the co-operative Betty gave Moacir and I a lesson in back-strap weaving. Back-strap weaving is only practiced by women and is passed from mother to daughter, generation to generation. It is of common belief that back-strap weaving began with the Maya goddess Ixchel. Ixchel is the diety of recreation and fertility. She represents female empowerment and was the first to teach women to weave. So whilst back-strap weaving can generate an income and clothe a family, it is also a very spiritual process. Maya girls are generally given their tools to weave at birth and then taught to weave at around the age of 8.
The ‘Asociacion Madres Solteras’ encourage anyone to have a try of back-strap weaving, so that others can develop a respect for the process. Moacir and I agreed that it was extremely difficult! Every time I am given a lesson in their craft my appreciation grows. Thread by thread, each row of the textile is created purely by hand with such intention and purpose. This is how majority of our pieces are made and it makes me smile knowing how much love and time goes into each piece.
We spent a few hours talking to Ingrid, Victoria and Betty as we shared stories and learnt more about one another. We even got to meet Ingrid’s son who is the most beautiful boy. Ingrid and Victoria then helped me choose pieces for Cielo, which may I add, are all hand-made one of a kind pieces. After an amazing day getting to know one another, Moacir and I said our goodbyes and explored more of San Juan’s quiet streets. We will be going back there next week to visit the women once more.
The rest of the week was spent exploring Panajachel. We walked around the town taking photos one day, still completely mesmerised by the beauty everywhere. We also picked up more orders of handcrafted leather bags from our friends Juan and Silvia and met lovely artisans selling their wares on Panajachel’s main street.
At the end of the week we ventured into the Panajachel Bomberos market to wade through a sea of textiles. This was followed by a stroll through the local food market where we spotted live crabs, chickens and you name it for sale. Life here is very different to home and we will continue to embrace the change for the rest of our time here.