Last night we arrived in San Lucas Toliman. It was my first visit to Ajkem’a Loy’a after last year’s collaboration. As soon as we drove into the town, I felt at home. I recognized every corner, every smell, every smile that welcomed me back.
After spending two weeks working with a new group of artisans in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, getting to know them and planting the seeds of our collaboration, it was really inspirational to come back to San Lucas Toliman and meet with Ajkem’a Loy’a. Concepts that we taught Ajkem’a Loy’a last year in our design and business workshops are being implemented. The majority of the women are designing innovative products and have developed their own style. They value their time and include it as a cost when calculating product prices. They know what their craft is worth and will not settle for a lower price. They are in the last month of payments for the microloan they took out last year and are planning to use the funds with the interest earned to reinvest in the association.
On a personal level, the women have also changed a lot. Ruth, who could barely speak Spanish last year, is running the store and is receiving a salary for her time. Catarina, who was very shy and would rarely share her opinion, was proudly showing us her new bag designs. Romelia, is continuously experimenting with new designs and color combinations, and has now developed her own line of scarves.
Last summer, like this year in San Antonio, we were only planting the seeds with Ajkem’a Loy’a and now we are starting to see the fruits of collaborative development at work. We still have a lot to learn but the beauty of the experience is that we are all aware of the importance of the process, the learning process on both sides.