On The Loom in San Juan La Laguna

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Visiting the small village of San Juan La Laguna on the shores of Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala, you will be immediately struck by the dedication to craft and preservation. Just stepping off the lancha you will encounter galleries & artists workshops right on the dock. From seed to final product, coffee farmers grow, harvest, roast and sell their beans. Down the road a bit, a collection of art galleries showcases the colourful, birds-eye-view paintings typical of these lakeside villages, but hailing from this place. Another block away is an ‘artisan’ ice cream shop – too good to resist a scoop, or two.

The highlight for me was visiting the Tejadoras Mayas – Women Weavers of San Juan La Laguna and some of the other cooperativos in town. They grow their own cotton – naturally organic of course – in shrubs surrounding their workspace. They then harvest the cotton balls from the limbs, spinning them down into fine yarns and threads. These are dyed (tinted) naturally with a variety of plant and insect life. Avocado pit, beet, mint, coconut, onion…the list goes on. I purchased a direct trade scarf from the woman who wove it – 6 x 8 hour days she told me to create it – tinted by natural coffee and cocoa. Beautiful shades of earthtones – it’s now a staple in my wardrobe. We had a demonstration of the backstrap loom they weave with. The time and effort it takes to create one small piece is amazing! Choosing direct, fair trade for these items means a sustainable livelihood for this cooperative of women, but also the preservation of traditional ways in a country that has, over time, made this very challenging for the indigenous Maya of the Highlands.

The motto of Tejadoras Mayas: “Education Will Give Us a Better Tomorrow”. Couldn’t agree more!

San Juan la Laguna, Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala, 2011.

(click the first image below for a larger view)

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