After seeing woman artisans in rural Guatemala lack market access for their stunning handwoven wares, Ruth DeGolia was motivated to start Mercado Global. More than ten years later, the handbag company has worked with over 400 artisans across the country, empowering women with increased and sustainable income and inspiring them to build up cooperatives within their own communities.
I feel so fortunate to have been invited to Guatemala last month to witness the impactful model first hand, with the Mercado Global team. After arriving in the charming, colonial capital of Antigua, we made our way to Lake Atitlán, a breathtakingly stunning lake in the volcanic highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Side trips from Mercado Global’s headquarters in Panajachel led us to indigenous entrepreneurs like Cristobalina, a Mayan weaver whose craft had been passed down from multiple generations. There, in her weaving studio, we watched in awe as the skilled hands of her and her fellow weavers handled two life sized foot looms with preciseness and dexterity. Hundreds of meticulously arranged cotton strings danced up and down, from multiple warps, creating intricate patterned fabric that would eventually be constructed into handbags. Not only has Cristobalina worked alongside Mercado Global for several years, but she has since been able to independently support her family and send her elder children to school for the first time. She and other women in her cooperative are also provided steady educational programs which enable them to lead, improve and address health and financial matters on their own.
It was rewarding to observe Mercado Global’s socially responsible business model, something we so rarely see within the fashion industry. And it was gratifying to experience Guatemala and all of it’s magical charm and beauty through the eyes of the Mercado Global team. I can’t wait to return but in the meantime, I look forward to continuing to support such an inspiring company.
(images by HonestlyWTF and Spring 2016 collection images courtesy of Mercado Global)