"We've realized that every person in the world has the same rights, and that we are capable of offering a better life to our children. We now know we can be proud of our textile legacy."
The history of Maya Traditions begins in 1988 when Jane Mintz, a social worker and expert weaver, began working with local women weavers and their families. In 1994 she met anthropologist Martha Lynd who was researching textiles as a medium of communication and relationship amongst women of indigenous origin in Guatemala. Jane's and Martha's shared passion for textiles and Maya culture made it possible for the consolidation of Maya Traditions as a foundation. Their mission is to create work opportunities for women and to preserve the ancient back strap loom textiles.
As a foundation, Maya Traditions works with six different groups of artisan women from the Solola region. The women are descendants of several Maya groups, on average they have five children each, and they have scarce economic resources. They live in small villages that are difficult to get to, which in turn makes it difficult for their products to reach other markets. Everything they earn they invest in their family's wellbeing and in their children's education.
"As women from the countryside, we've been socially marginalized," says Floridalma Perez, who has been with the foundation since 2005. "We don't have access or even permission to train in anything. The fact that we speak different Maya dialects also made it worse in terms of communication and to teach each other our different textile techniques.
"However, with time and with the foundation's support we've been able to overcome these obstacles. We've realized that every person in the world has the same rights, and that we are capable of offering a better life to our children. We now know we can be proud of our textile legacy.
"To us, weaving is like meditation. It's what we know best. We are inspired by nature and the symbols of our Maya culture so that we may create weaves that are full of color and meaning."
Maya Traditions is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, an NGO in Guatemala, and to this day they continue recognizing the rights of women, improving their social and economic status, training women and developing leadership skills so they may improve theirs and their families quality of life.
With the sales of their products, donations and educational tours, Maya Traditions has successfully developed a variety of social programs in education, health, and handcrafts.
"Maya Traditions trains women in product design, color management, quality, etc. Results so far are excellent but we're going through a difficult time because it is not easy to market our products," says Yolanda Calgue, who has been a weaver with the foundation since 1998. "That's why the opportunity that Novica offers is of great help. It is fundamental for the women to keep feeling motivated!"