MayaWorks works with over 125 low income indigenous women in the central highlands of Guatemala. 70% are from extremely poor and remote hamlets of the Chimaltenango and Sololá areas.
Artisans tend to marry very young and, on average, have six children. Many are single mothers working to support large families on their own. Most have not completed their primary education. 40% are illiterate.
Our artisan partners are not organized by cooperatives but rather by local weaving groups. They share leadership and, together, decide who will be a part of their group and what products they will make. MayaWorks has worked with the same 8 weaving groups for over 16 years.
MayaWorks’ Guatemala operation is completely managed by indigenous women since its inception. These administrators understand the complexities of doing business in Guatemala, speak the artisans’ native language and live in the same communities as the artisans. More importantly, they are driven by their desire to see indigenous women progress in a country where they are often regarded as less than second class citizens.
MayaWorks believes community development happens through the economic development of women who otherwise have limited ways to contribute to the development and economic stability of their families. Giving women an opportunity to earn an income from their skills gives them self-confidence and hope for themselves, their children, their family and their village.
Vicenta Jutzutz Tetzaguic is 57 years old. She was born in the village of Panabajal, Xetonox, deep in the valley of Tecpán, Guatemala. Vicenta is a warm and loving woman. She’s always smiling and has beautiful brown eyes that sparkle. You would never know Vicenta’s life hasn’t been easy.
Viventa's parents were poor farmers who could not afford to send her to school past the third grade. Vicenta learned to read and write a little. She is the mother of eight children, three boys and five girls, and the “abuelita” of many! Vicenta and her husband, Jorge, are farmers at heart. They grow potatoes, green beans and a variety of berries. With MayaWorks microcredit loans, they have purchased plots of land and seed to expand their farming income. Last year, the cultivation of potato crops went very well. With the earnings, the family was able to buy a used car that they use to transport their supplies and tools to the field and their produce to the Tecpán market.
Fifteen years ago, her daughter Marcela met MayaWorks founder, Patricia Krause. Pat ordered products from Marcela and Vicenta and sold them to her friends in Connecticut. Vicenta became a regular weaver with MayaWorks. Soon after, she formed the Xetonox weaving group with other women from the village.
The opportunity to weave for MayaWorks helped Vicenta tremendously. She no longer had to leave her children alone to go work in the fields. Since the time she met Pat, weaving products has been Vicenta’s main source of revenue. Her weaving income covers the family’s primary necessities and allows her children to continue studying. Vicenta says the trainings MayaWorks provides artisans have helped her improve her skills and the quality of her products. Now, she can operate a treadle foot loom, weave ikat fabric and sew, three skills she did not have before becoming a MayaWorks artisan.
Vicenta is satisfied with her achievements and is grateful for the benefits she has received from MayaWorks. They have helped not only her, but also her family, her weaving group and her community.
María Teresa Chipix was born in 1965 in San Juan Comalapa in the highlands of Chimaltenango, Guatemala. She is the second oldest daughter of eight children. When she was a child, it was rare to educate a daughter so María Teresa never knew what it was like to attend school. She grew up not knowing how to read or write.
At an early age she left her parents to work as a domestic in the homes of wealthy people. She cleaned their homes and cared for their children. This work did not provide much income so María Teresa began creating handicrafts to sell to the tourist market. She learned to weave very quickly on a treadle foot loom and also learned to sew. With her earnings, María Teresa bought a more sophisticated sewing machine which allowed her to make more complicated products.
When she was 25 years old, María Teresa realized it was important to know how to read and write so she enrolled in literacy classes in Comalapa and, within one year, she was reading at a sixth grade level. At the same time she was looking for opportunities to expand her handicraft work so that she could make more money to support herself and her parents.
María Teresa joined MayaWorks’ Chixot group. Chixot makes very high quality finished products such as the MayaWorks yoga mat bag and the Florecita baby booties. With her income from MayaWorks, she’s been able to build a small home on a plot of land given to her by her parents. As a single woman, she is grateful to have an income that allows her to support herself and her parents. It makes her happy that she has been able to do this by herself and to secure her future on her own. Her goal for this year is to purchase a gas stove!
Francisca hasn’t had an easy life. The fifth of 12 children, Francisca wasn’t able to attend school. Instead, she and her sisters worked harvesting corn and beans in her village, Agua Caliente, while her brothers went to school.
At 17 Francisca was forced to marry a man she didn’t love. Her life with him was very difficult. He was an alcoholic and was habitually unfaithful and did not support her or their children. Francisca had no option but to move back with her family.
Soon after moving back home, the armed conflict in Guatemala began. Tragically, her father and two of her brothers were killed. Francisca needed to find work to help support her mother and siblings. She left her rural community and her children to find work in the city.
Fortunately for Francisca she found work as a maid in the home of a weaver. He was kind enough to teach her how to weave on a treadle foot loom. She was 19 and it was the first time in her life that she ever weaved! Soon after learning this new skill she returned to her community to teach other women how to weave on the big loom. She is the first woman in her community to weave products for MayaWorks. Today Francisca has many looms in her home and has a MayaWorks microcredit loan to cultivate and sell blackberries for export.
Eufemia’s life in her small village of Aguas Calientes has been challenging. She attended school only up to second grade. By age 16 she was married and, by age 21, was widowed. Alone with three daughters under the age of five, Eufemia had no choice but to leave her community in the highlands to find work on the coastal plantations.
Life on the plantations was very difficult. With her daughters in tow, Eufemia worked harvesting crops from sunup to sundown. The work was grueling and the lifestyle made it impossible to send her daughters to school regularly. After several years of harvesting crops, Eufemia met Pat Krause, MayaWorks founder.
Pat offered Eufemia a new life that allowed her to earn income using her weaving skills. Earning an income from weaving gave Eufemia the freedom to stay in her community so that her daughters could attend school everyday.
Eufemia is proud of how far her daughters have come. Her oldest daughters have completed high school. One is in Spain preparing to be a nun and the other is working in the capital. Her youngest daughter is still in school.
Today with the income she earns form MayaWorks, Eufemia confidently supports her family. She is determined to keep working hard to be a role model for her daughters and for her community.
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