Celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

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.

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Garden Tour: How We Use the Plants Grown in our Community Gardens

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. 

Jardín Nahuaá

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. 

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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

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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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Doris Skelly is Making The Difference

Doris Skelly is Making The Difference

Doris Skelly lived in Guatemala from 1987-1988, working with women and children in the San Miguel and Santa Rita areas of Xela. For years she maintained connections with these families that she came to know and love, and, as she puts it, “I left a part of my heart with them.”

Doris Skelly with Erin Kökdil, former Executive Director, Maya Traditions Foundation 2013-2016

Though she was unable to stay in Guatemala long term, her life had been forever changed by the experience of living and serving there. When she returned to New York City she taught art in a local school with an ethically diverse population and remained there until her retirement. Since then she has dedicated herself to helping students who have difficulties with reading and writing in English.

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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.

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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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