~ ixöq partners ~
ixöq's success and value to the women of Guatemala are dependent on our partnerships with local community groups. The women artisans we work with are employed by these groups, from whom they receive the training, support and supplies needed for their craft, as well as market opportunities that otherwise may be inaccessible. Many of the products are handmade in the homes of the women, allowing them the flexibility to maintain their home while also contributing financially to their and their family's livelihood. Through this work the women feel more empowered and gain financial independence and stability.
The three groups we currently work with in Guatemala are ASPECOM, a women’s cooperative in San Cristóbal, Totonicapan; Manos Cruceñas, the artesinia program of Amigos de Santa Cruz in the village of Santa Cruz la Laguna; and Asociación Lemá, a women’s weaving cooperative in the village of San Juan la Laguna.
ASPECOM (Asociacion Pensamiento y Corazón de las Mujeres or The Women's Thinking and Caring Association) is the most active of ixöq's list of partners since we work with them on the woven plastic cesta totes and boxi storage containers. Founded by Rutilia Ramos in 1976 in the town of San Cristóbal, Totonicapán, ASPECOM is a small group of women, originally comprised of single parents or widows needing additional income for their families.
Rutilia was a traditional midwife, working in San Cristóbal, when a devastating earthquake hit Guatemala. She worked tirelessly to help combat the malnutrition affecting the children of San Cristóbal in the quake's aftermath. She witnessed a huge improvement in the children once their diet improved and decided that she would continue to help the children of her town. She formed a group of single mothers, with the idea that the work would help both the women and their children, and they began to create and sell items to help improve the nutrition of youth in the town. Twenty-one years after the earthquake, the group officially established ASPECOM and their work continues. The women artisans have many interests and talents, making natural medicines, jams, salsa, jewelry, embroidery and handwoven baskets. ixöq partners with the artisans of ASPECOM to design and create the handwoven totes that we call "cestas" and the various storage containers in our boxi line. Each bag is a designed by ixöq and handcrafted from recycled plastic by the women of ASPECOM.
Manos Cruceñas is the artesinia program of Amigos de Santa Cruz in the village of Santa Cruz la Laguna. The mission of Amigos de Santa Cruz is to improve the lives of the people of Santa Cruz la Laguna and surrounding communities through support for education and sustainable economic development. The women of Manos Cruceñas receive vocational training in sewing, foot loom weaving and beading through CECAP (Centro de Capacitacion), the vocational education center under Amigos de Santa Cruz. CECAP, established in 2007, allows people of all ages to learn new skills that lead to meaningful work and, in turn, a more prosperous community.
“Amigos” started out in 1998 as an effort to help support education by providing the local school with needed books and supplies. Almost 20 years later, the organization has grown to not only support the local schools, but to support the local students and their families with youth leadership, rural women’s empowerment, reproductive health education and vocational training programs.
Amigos began its artesania vocational training program in 2011 with programs for young women and mothers to learn to sew, weave and bead products that appeal to Guatemalan tourists. In 2013, Amigos opened the Manos Cruceñas Artisan Store, a social enterprise business that provides a venue for the the graduates of the program to sell their products. Visit their site and learn more here.
The Asociación Lema’ is a women’s cooperative of Tz’utujil women in San Juan La Laguna. The women pride themselves on making handmade textiles with natural dyes and materials, in keeping with their Mayan culture and traditions. Together they have formed a cooperative association to make and sell products made from high quality hand woven & hand dyed textiles. The products are sold at a fair price and provide work and income for the women of San Juan, with the goal of increasing the the quality of life for their families and the entire village. Lema’ is the Tz’utujil name of one of the trees used to dye the threads in their products.