Asociacion Maya de Desarrollo from Guatemala
is the artisan in the spotlight this week
Asociacion Maya de Desarrollo is a worker cooperative located in the highlands of Solola Guatemala, founded in the 1980s after more than 200,000 indigenous Mayans were massacred, raped, tortured, or 'disappeared.' The victims were mainly their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. Hoping to find some way of recovering from the lives and livelihood lost, the mission of the Asociacion Maya de Desarrollo (Translation: Mayan Development Association) became to help women in post-war communities bear the burden of providing for their family. As it grew, it also became more than a source of income -- it was a way to strengthen the social and cultural well-being of the community.
Artisans like Dominga Ajcalon, who served as Secretary of the Asociation Maya until 2007, weave in their homes so they can still attend to their children and families. It takes three to four days to complete one scarf, and because backstrap loom weaving is so labor-intensive it's hard to receive fair compensation. But through the co-op, they make two to four times on the sale of their products than what they would in local markets.
In addition, the 180 women in the cooperativa enjoy improved access to health care and a better diet, and their children are more likely to stay in school. At the same time, women in the association play a pivotal role in preserving ancient Mayan traditions and culture through the use of the backstrap loom style of weaving, the oldest style of cloth-making there is.