Intern Journals: Weaving New Possibilities

Hey all! Glad you're back to hear more about my time interning with AMA. In case you didn't read my first post, my name is Corrie and I'm interning here at AMA for the semester while wrapping up my last year of undergrad at Azusa Pacific University. I am stoked to share with you all what I've been up to here in Guatemala!

 Ok, here's three things I loved about this week. The first was that I drank the most delicious hot chocolate I've ever tasted at a darling cafe here in Xela called the Red Kat. The second was that I discovered Vrisas, an AWESOME used book store close to Parque Central, which made me doubly happy because you can buy a book, read it, and return it for half the store credit you bought it for! (Plus going to used book stores is a secret passion of mine). And the third thing that I loved was my visit out to Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan with AMA. 

"More love, please" This is the Red Kat cafe, home the most bomb hot chocolate ever. 

"More love, please" This is the Red Kat cafe, home the most bomb hot chocolate ever. 

Santa Catarina is a municipality in the Highlands more an hour outside Xela that is populated mostly by Maya K'iche people. And when I say Highlands, I mean Highlands. We were way up in the mountains. I headed out there with Mayra Izara, the coordinator of PIXAN, the fair trade textile project at AMA. A group of 18 women had just finished their 4 week training on a new weaving technique. Although it was their first time learning the tellar de pie, this Maya technique has actually been around for centuries. 

This is the machine that is used for this specific weaving technique, taller de pie

This is the machine that is used for this specific weaving technique, taller de pie

Pixan's goal for this year is to raise national and international awareness about their mission to help indigenous women have access to meaningful work without needing to leave their communities. The reason this matters is because for many indigenous women, migrating to the city to find work means facing racism, discrimination, and the possibility of losing her culture. As advocates for these indigenous women, it is so important for the staff at AMA and Pixan to help these women hold on to their traditions, and cultures while having access to markets and capital to provide for themselves and their families. Equipping them with job skills like weaving with the tellar de pie is one way that we do that. 

Here are a few of my new friends from Santa Catarina!  

Here are a few of my new friends from Santa Catarina!  

Part of what I'll be doing this semester is to help Mayra, the coordinator of Pixan, on her strategy for communication in order to get the word out there about our beautiful artisans and their stories. So we stuck around after the graduation ceremony and spoke with some of the women about their experience. The majority of women speak Maya K'iche and needed a translator. (I took four weeks of K'iche in January, so I was excited to see if I could use it while in Santa Catarina. Regrettably I caught maybe two or three words of what they said, and could only remember the word for thank you. Sigh) We asked the women what learning this technique meant for them, and they shared how it gave them pride to learn this Maya technique. Izabel Guachiac, one of the weavers said that, as a single woman, having this skill allowed her to be able to provide for herself, and gave her family more economic freedom. Mayra summed up the purpose of our programing when she said to the women, "We our proud of our weavings and the huipiles we wear because they are our culture. It is the way that I identify myself and we cannot lose it." These textiles that our artisans produce are so much more than just beautiful patterns or traditional costumes. Each was made with an ancient technique, has a unique purpose, and tells its own story.

We are proud of our weavings and the huipiles we wear because they are our culture. It is the way I identify myself and we cannot lose it.
— Mayra Izara

I was humbled to be standing there in that circle of proud, powerful, and beautiful women. It was an honor to have an open window into their stories, perspectives, and struggles. In that moment, I knew that I would never be able to understand fully the lives they live as indigenous women, working to make a living and trying to hold onto their culture in the context of a rapidly modernizing world. But what I did understand is that the human capacity for resilience is one that should never be underestimated. And those women in that circle were proof of that. 

Corrie Henderson