This story is part of “What’s in The Box?” — a series looking at the elements inside our VIP box for this year’s Gala, which will soon be available for purchase on our website. The Box is designed to grab you by the hand and take you into the communities where we serve, with items from those actual places.

The Guatemalan gathering mat inside your box has a story. A story of a woman, preserving ancient history through the work of her hands and a loom:

From the most remote corners of the San Juan Sacatepéquez region, Mrs. Norma Chamalé Patzán weaves as her Mayan ancestors have for generations. She maneuvers the wooden loom with natural dexterity, weaving strands of yarn together. As the pieces grow, bold patterns emerge with the region’s distinctive colors: bright yellows, purples, pinks, blues and much more. It’s impossible to characterize the myriad variety of textiles, both in color and pattern, in words. Each weaver’s work is a collection of masterpieces that must be seen and held to be grasped. 

Mrs. Chamalé Patzán’s work is all her own, but she doesn’t operate in isolation: she is one of several weavers  in the Ixoqi ́aj Samajela ́ aj Sanjuani ́ Cooperative (Network of Women Weavers of San Juan). A Co-op for weavers like Norma is a necessary protection and platform. 

Unfortunately,  many weavers, though talented and extraordinarily creative, are met with limited resources and extreme poverty. Their inclusion in a co-op provides these skilled weavers with opportunities to sell their crafts — often in large quantities — to a wider market than previously possible on their own. A co-op eliminates a “middle man” and connects weavers directly with buyers to increase their income. It’s a community of individual creatives enjoy individual benefits. The co-op’s coordinator mentioned these artisans’ skill have come to be appreciated by clients around the world. In turn,  they have responded to the demands of the market, widening their offerings to a host of color schemes.  

When weavers work alone, many of these benefits simply don’t exist. Making ends meet becomes quite a challenge due to low prices and limited bargaining power. As a result, these women often adopt other jobs as small-scale farmers when they are not producing fabrics for local marketsThe Ixoqi ́Cooperative was born in 2015, out of a desire for a group of artisans to collaborate in selling their products and increase their income.  

The network of weavers currently consists of 11 people, who typically work in their homes. To preserve local customs, the network of weavers teaches children to continue using the looms to create their vibrant artwork, maintaining their traditions to preserve their culture while providing for their families.