"Through our work we've learned to pull though and be able to feed, dress and educate our children."
The Integral Association of Chaquijyá Artisan Women was founded in 1989 by several women in need to contribute to their family's economic situation and be able to bring food to their tables. Many of the women were widowed during Guatemala's civil war, and thus were forced to assume both parental roles with regards to the care of their children. Originally a group of 20, they were able to get a few foot looms and some yarn to be able to start working.
"Getting started wasn't easy," recalls Cristina Par, who is know the president of the association. "Even though we all knew how to weave, many had never left their communities. But since the need to be able to sell was so great, they started weaving all sorts of items: from bracelets to shawls and scarves and they just made themselves venture into neighboring villages.
"Then we began collaborating with Aj Quen [Novica featured artisans], who supported our work and offered to train us further so we could improve our productivity as well as the quality of our items. Little by little we have been receiving the support of other organizations including the F.A.O., as well as people volunteering their time to help us develop new designs.
"Some of the founding members are no longer working with us, but their places have been taken by their daughters. Like us, they learned to weave at a very young age. We have achieved many goals, even those we never could have imagined reaching. Thanks to the training we have received we are able to create our own designs by ourselves and we like to use bright colors. Everyone has the freedom to create whatever she wants and share her ideas.
"Though things have not always been easy since we formed the Association, we are very proud of our achievements. Both the civil war and the economic crisis have had a devastating impact on our families and communities. We have all been severely affected emotionally and mentally. Through our work we've learned to pull though and be able to feed, dress and educate our children.
"Now we have our own little office, a showroom, 12 available looms and a highly trained and experienced team. Our goal is to reach more clients: we want the whole world to see our products, which are woven with so much dedication. We want to have more work so we can provide better for our families, and be able to train more women living in the same conditions as we are.
"I would like to thank Novica customers for appreciating our work, because every piece we make is woven in the same way we were taught by our mothers. By purchasing our products you are helping preserve a legendary textile tradition, and you are also sending us a message that our work is recognized and duly remunerated, and this is a dignified way of bringing food to our tables.