Being a part of Guatemala’s tourism industry means we frequently hear the safety concerns people have about the country. With the news that makes headlines abroad, it’s easy for people to be anxious about travelling here. Given that we have an ethical travel program, it is evident we support travel in certain areas of Guatemala, but we understand that before exploring any new territory, precautions need to be kept. If you are apprehensive about visiting Guatemala, as a few of our employees and volunteers have also been, this post will be your guide to understanding how you too can travel a wonderful country, safely and full of enjoyment.
Today Maya Traditions celebrates a special occasion deeply connected to our roots and existence as an organization, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The United Nations explains that this day, along with all of their designated international occasions, is observed “to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.” The UN and Maya Traditions Foundation recognize that indigenous communities should be celebrated, protected, and supported. For years, indigenous peoples have sought and fought for their rights to be valued, but throughout history, it’s been shown that they struggle to be respected by more dominant societies. Due to these challenges, the UN designated August 9th as the day to bring awareness and resolutions to the needs indigenous peoples face.
In last month’s blog post, you learned about the importance of medicinal gardens in rural indigenous communities of Guatemala. This month, we are going to take you on a mini garden tour to show you some of the native plants you would find in our community gardens and how they are used.
Before we discuss specific plants, we should first talk about what it means to be sustainable as a Fair Trade organization. Fair Trade principle #10 is respect for the environment and part of respecting the environment means consuming and producing as ethically as possible. Coincidentally, June 18th was “World Sustainable Gastronomy Day”. We chose to use that day to make a post on Facebook about the sustainability of one of people’s most beloved foods: avocados. The point of our post was to highlight the importance of knowing where your fresh produce comes from and consciously making an effort to buy local and in season.
In Guatemala, especially in rural indigenous communities, the use of essential medicine is often forgone due to the social and financial barriers that are present. Even if an indigenous family can afford accessing medical care, they will face discrimination that goes beyond the absence of treated in their native language. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, here at Maya Traditions, we try to empower communities by giving them the tools to care for each other in a sustainable and culturally rooted way.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~ Nelson Mandela
This week, school bells across Guatemala will ring once again, welcoming back students and beginning the next step in their academic growth. Compared to statistics presented a decade ago, the World Bank has reported an increase in children participating in primary and secondary education, with the latter doubling in size in Guatemala over the past ten years.
As one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations has declared the need to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” In the case of Guatemala, the ability for children to obtain an education is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty not only through access to quality jobs, but also by fostering innovation that will create new opportunities for future generations.
In recent decades the world has seen tourism’s effects, both good and bad, on remote villages, beach destinations, and cities around the world. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in 2017 there were 1.323 billion international tourists arrivals worldwide, with a growth of 6.8% from 2016. In recent decades the desire for greater good, social and environmental sustainability has entered the mainstream with tourists wanting experiences that are authentic, unique and make a positive impact. However, with a rise in sustainable tourism, organizations and regulations are popping up in hopes to protect the environmental integrity, social justice, and economic development. We have also seen new modes of tourism come into popular public conscious. Terms like: responsible, sustainable, eco, ethical, green, volunteer, etc. have become a trend in travel, creating an enlightened sense of responsibility while abroad.
I learned long ago that I am not at the center of the universe, but Ix Chel, the Mayan Goddess of Weaving and her drop spindle, are. Also the goddess of fertility and procreation, representing female empowerment, Ix Chel is said to have founded the city of Palenque and set the universe in motion, introducing weaving to all her people. Weaving has since been passed down from mother to daughter, each generation passing the baton to the next, helping to keep the spirit and culture of weaving alive. Ix Chel is often pictured in traditional Mayan textiles, still being produced in remote areas of Guatemala today.
Before tuk tuks and motorbikes, there was the traje. Originally put into law by the Spaniards, the traje helped to identify the indigenous peoples communities for tax collection purposes. Today, stories of community, religion, history and identity are written into the clothing with symbolic colors and designs.
The traje is made up of three components: huipil (blouse), corte (skirt), and faja (belt), all of which are made by hand on the backstrap loom using techniques passed down from mother to daughter since the 1520s. To gain a better idea of the intricate patterns and techniques used over the decades, below are just some of the more common methods that have been perfected by our artisan partners.
Hi, my name is Daphne and I’m from the Netherlands. Ever since I was a little girl I have been passionate about traveling. I’ve spent most of my life fighting an incurable case of wanderlust.
I studied ‘International Tourism Management’ for the last four years and currently I am earning a ‘Master of Science in Tourism, Leisure and Environment’ in the Netherlands.
As I prepare to graduate in June 2019, I am fulfilling a Communication and Research Internship at Maya Traditions Foundation where I can pursue my passion of researching responsible tourism development and creating awareness of cultural preservation. As part of my internship here, I work with the communication department with daily tasks and responsibilities, do research on marketing and ethical tourism travel and help with ongoing projects in the social programs. One of the projects I got to help with this month is the bed project in Quiejel.
The giving chain started with friends and family of Tracey Stewart, a long time volunteer with OUR Guatemala: Travel with Purpose, who donated the beds in memory of her.
In recognition of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we want to highlight a few of the many exceptional women we work with at Maya Traditions.
This date recognizes the first meeting in Geneva in 1982 of the UN Group on Indigenous Populations. The annual celebration is held across the world, from the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to places like Kenya, Peru and Guatemala.
Feminine hygiene products are a necessity for women in the United States and internationally, while the low-cost and easy access to these products are taken for granted. In Guatemala, the basic needs for proper feminine hygiene can often be too costly for women and girls forcing them to go without every month. During menstruation, women are left finding household items, like rags, or other unsanitary means to absorb their flows.
In recent years, the terms “fair trade” and “ethically sourced” have been used to market not-so-ethical brands, organizations, and products. There are hundreds of trustworthy organizations around the world that adhere to the principles of fair trade, but some brands and B-corps are incorrectly and casually using these terms to market their products with the hope that their customers will trust the claims. Unfortunately, they are right.