by Hilary Kilpatric
“I enjoy working with palm because it is found locally and it is the traditional material used by the people here. Plus using palm for artisan goods does not damage the environment,” said Catarina Tamup de Leon, leader of the Palm Weavers, when asked about why she loves her work.
The Palm Weavers group is located in the Highlands of Guatemala and includes over 60 members from 10 neighboring villages. They joined together in 2002, forming a cooperative to diversify their products and increase their ability to meet demand. Working together they are able to share designs and skills, while increasing production.
The group is a cooperative, so the women meet to get their assignments and share ideas, but they are able to work at their houses. This is great for the women because it allows them to generate income and contribute to the family financially while tending to their usual household chores and caring for their children.
The group makes a variety of products from hats, to coin purses, to bags, to boxes, baskets and more. Its members are always looking for ways to enhance their work and create new products using their design skills and knowledge of the palm; the palm is collected by the women in small groups.
Catarina lives with her mother and 15-year-old daughter in a small cozy house near a river. She uses her income from sales to support her mother and pay for her daughter, who wants to become a teacher, to attend the local vocational school.
“I am very pleased that my work has enabled me to support my mother and provide my daughter with the opportunity to continue her education,” Catarina proudly explained.
While Catarina enjoys making a variety of products, her favorite things to make are bags and purses. “They are the most difficult but also leave the most room for innovation and new designs. I like the challenge and love coming up with new ideas,” Catarina said.
When asked about her dreams for the future Catarina said, “I hope that our cooperative will grow and learn new things in order to benefit all of the women in the group, empowering them to live out their dreams and support their children through their craft.”
Palm Weavers’ products can be found in La Antigua Guatemala at the Casa de los Gigantes, 7a calle oriente #18, across the street from the San Francisco Church.