It’s 8:30 am and the chicken bus rolls into Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala and my destination for the day. Doña Teresa is a member of the Trust Bank “Robles” here in Xela, as the locals fondly refer to the city. For eight years, Teresa has been making piñatas by hand in a studio in her home and selling them in her nearby shop. She learned her craft from a private teacher in the capital, Guatemala City. She now employs two young ladies who have been working for her for three years. They are both attending school on Saturdays thanks to the income they make working in Teresa’s shop.
Creating beautiful, detailed piñatas seems to come naturally to Teresa. As she bends and shapes structures out of nothing but wire, Teresa’s creativity and imagination shine through. She forms the designs that her assistants then cover in newspaper, recycled printer paper and finally colorful tissue paper. Most of the paper is covered in math problems, simple poems and scribbled notes, clearly recycled from schools in the area. Seeing pieces of the local children’s education reused to provide a sustainable income that empowers Teresa and her family is inspirational.
Before the piñatas are complete, Teresa adds the final touches, affixing eyes, teeth, clothes, etc., to the piñatas to make them come to life. She designs popular children’s characters including Winnie the Pooh, Barney, Dora the Explorer and minions from “Despicable Me,” as well as adorable bunnies, t-rexes and elephants. She then hires people to deliver piñatas in the surrounding towns.
In addition to creating piñatas and running her store, Teresa cares for her family at home. Her daughter, a 28-year-old passionate primary school teacher, lives with Teresa, as do her mother and brother. She daily cooks the meals for the family with the help of her mother. People sweeter and more welcoming than Doña Teresa and her family are hard to come by. From the start, I was graciously accepted into their home and treated like a member of the family. It is inspiring to be in the presence of someone with so much motivation and love who has discovered her own self-worth and instills a sense of empowerment in everyone she meets.