Empower women. Eliminate poverty.


Colorado Senator Meets Guatemala Textile Leader

Doña Herminia makes thread from cotton near her shop in San Juan La Laguna.

by Rachel Turner
and Marta Ixtuc

The smell of plant leaves and bark cooking over an open fire filled the room. A colorfully dressed woman sat weaving with a wooden hand loom using brilliantly colored thread – all dyed naturally with the juices from boiled barks, plants, vegetables, flowers, and even insects. More women bustled around the room cleaning cotton, making it into thread, and dyeing it.

Seeing visitors enter, Doña Herminia stood to welcome them into one of the two shops she runs.

With confidence and pride, Doña Herminia showed her visitors the elaborate, time-intensive process traditional weavers go through to create scarves, bags, and shawls. She pointed to two plants, “These plants will provide a different color if picked during a full moon,” she said. It was obvious she held generations of knowledge that made her products special.

Doña Herminia offered her visitors the opportunity to make thread from a piece of fluffy cotton. Former US Senator Mark Udall from Colorado stepped up to the challenge. He succeeded in making a bit of thread and gained even more appreciation for the difficult task.

Former US Senator Mark Udall makes thread from cotton with the help of Doña Herminia.

Doña Herminia learned traditional weaving at the knees of her mother and grandmother as a young child. She quickly grew in skill and creativity, and as a young adult, joined Ixoq AJ Keem, a group of women weavers of Maya Tz’utujil ethnicity who sell their products primarily in San Juan La Laguna. Today, she leads the organization and employs seven women in her own business.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Herminia is a real leader. She has what it takes in terms of determination, enthusiasm, and charisma. -Sen Udall” quote=”‘Herminia is a real leader. She has what it takes in terms of determination, enthusiasm, and charisma,’ commented Senator Udall.”]

A Friendship Bridge client for over five years, Doña Herminia joined the Artisan Market Access Program in 2016. “It has helped me learn about business, the North American market, quality control, and so much more,” said Doña Herminia. “Beyond that, it has shown me the value of formal education – especially for my children – since I only studied through 4th grade.”

Doña Herminia continues to mentor women who want to become better artisans. “I want to help women learn,” said Doña Herminia. “I advise them to take advantage of opportunities presented, and to invest the time to learn. [clickToTweet tweet=”Because of what I’ve learned, I now have the power to make my own decisions. -Client Doña Herminia #empoweringwomen” quote=”Because of what I’ve learned, I now have the power to make my own decisions. -Doña Herminia”]

Traveling soon? Click here to buy handmade travel products from Doña Herminia.

Rachel Turner is the Global Communications Manager for Friendship Bridge. Having worked and lived  throughout the world, she now calls the foothills of the Rocky Mountains home.

Marta Julia Ixtuc is the Communications Coordinator in Guatemala. Based in Sololá, she continues seeking to support the development of Guatemalan women in search of their own ways out of poverty.