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Weaving a Heritage of Hope in Guatemala

by | Artisans

Read Time: 5 min.
Filomena and the women of her village are weaving a heritage of hope in Guatemala. Together, they handcraft traditional kimonos, using ancient Mayan jaspé dyeing and weaving techniques. Together, they’re empowering their families out of poverty.

Filomena’s Heritage of Hope in Guatemala

In the shade of a breezy courtyard, Filomena threads her loom with rich tropical-blue threads. She spends the afternoon weaving on her backstrap loom. The skills and patterns she learned from her grandmother transform her bundles of thread into luxurious jaspé kimonos.
The women of Filomena’s quaint lakeside village still practice the ancient dyeing and weaving methods of their Mayan ancestors. Surrounded by the beauty of a lush volcanic valley, mothers and daughters gather together to pass down centuries of Artisan traditions.

Jaspé Dyeing & Weaving – Ancient Mayan Heritage

In festive skirts and blouses, they fill an assortment of pots and jars with water. Then, they add fresh-cut native plants from the Guatemalan countryside.

Just inside the stucco archway, the Artisans carry bundles of banana tree trunks into the kitchen.

First, they chop and peel away the outer layers. Then, they prepare the inner pulp to boil into mordant.

On the same stove where she cooks her family meals, Filomena boils kettles. Each kettle is filled with bright flowers, green leaves, and earthy barks. She uses these local plants and barks to create her own unique shades of organic plant dyes.
Each pot contains a treasured family recipe that has been passed down for generations.

Among her most prized family recipes is Guatemalan Indigo.

Natural Plant Dyes – Generations of Artisan Traditions

Next, Filomena rinses bundles of thread with cold water before soaking them in the strained hot mordant. Her home-cooked mordant helps her natural plant dyes “fix” to her threads. She learned this technique from her mother, who like countless generations before her, was a farmer.
Througout her life, the jaspé dyeing and weaving techniques she learned from her mother and grandmother have become more than a hobby to Filomena. She’s the first member of her family to enjoy the opportunity of pursuing her dreams. She dreams of becoming a professional weaver.

“Knowing the craft of weaving has changed my life! Instead of farming, which is sometimes very hard physically, I can focus on creating.”

“My favorite part is the magic of the natural dyes. I like to experiment with the plants and create new colors.”

– Filomena, Artisan in Guatemala

Weaving a Heritage of Hope for Her Village

Now, silky rainbows of thread wave in the breeze, as these mothers and daughters gather in the village courtyard. Once the threads are dry, they finally begin weaving the traditional kimonos of their ancestors. This is more than a celebration of art and heritage. In a culture where families face overwhelming poverty and lack of job opportunities, many of these Artisans, like Filomena, are the main income earners for their families.
Without this income, most of these women would be forced to farm for a living. Guatemala’s rugged terrain, unpredictable weather, and lack of modern farming equipment make farming a difficult and undependable sole source of income for many families. As Trades of Hope Artisan partners, these women are able to explore their own creativity, enjoy community, and work in safe environments. Most importantly, they can stay close to their families.

“Before this, I always worked at home taking care of my kids and farming land. My entire family has always been and still are farmers except for me.”

“Now I’m a professional weaver. That makes me happy!” – Filomena

Weaving a Heritage of Hope for Her Children

As a mother and grandmother, Filomena invests the income she earns as an Artisan into her family’s hopes for a better future. She saves part of her income, hoping to own her own shop, one day, where she can sell her designs.
Filomena also continues to invest in the next generation by funding her grandchildren’s education – a luxury in Guatemala. In remote villages like Filomena’s, many children must spend their days peddling in the streets to buy food for their families, instead of attending school. She hopes to provide her grandchildren with better opportunities to pursue their own dreams.

Watch Juana weave our Del Sol Kimono!

CLICK ON THE VIDEO TO SEE HER CREATE THIS UNIQUE PATTERN!

This pattern celebrates coffee and cacao beans! Coffee and cacao beans are highly celebrated as part of the Artisans’ ancient Mayan culture!

The women of Filomena’s village are preserving centuries of tradition while investing in the next generation. They are teaching their children more than Artisan skills. They’re teaching their children to hope for a better future, to work for a better future, and to invest in a better future.

Finally, Filomena ties her final tassel. She’s invested a week of her life, skill, and passion into creating each handwoven jaspé kimono.

With every kimono she creates, Filomena has also invested in her dream of creating a brighter future for her children.

She weaves each timeless kimono with pride in her ancient Mayan heritage and hope for her family’s future.

Watch this video to see how our Laguna Silk Kimono is made!

Trades of Hope is partnering with Artisans in areas of extreme poverty in Guatemala to empower women to lead their families out of poverty.

Every purchase of Trades of Hope designs from Guatemala provides skills training and jobs in rural villages that help families thrive.

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Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas is an inspirational writer with a passion for helping women discover and celebrate their unique gifts and abilities. Kathy is part of the Communications Team at Trades of Hope focusing on Artisan advocacy.

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1. similar in kind; related
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Trades of Hope is an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand that helps women around the world escape poverty and trafficking through our fair trade designs. Learn how you can partner with Artisans around the world here.