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By Diane Small
In Guatemala, weaving and embroidering are more than means of embellishing cloth: these two crafts say much about the culture, heritage and background of the women who do them.
One woman who understands the meaning of Guatemalan weaving very well is beauty queen and business woman Alida Boer, founder of Maria’s Bag. The former Miss Guatemala 2007 is so proud of her country’s Mayan traditions, she decided to integrate them into artisan crafted handbags with a modern touch.
But by creating Maria’s Bag, Boer also wanted to contribute to the development of Guatemalan communities where women with great passion, talent, and creativity work hard to carry on ancient traditions despite the hardships they faced during a long civil war, where indigenous people were a particular target of a US supported military junta intent on carrying out ethnic cleansing.
“The injustices I see around me affected me a lot and gave me the will help these women to overcome the injustices they face,” she says. “Maria’s Bag is a dream come true for me…I am revealing Guatemala, through artwork and empowering women… they feel more important and develop their creative side; but better yet, their self-esteem has improved. The way they talk, how they dress, all communicates improved security and an improved quality of life,” she states.
Women work for Maria’s Bag in many ways–they come from textile cooperatives, work directly in Maria’s Bag’s factories or are direct collaborators. Over 100 women are securely employed making the bags.
Alida says “I’m proud to introduce my country in a positive way through art that we have always had, that women in London and other European countries use our bags and help Guatemalan women to continue to produce their art.”
This art involves intricately fine embroidery taking on the shapes of animals, landscapes, flowers and geometry. In some cases it even tells stories, myths, and ancient legends. This reflects the close relationship the Mayans have with nature and their respect and devotion towards the environment, the cosmos, and Mother Earth.
The founder of the brand is clearly proud of her heritage and aims to bring Guatemala’s endangered traditions back to life. Each bag not only tells a story and helps communities of women stay gainfully employed, it also portrays the millenary heritage of the awe-inspiring Mayan culture.
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Images: Maria’s Bag Images and quotes from revistamujerdenegocios.com