We had a very unexpected treat when we were on our way to Panajachel last weekend. The president of the Quetzaltenango Temple recommended a little restaurant on the outskirts of the city, so we stopped there to have lunch before leaving town. Next door to the restaurant was the Utzil factory. My first look at an Utzil doll was in Sr. Darrington's apartment, months ago. I thought they were delightful, but we hadn't seen them for sale in the stores until a month ago when we were wandering around Centro. As we were exploring some of the shops, one of the nicer gift stores carried Utzil and it was love at first sight. I purchased a doll that has a baby on her back, wrapped in the familiar fashion that I see every day.
When you live in Guatemala for longer than a few weeks you come to love the bright, engaging colors of the women's corte and the traje (traditional clothing) of the men who live in the smaller towns and villages. Despite the economic conditions in Guatemala, the expensive handwoven cloth is purchased by the majority of the women and girls and worn with great pride. These dolls represent most of the Guatemalan communities in their typical corte cloth and traje. Each doll is marked with his/her community name, so you can choose dolls that reflect areas in Guatemala that you most love.
The link above shows an interview with the shop owner and tell the history of the factory. The day we were there, this charming couple gladly posed for us and let us photograph their work. It was a very endearing experience for us. Although I had purchased a doll in Centro, I needed another representing Santiago Atitlan, one of the indigenous villages across Lake Atitlan. It was hard to choose just one, as they are all exquisitely made and each doll has a character of its own.
As you will see from the video link, one of the things I love about Utzil is that two of their artists are deaf-mute. There isn't a day that we are on the streets here that fail to see people with handicaps begging in the street median. To see fully capable people with handicaps working in this capacity, designing such beautiful dolls, is extremely heartwarming. Life is harsh here and the owner of this shop is providing a great opportunity to folks who might have a hard time finding viable employment. There are no safety nets for the handicapped here. This is the thing I will miss most when I return to the United States-the generosity and enormously big hearts of the Guatemalan people.