Backstrap Weavers from Guatemala
Artisan Yolanda Calgua Morales
Yolanda lives in mountainous village near the town of Chichicastenango in the highlands of Guatemala. As a child she observed and helped with the backstrap weaving process and by the time she was a teenager she had learned the ancient craft under the tutelage of her mother. After finishing sixth grade, Yolanda chose the traditional life of a weaver and eventually married a farmer and had two children. The income that Yolanda has earned over the years as a weaver has helped her buy land and build three small adobe houses. Yolanda's design ability and expertise make her an artistically exceptional weaver who is a traditional "carrier" of the art and culture of backstrap weaving. With her special gift and years of experience, Yolanda is now known as one of the best weavers in her village.
Artisan Antonia Panjoj Guarcax
Antonia Panjoj Guarcax is an exceptional woman with an inspiring story. In response to a massacre in the early 1980's, Antonia founded a weaving group in her mountain village in the highlands of Western Guatemala. Antonia's exceptional leadership and values have supported the women in her group for over twenty years. Traditionally, weaving was a cultural activity for indigenous women who wove almost exclusively for their families. However, after many women lost their husbands, brothers, father and uncles in the massacre, selling their weavings became an economic strategy vital to their survival. Antonia works to help her group gain markets for their weavings, aiding in the economic vitality of her community.
One of Antonia's most successful initiatives resulted in the building of a community center for her weaving group. In collaboration with a fair trade organization, her group received and paid back a loan for communal land where members plant and harvest corn to sell when yearly supplies dwindle. These funds serve as capital for the group's projects. Later on, the weavers and their families provided labor to build the community center on this communal land.
Antonia's success as a leader and artisan has brought opportunity to her family as well. Antonia's son, Gilberto, is attending medical school at the San Carlos University in Guatemala City and her daughter, Yolanda, is learning leadership skills as an intern with a local organization where she helps facilitate adult education.