Jaqueline (Jaqui) is a 25 year old woman born in San Antonio Suchitepéquez, a town close to Guatemala City. Her mother was one of many K'iche speakers that migrated to the city from the Pacific coast region seeking refuge from the political violence, poverty, and limited access to opportunity.
While she is very appreciative of her parent's sacrifices to assist her in attending school and achieving a University education, she has regretted the loss of her cultural identity that is often viewed by educators and western society as a necessary step for escaping poverty.
A very curious child, she excelled in her academic studies and obtained entry into the University. She would play at her classmate's homes who were not Mayan and she developed a certain level of shame concerning her origins. She did not wish to wear the traditional dress of her ancestors nor speak a language different than her playmates. She felt uncomfortable being identified as different and possibly even inferior.
It was not until the death of her grandfather that Jaqui began to wear the traditional dress of her mother's village. She did this out of love and respect for her, and this caused her to reflect on her feelings and the cultural loss she has suffered like many other Indigenous people around the world.
Today, like many of her generation, she chooses to wear her "traje" or traditional attire for family events. Rather than a sense of shame, she feels cultural pride in the traditions of her ancestors. She recognizes that many indigenous women who chose to wear traje on a daily basis confront racism and discrimination. That society today continue to equate Indigenous culture with inferior capacity or antiquated beliefs.
Jaqui has pleasant memories of her childhood, her passion for creating dolls clothes, and of her biggest dream of becoming a fashion designer. She used to be shy until she started studying at the high school. Afterwards, she started studying business administration at the university, however, she quickly realized that she didn’t like it and that she was trying to follow her father’s dream more than her own. The following year, after having attended an Italian cuisine’s course and deciding this was also not what she wanted, she decided to study Graphic Design at a private university - something she had loved since she was a young girl. Time passed, and while she was growing up, she started to think that she was lucky living in a city like Xela. A city that offers more possibilities of studying and working in comparison to her original village where there were many closed-minded people, not interested in self-improvement. Jaqui also recognized some challenges in the city: she was used to talking back or looking down at men who shouted unpleasant comments in the street but soon realized that by rising to their provocations, they got upset and shut up. During university, she also started to work as much as she could to avoid any additional costs to her parents - in the holiday period she worked in a boutique in the mall and for 8 months she worked in a call center selling Internet packages. After her degree, she began to think differently about how she could earn money while she was looking for a job. First of all, she created a fan page with her friend to sell personal designs, drawings, and clothes. Secondly, she created a Facebook page where she could post all her drawings and creations to sell them. Lastly, she created a design studio with her friend May but the experience was difficult because there were lots of customers who didn’t pay them.
After this, they decided together to create the project “Piccolos”, an art school for children that opened in June 2016 and runs during school vacations. During this time, Jaqui found a great opportunity in her path through life.
After having sent her application to AMA, thanks to the suggestion from her university friend, she was called for an interview that ended in a job offer! Her colleagues wanted her to start the job right away and after thinking carefully, Jaqui realized that it was an opportunity that she couldn’t lose and she chose to start working the mornings in AMA while continuing her project “Piccolos” in the afternoons. Since September, Jaqui has been the Graphic Designer and Advertiser of the organization - she develops websites and brandings, edits videos, makes animations and, sometimes, takes photos at the communities. Since the very beginning she didn’t have difficulties in doing her work, apart from the initial challenge of understanding the project’s structure with all the activities implemented by AMA. Nowadays she feels that she is finally realizing her dream and she is grateful because AMA changed her perspective of seeing things due to the fact that in Xela sometimes people are closed in their community circles and don’t know what there is outside that.
The organization gave her the possibility of visiting the Mayan communities and there were many factors that helped her realize that sometimes we have lots of things that we don’t appreciate. She feels that this experience has opened her to more expectations of doing something that she has always dreamt: to help her homeland solve different aspects that she doesn’t like or her country failed in. More than anything, she wants to help provide the education that lots of people need to move on and break out of the cycle of getting married young, falling pregnant at young age, having lots of children without having the possibility of providing for them, with the risk that they stay in the streets contributing to the crime, the thievery and the extortion, without putting an end to this chain. Jaqui desires to continue her job in the organization, where for the first time she has been given suitable equipment to work and the support she needs in difficult moments. Her bucket list continues to grow: she wants to improve her fanpage where she posts her creations (JACKS) as well as to open a school for children offering education to the people of Guatemala and, maybe, one day, to become a famous designer. But now, she feels that she has to have lots of experiences before realizing her dreams: first of all she wants to travel a lot and improve her English to learn and see things that will be useful in understanding her priorities in her future professional life.
Donate to AMA today to help pay for the necessary equipment Jaqui needs to continue to provide crucial support to AMA and the women of Guatemala!
Written by Laura De Benedictis.