In depth with the backstrap weaving cooperatives in Guatemala

In Guatemala many women are denied their rights.The country has a long history of gender disparities and discrimination against women. During the years of the civil war more than 200,000 people died, and most of those people were part of the Maya population. The women were particularly affected, as violence against women and rape were systematically used as weapons of war. Long after the war formally ended in 1996, women in Guatemala continued suffering from gender disparities, as a consequence of the long-standing discrimination against women during the war. As a response to the oppression of women, civil society organizations emerged after the end of the civil war, aiming to spread knowledge about the oppression of women and express their commitment to supporting women’s rights. The organizations have played a significant role in the processes of improving women’s living conditions in postwar Guatemala. Many of these organizations are cooperatives, which are created by people who fight for a common goal and are characterized by the desire to work together for change. The members contribute on a equal basis, and share the control according to the one-vote principle.

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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.

With international tourism on the rise, continuous strain and foreign influence are being thrust upon fragile habitats and indigenous cultures. Public conscious has seen a rise in awareness of the impacts of mass tourism as it relates to global warming, ethnocentrism and mass tourism. As a result, public disapproval and open discussions have lead to a shift in the way we travel.

Greater access to the internet has given young travelers access to the world at their fingertips. Travel blogs and social media accounts have become younger generations Tripadvisor. The classic vacation destinations are no longer doing the trick. This new generation of travelers wants to explore off the beaten path where Instagram pictures are plenty and the US dollar stretches further. As a result, gems like Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, and Coral Island, Australia have seen a massive rise in foreign visitors and are being overdeveloped. Environmental and social pollution are on the rise due to unsustainable tourism practices, begging the question of what it means to be a responsible traveler.

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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.

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