Our work in Guatemala – Three Locations

This year we returned to Guatemala with two goals: to continue the work we had started last year with Ajkem’a Loy’a in San Lucas Tolimán, and to expand our work in Guatemala with other communities in other towns/villages. We are excited to report back that we are on track in accomplishing both goals, by working with two new groups, in San Antonio Aguas Calientes and Santiago Zamora, and by returning to San Lucas Tolimán to continue supporting the Mayan weaver’s association, Ajkem’a Loy’a.

We can finally share our goals for each of the three locations:

San Antonio Aguas Calientes
This has been the most vague of our collaborations, because our contact is in the municipality, and yet they haven’t had a clear idea of how we can work together. Our goal in San Antonio is to create an advisory document for the mayor, about community tourism. We want to share our own research (primary research as well as observations from living there and interacting with the community), and offer suggestions, and maybe some criticism on how they are thinking about community tourism. Our biggest concern is that they are adopting this as a buzz word without knowing all the implications of promoting such tourism.

Santiago Zamora
We are connected there to a group of approximately 15 weavers. They are interested, as Ajkem’a Loy’a was last year, in selling their products to people who will pay a fair price, to maybe export their products, to invite tourists to their village, and to make themselves and their work known. We see our work there very similar to what we did last year in San Lucas – running a workshop series to address many of their interests aligned with the skills in our group. Specifically, we are developing a media project that communicates who they are as a group and about their culture and local traditions. We will also teach some workshops in basic business and design, and ultimately have the goal of finding some grants to continue our work in Guatemala.

San Lucas Tolimán
We have only spent two days (a total of 4 hours) with Ajkem’a Loy’a, and are thrilled with how the group has advanced. Although there are less women participating (12 core members), the group that is in place is strong and well organized. We are also thrilled to see how their designs have advanced since last year. They have experimented quite a bit with color combinations, with new weaving techniques, and even with new products (children’s clothes, handbags, and new kinds of scarves.) A team of design students, led by Pascale, will be spending the next whole month solely focusing on developing new products that can now be brought back to New York for further market research, and possibly to start exporting/importing some of their artisan goods.

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