Medicinal Gardens and their Importance to Indigenous Families in Guatemala

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.

Maya Traditions artisans and staff standing and crouching in the Chuacruz garden

An example of our efforts is our My Health, My Tradition initiative in partnership with the Daniele Agostino Foundation. Thanks to a first year project grant, four of our partner communities (Chuacruz, Nahualá, Patanatic, and San Juan) now have a functioning community medicinal plant garden and 24 artisans from two partner communities (Chirijox and Quiejel) each have a small family garden. A total of 245 organic medicinal plants were distributed, with each garden having at least 6 different varieties.

Once the gardens and plants were established, our staff led six workshops (one per community) on the basic characteristics of medicinal plants and their various uses, the drying process they need to undergo in order to be used effectively, and how to produce tinctures and salves to treat things like colds, headaches, muscle pain, and so on.

By creating organic medicinal herb gardens, we address health in a preventative and culturally-rooted manner so that families can more easily understand and integrate practical changes into their lifestyles. This initiative has also created a new start up platform that will become an income diversification opportunity for the participating artisans and their families. During 2018 we learned that medicinal plant gardens could not only be empowering to our artisan’s personal health, but also their economic well being.

Now equipped with the tools and knowledge to make their own medicines, a Vicks Vapour Rub that once costed approximately 38 quetzales (approximately $5 USD), can now be produced as an organic salve, directly from the gardens of our artisan’s.

By putting the power of medical treatment back into the hands of our indigenous communities, we are not only enabling improved health but also improved financial circumstance. We hope to see this program grow in the future, where our artisans are not only producing medicinal products for themselves but also to be sold and used as a new stream of income.

To learn more about and support our My health, My Tradition Initiative, click here

Schools Days Are Here Again!

“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.

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The ugly side of tourism and how you can make the difference.

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 theUnited 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.

Read moreThe ugly side of tourism and how you can make the difference.

The Goddess Ix Chel, Weaving Techniques and Saving Tradition. Read all the way to the end, it gets better!

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.

Read moreThe Goddess Ix Chel, Weaving Techniques and Saving Tradition. Read all the way to the end, it gets better!

Meet Daphne

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.

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

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.

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Women’s Hygiene Initiative Enriches MT Community Heath Program

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.

Read moreWomen’s Hygiene Initiative Enriches MT Community Heath Program

The Fair Trade Test: Two simple questions to ask before buying fair trade products made in Guatemala

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.

Read moreThe Fair Trade Test: Two simple questions to ask before buying fair trade products made in Guatemala