Thursday, March 28, 2013

Weaving a Future in San Antonio
Wednesday, February 27
Today at 2:00 we’re meeting with the San Antonio weavers.  Jacqueline has spent a month helping them create new scarf designs in spring and winter colours. In San Antonio there are now two women’s weaving co-ops: Mujeres Unidas (Women United) and Artesania Palopó (Palopó Handicraft). Most of their members are widows; all are poor. As well, there are several family weaving groups. 

Jacqueline has called this meeting to talk about fair trade.

By 2:00, just one woman has arrived at the casa. But this is Guatemala; by 2:20 the room is packed with weavers in their matching blue huipiles. We talk about fair trade. What would be a fair price for a handwoven scarf 6 inches by 70 inches? There is intense discussion, most of it in kaqchikel, one of the Mayan languages. Our ‘Scarves for Stoves’ group is paying well above the going rate, but we realize that it’s still not really enough for a scarf that has taken a whole day to weave on a backstrap loom. We discuss the need for a tag to explain to buyers the importance of paying a fair price, the importance of working together. But most of all, we talk about markets.

“This is our work. This is what we do!” says Sandra, the founder of one of the co-ops. “But who will buy it? How can we feed our children?”

When we started selling the scarves several years ago, we thought of them mainly as a way to raise money for clean-burning stoves. Now, increasingly, we realize that creating a market for these weavings and paying a fair price, is key in helping these women raise themselves out of poverty. In the end, several of us will head back to Canada, our suitcases bulging with scarves, and our hearts filled with a determination to try to expand the market for these beautiful weavings, each of them representing a small step forward for these weavers and their families.

Posted by Susan Gage

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