Well Hello Guatemala!
I love waking up to you each morning; whether in your enchanting city of Antiqua, or breathing deeply as I inhale the peace and beauty of Lake Atitlan, or instantly feel the heat and hear the thud of waves at your stunning black sand beach in Monterrico. You truly have so much beauty to be enjoyed and cherished.
All of the above is a side mention to the true beauty of Guatemala – her people! I spent the day learning and being. Just being. Like any business, Mango + Moose is a hustle and bustle most days, many moving parts and rarely a moment to celebrate and rejoice over the victories. This trip is a time to celebrate! To sit in the company of the makers of our wares is a true honour.
Visiting San Juan:
Aura, a mother to three and a smiling new friend greeted us with a warm embrace before proudly showing us around her group’s newly constructed medicinal garden. This garden is one of the social impact initiatives that Mango + Moose supports when working with this community of Artisans. Accompanying Aura was her brightly decorated binder, and as she shared about the healing properties of each plant she also showed me the colours of thread that are made from each particular plant – an amazing scene that I would soon see!
As we wandered down the small garden lanes, Cecelia arrived bursting with a grin and a small boy tucked into her side, equally as excited with their delivery. Here in San Juan, the village known for its cultural works of art, there was to be a great celebration and Cecelia had made the traditional festive drink Atol de Etole. This only happens once a year so to be able to share it with us was a great pleasure for her and treasure for us! YUM!
Finishing our garden tour, I couldn’t help but wish our medicinal practices were as holistic as theirs. I felt truly grateful for the big chunk of aloe that Aura broke off for Scott and I to ease our bodies with later and sooth our aching burns. Oh when will we learn…. Perhaps in our fifties?!
We arrived at the home of Vicenta and were greeted with many smiling faces and welcoming Artisan friends. Some of these women have been working together for thirty years; some are newer and only have three years experience with the group, but they have grown up learning the craft setout before us.
First we must dye our thread, of course! The dye is made using boiled leaves from the plants of the garden we just visited. Purple coloured water is produced and I learn that this is what makes large batches of bags so difficult. It is impossible to have the exact same colour from one batch to the next, the climate, the time of day, the moon, the leaves, all play a part in making the colour and never will you be able to replicate the exact colour no matter how much one tries. Same amount of water, same amount of leaves, same time of day and voilà – a different colour! A thing of beauty if that is how you choose to see it.
Next we must allow the thread to dry, but we cheat and use pre dried thread! Now from here it gets too complicated for my non-craft brain to even comprehend! Follow the steps in the pictures below and know that I messed up the pattern we were trying to layout at every second turn. Working with Anna and her mom Maria Rosario, I was quickly straightened out each time.
I enjoyed watching Estella as she sat flawlessly creating at her loom! No drama, no flare, just a peaceful work to create a thing of beauty. The hours, the days and the weeks in some cases that it takes to create a particular design is mind-boggling.
And what brought them joy? Seeing themselves and the bag they made for Mango + Moose beautifully displayed in our lookbook! It was so fun to share it with them. I think it is true for all of us that we create because we love it, and we do it for this sole purpose, but to share the beauty with others makes it an even greater joy!
This does not stop at the beautiful textiles that these women weave, but continues straight to their pride in making delicious traditional culinary dishes! Once again we were treated to a meal that is a staple at any and every holiday, or for a special visitors like us I guess
I am one of those people who just eats, I forget to photograph it because I am eating it! Last minute I snapped a few shots of the dinner we shared- whew! This soup is an add as you go soup, all the ingredients surrounding the bowl are eventually added into the broth with the cabbage to make for an amazing delicious treat!
To sum up the perfect day, we shared stories of families together and I was truly blessed to hear overwhelming gratitude for the work that Mango + Moose has brought to them. It was said that their children were going to school and that was most important to them. The group also offers classes on gender equality; the affected change of this is huge! The women shared how their husbands are helping more at home, how they see the value of their daughters attending school and are recognizing the need to support their wives in their heavy work loads. Many men will help with the simple tasks of the weaving process. Scott shared with me later how touched he was by their stories and their sincere joy to be working with Mango + Moose. He added that they are Momprenuers just like me! How very, very true that is. We are all women working toward a common goal of caring for our families through creativity this is the beautiful work of femininity.