Incorporating ancient Mayan techniques in the modern world

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala – Mayan women artisans are taking advantage of modern technology and sustainable design trends to bring their products directly to Western consumers.

More than 50 women artisans in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala have partnered with the local Fair Trade organization, Y’abal, to share their ancient weaving traditions (Y’abal, meaning “hope” in the k’iche’ language was the word chosen by the women weavers). They use their colorful woven fabrics to create a collection of sophisticated and modern accessories for both men and women.

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The women have organized themselves into two independent cooperatives who make decisions collectively and share profits to sustain their families and overcome poverty. Located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala in the regions of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan and Solola, Y’abal meets twice monthly in their rural communities to place orders and collaborate on new designs. Allison Havens, Director of Y’abal, says:

Our passion at Y’abal is to use Fair Trade to benefit the most disadvantaged- which is often indigenous women without formal education or job opportunities who are also responsible for feeding and taking care of their children. Because of this, we integrate women into every aspect of the business and all profits are re-invested into social programs for the artisans.

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Because of our increasingly connected world and advances in technology, these cooperatives of indigenous women no longer need a middleman to connect directly to worldwide stores and individual consumers. Through their e-commerce site, direct US phone line, and new shipping options, Y’abal helps the women artisans sell directly from Guatemala to the US and Europe.

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Collaborating with local designers, the women use their centuries-old art to create modern textile masterpieces integrating ancient patterns into cutting edge sustainable fashion. By creating employment, leadership training, and educational grants, Y’abal is weaving a better future for women in Guatemala.

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