Isabel (above) is one of TRAMA Textiles Tejadoras (weavers).
The day begins early for forty-year-old Isabel in her small town of Chirijox in the Nahualá highlands. Isabel rises at dawn and cooks a simple breakfast of eggs and beans for her husband and six-year-old son. Once her husband is off to work as a farmhand and her son off to school, it is time for Isabel to pursue one of her greatest passions, weaving.
Isabel, like many other indigenous women in Guatemala, learned her weaving craft as a young girl. At only eight-years-old, Isabel’s mother and grandmother began teaching her how to make an array of handmade textiles, from colourful dresses to opulent tablecloths.
Today, Isabel is the leader of a twenty-women weaving cooperative in Chirijox, which is part of TRAMA’s even larger four-hundred person collective of weavers. TRAMA’s weavers span across seventeen different villages in Guatemala. By weaving for TRAMA and its international customers, the women of Chirijox are able to support their families with an artisan craft that holds hundreds of years of tradition.
“This is a part of our culture,” Isabel tells a recent group of visitors. “I learned this as a girl and I want to pass it on to other young people”.
Isabel’s primary role is to serve as a go-between for TRAMA and the weavers in her village. She collects orders from TRAMA’s headquarters in Quetzaltenango and then distributes the work to her colleagues. With Isabel’s former experience as a nurse and as an NGO worker, she is well-suited for this role. She is also one of the few women in her town who can speak Spanish, in addition to the local indigenous language.
“Being a TRAMA weaver isn’t easy,” Isabel says. Given the time it takes to create high quality items – sometimes up to a month or more – an infinite degree of patience and an exacting nature are indispensable. Isabel’s work as a master weaver also sets a level of excellence for other women learning and improving their craft. A deep enjoyment for weaving is vital to the process and that is something Isabel definitely has.
Isabel in her home in Chirijox, Nahualá, Guatemala.
On most days, in between doing her household chores and administrative work, she can be found in her village working on her latest projects. She has been carefully creating a blouse over the last few weeks. Isabel often incorporates Guatemalan symbols into her work, like the quetzal, the national bird, or the colour red. “Red is important because it represents the blood we have inside of us. This is our life force,” Isabel explains.
Isabel draws a comparison with TRAMA as a similar life-giving force. The organization is able to empower women to become community leaders by providing weaving work in an area where the unemployment rate is high.
Isabel looks forward to what the future with TRAMA holds, “I dream of even more orders to fulfil and even more success”.
Isabel (right) with a fellow TRAMA Textile weaver, Julia, (left) in their village Chirijox, Guatemala.
This is part of a pilot project depicting the women of TRAMA, their successes and dreams, in individual profiles.
– Moises Mendoza
– Photo credit: ThexCuriousxWanderer