Saturday, August 18, 2012

Guatemalan Treasures

One of the things that makes me very happy here is to open my closet door and see my collection of Guatemalan treasures.  Each was purchased in a different place and I can picture in my mind the people who sold them to me-all a part of my life as a transplant in their country.

This is an apron made from vintage corte and re-purposed into a quaint apron.  These come from Parque Centro here in Xela and are sold in the dingy mall alongside the park.  The shop is a mother-daughter operation and they don't care much for gringos.  If you go into the shop in the afternoon the mother is asleep on the couch and the daughter is on her own to run the shop.  Although we have been there several times, she still doesn't like us much.

This is the fabric with which Guatemalan women tie their babies on their backs.  It's very heavy fabric and fairly expensive.  I must have paid Q250 for this, which is about $30.  We found it in the demo close to us from a woman running a stall about 6'x5'.  The sale made her VERY happy, which was my clue that I hadn't bargained well.  I don't really try to bargain unless I think they are being blatantly dishonest with me.  We can  give them a good day and it doesn't impact us much.  

The lady with the basket shop is one of my favorites.  Next time I will ask if I can take her photo.  Her shop is larger...maybe 10' x 12'.  She chooses to sell better items and she is a dear, lovely woman who has to wrestle these baskets down from the high walls of the Demo (dungeon) with a stick that has no hook on the end of it to grab the baskets.  Sr. Morgan or Mike usually helps her and we all duck as more than one basket comes flying down.  I have given her a lot of business and sometimes want to change baskets after I have purchased and see something new when I'm leaving her shop.  She is super patient and laughs with us.  She never tries to cheat me, which tells me she is a good, moral woman.

This belt is sold by a fellow in the Demo who sells out of the back of his pick-up truck.  His little boy sits with him all day in the crowded marketplace.  I love to go at lunch time and see all the clever ways the shop owners have of preparing their substantial lunches.  It's like walking into their personal lives.  This is a lousy photo of an absolutely exquisite piece of handwork.

My Salcaja corte makes me smile.  I see the smiles of the family who made this every time I open my closet door.  It is hard work to make this cloth and I have a tremendous respect for the weaver, who in this case was a teenage son who was very proud to sell his work.  Our morning in Salcaja was a real education and we will remember it with fondness.  We were alone, so no interpreters and I'd say we did fairly well.

This corte was my score from the Zunil weaving cooperative.  That is a rather closed city that keeps its best cloth for the natives.  I was frustrated with that at first, but have come to admire their community pride in their handiwork.  I am an outsider and shouldn't be allowed to buy their finest cloth to use in a manner other than their traditional dress.  They treated us with much kindness in the cooperative and it was a delightful trip with our friends the Thompsons and Darringtons, both couples temple missionaries.

I LOVE the apron shop in the demo!!  These aprons are so exquisite.  Each one has a distinct lace pattern on the bottom, many of them having animal patterns.  The locals wear the full aprons and I have purchased those too.  These are about $16-$18, or Q125-150.  The shop is on the street in the demo and the aprons are carefully tied to one another to make the shop take-down in the evening go faster.  Every shop is emptied at dusk if it is on the street.  It's a rough way to make a living.

These adorable placemats are from the cooperative in Zunil.  I hope to get back to purchase more before we leave.  There's always the issue of how to get things home.  The Guatemalan postal service is run by a Canadian company, so all my incoming packages arrive without rifling (so far, anyway).  The outgoing postal system seems secure too, as I have to take packages in before sealing the box and they inspect every item before allowing it out of the country.

This is similar to the cintas the Guatemalan women wear in their hair, only this one is a smaller sample from the Zunil Cooperative.  I hope to find a cinta that is larger of this quality when we go to Panajachel (Lake Atitlan) later in the year.   I have a Guatemalan friend who will show me how to wrap it in my hair.  This is one of the finer Mayan traditions.

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