text and photos by Anthony Brindisi
Using an abundant local resource the women of San Rafael Chilascó bolster the incomes of their families by working together
Let us take a moment to appreciate the role of women in rural Guatemala. Outside the major cities the average number of children in a Guatemalan household is eight. EIGHT! When you add in a husband and themselves that means breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for 10; washing, drying and folding the clothes of 10; keeping the house clean, managing the day-to-day activities of the children, and often handling the family’s money. Every one of them deserves a Nobel Prize or sainthood in my opinion.
On top of these responsibilities, in the aldea of San Rafael Chilascó some women are going a step farther. For almost 10 years now they have spent what little free time they have weaving artisan products out of dried pine needles. In the forests surrounding the community these pine needles can be found in abundance, and the women are hoping to use this natural resource to bolster the incomes of their families. By selling their goods they are able to provide the little extras for their children, and in some cases help pay for the continuance of their educations beyond elementary school.
Thanks to the help of Peace Corps and Siggy Bataille Holbik, owner of Casa de los Gigantes, 7a calle oriente #18, across from the church of San Francisco in La Antigua Guatemala, they are hopeful that this added exposure will finally enable them to sell enough of their products to realize their families’ dreams. They are most famous for their baskets, but have also developed a line of Christmas tree ornaments for the upcoming holiday season.