Eco Travel in Guatemala: Trama Textiles
By Marie, Trama textiles
*****Trama Textiles are offering a 15% discount for all Flor + Cesta readers. To find out more or book your place email firstname.lastname@example.org.*****
Guatemala, my home, is home to an incredibly diverse natural landscape, combined with ancient traditions that flourish among today's living Maya communities. Throughout the Guatemala Highlands, travellers will find communities where the traditional life of indigenous people is alive and very much flourishing. The ancient kingdoms of monolithic structures and temples, now enveloped by jungle, connect modern Maya to ancestral civilisations.
Home to various microclimates of verdant and mountainous tropical rainforests, highland cloud forests, white-water rivers, active volcanoes and scenic lakes are protected in a system of national parks and wildlife reserves, there is something for everyone in Guatemala.
After years of civil war, Guatemala has emerged as a peaceful democracy, now defining itself as a blossoming region with an auspicious future while hosting over half a million visitors each year.
Guatemala’s colonial heritage is strong. Weaving, a century-old Mayan art, is still very present in all different parts of Guatemala. Each of our regions can be identified by the unique patterns on their traditional woven clothing.
During the Civil War most of the men from our communities: our grandfathers, fathers, brothers and sons, disappeared. During this difficult time, we came together in our communities and decided to use our skills as weavers to support ourselves and our families, and formed a weavers cooperative. The cooperative gave us a sense of purpose and we started to work together to create new designs, choose colors, dye and weave our textiles. Little by little, we began to grow stronger and started to look towards a better future.
In 1988, after some of the most devastating years of Guatemala’s civil war, our association was formed. TRAMA Textiles is an Association of Women for Artisan Development in Backstrap Loom Weaving in Guatemala. We work directly with 17 weaving cooperatives representing 400 women from five regions in the western highlands of Guatemala: Sololá, Huehuetenango, Sacatepéquez, Quetzaltenango and Quiché.
It is hard for the weavers to live from their art. Because most of them are illiterate and don’t speak Spanish but only their respective Mayan languages they are forced to sell their products to a middleman for a very cheap price. This is where TRAMA Textiles intervenes.
TRAMA pay the women up front and in full for their work and they are guaranteed a fair wage for what they produce. This means, women in our communities can earn an income to support themselves and their families in a region where paid work is hard to find. Our weavers themselves decide on the price we pay them for their product. After having bought the products from the weavers we resell them in our fair trade store and online in our Etsy store and to wholesale clients on an international level.
Weaving school and Eco trips with Trama Textiles
Apart from selling woven textiles in order to create fair wages for traditional weavers Trama wants to preserve and spread the beauty of this ancient art to as many people as possible. Therefore, at our headquarter in Quetzaltenango, we have the weaving school that’s open for everybody travelling through the unique city of Xela.
Our master weavers Oralia and Amparo have grown up weaving and are two of the many women involved in our cooperative and they tailor every class to the individual student. Allowing them to be as close to the production as possible and to realise the value of the art by getting to know the beauty of backstrap weaving.
The idea for Trama Textiles eco-tourism tours was born because we noticed that nowadays a lot of tourists and backpackers want to discover the local culture and have authentic experiences with the local people. Also, many are bored of participating in organised tours, where locals are forced to demonstrate their traditions as a “show” in front of them. Most backpackers prefer to travel off the beaten track! So we had the idea of creating an experience for visitors that come to visit Xela to get know the true lives of our weavers and have a unique chance to experience the culture in rural Guatemala.
We have three communities who love to welcome visitors to the highlands of Sololá, San Martin and to Lake Atitlan, just one to two hours out of Xela where the local fair trade store of Trama, and our weaving school, is. Each village offers different activities to you, depending on their local cultures. The experience in each one is very different. For example, our weaving group in San Juan works only with natural dyes and grow their own cotton. During your stay you will visit San Juan to see the natural dying process and see the many different plants used to create the vibrant colours used in the weavings.
After seeing how the weavers work and taking a weaving class yourself, you may decide to visit the local market, learn how to prepare traditional Guatemalan meals, take part in the village’s traditions or go to church with the family. Someday’s, you may decide to work in the corn or coffee fields with the husbands.
Whether you decide to walk through the fields and mountains or fish at the beaches of Lake Atitlan with your hosts what is certain is that you will leave Guatemala with a deep understanding of the Mayan culture and a new family in your heart.
Find out more information on Trama Textiles eco-trips. Trama Textiles are kindly offering all Flor + Cesta readers 15% off their booking, just mention that you heard about the trip through the site when you make your booking.