Lema, San Juan la Laguna

Lema - Asociación de Mujeres Tejedoras Con Tinte Natural is located in San Juan la Laguna, an indigenous village on the southern shore of Lake Atitlán where the majority of the population belongs to the Tz’utujil ethnic group.  Lema cooperative was established in 1999, bringing together women weavers from 15 families who specialize in natural dyeing and back-strap loom weaving. Named after a local tree that naturally regenerates itself even after being chopped off,  Lema is symbolic of the resilient and perseverant spirit of the women weavers who came together with a vision to improve their livelihoods and preserve their ancient practices. Known for their distinctive back-strap loom technique of weaving, the women weavers at Lema are especially renowned for being one of the few cooperatives in the region who continue to practice the traditional and eco-friendly practice of natural dyes. Lema dyes 100% cotton yarn in a variety of colors and shades using natural pigments extracted from leaves and flowers of local plants.

Our Ixchel collections of Scarfs and Wraps, Siempre Tote Bags, Tzut Toiletry Bags and Vintage Pouches are the result of GuaTela’s direct work with Lema. What sets each of these products apart is their 100% cotton, naturally dyed and back-strap loom woven fabric thus creating a high quality eco-friendly and unique fashion accessory. GuaTela’s direct partnership with Lema is based on fair trade principles, with the weavers being paid the GuaTela Fair Trade Premium along with access to customized trainings enhancing their technical and management skills. The distinctive dyeing and weaving skills of Lema, along with a transparent and accountable women's cooperative model match GuaTela’s vision of women's empowerment through sustainable livelihoods.  With almost two decades of experience, Lema has been consistently working towards improving the standard of living of not just the 15 families participating in the cooperative, but the larger Tz'utujil community in the village. 

Sanik, El Triunfo

Sanik's talented women weavers from the village of El Triunfo, an isolated Maya Kaqchikel community located in Guatemala’s Central Highlands founded their weaving cooperative in 2005. Named after the Maya Kaqchikel word for worker ants, Sanik is currently formed of eighteen women weavers who use their back-strap weaving technique to produce fabrics not only for their personal use, but also to generate income for their families.

Heavily impacted by the civil war, lacking access to education, health and other basic services, and deprived of any economic opportunities, the women weavers of El Triunfo grew stronger once they came together and started working as a group.     

Like all the partnerships developed with other Mayan women weavers’ cooperatives in Guatemala, GuaTela’s involvement with Sanik is exclusively fair-trade oriented and it is part a longer-term commitment aiming at supporting the weavers and their families to improve their livelihoods. 

This collaboration was included in GuaTela's pilot project and together with Sanik we designed and created the colorful Chapin Pocket Square Collection. Besides their excellence in the unique and complex back-strap loom technique, the Sanik women artisans are using the same methods to bring to life their traditional colors and patterns while using multicolored beads. The Perla Clutch Collection is the perfect example of both their exceptional woven textiles and hand-beaded work.  

ADMAPA, Santa Catarina Palopo

 ADMAPA – Asociación de Mujeres Palopo - is located in the picturesque Santa Catarina Palopo village on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The village, predominantly consisting of the Kaqchiquel Maya community, is considered a village of extremes – widespread poverty among the indigenous community existing alongside prosperous hotels and resorts growing at an unsustainable pace. Santa Catarina Palopo is particularly known for its exquisite weaves in vibrant colors and traditional Maya motifs. Ten years ago, 200 women weavers in the village came together to form the cooperative ADMAPA, primarily to help the women access the market but also fight the exploitation set by local shops who pay abysmally low prices for their highly skilled labor. Over ten years, they have managed to create a greater awareness on minimum wages amongst the women weavers in the village and encourage their members to sell their textiles in the nearby towns and markets for better prices.   

Partnering with GuaTela through fair-trade is ADMAPA’s first foray into both fair-trade and the international market. This partnership was an incredible learning for both ADMAPA and GuaTela on how to connect exceptionally gifted but relatively inexperienced weaver cooperatives to global markets. Each textile was woven exclusively for GuaTela in traditional colors and patterns yet customized for the final high-end product. ADMAPA’s intricate handwoven textiles were adapted into GuaTela’s signature Catarina Clutch, the bright Alegre clutch, Animo Laptop sleeves and Guate laptop sleeves, all designed and tailored at the village level. We hope to continue working with ADMAPA to strengthen their skills, increase their exposure to the global market and prepare them to eventually become entrepreneurs in their own right.