The Artisans of Flor de San Juan
by Hilary Kilpatric
“I want to wear the traditional dress of my people, but I also enjoy contemporary fashion. I love starting with something traditional as a base and modifying it into something fashionable and sexy. This way I am able to wear clothes that display my heritage while keeping up with the latest fashion trends,” explained Angélica Mendoza, the group leader of Flor de San Juan, when asked what she likes about her craft.
Flor de San Juan is an artisan group of six women who use weaving, crochet and embroidery to make original and quality products. They live at the foot of the Cuchamatanes in a small village, where most families survive by cultivating garlic for export and domestic use.
The group combines traditional techniques in new and innovative designs to create modern products that are classy and stylish. The women weave using both the back-strap loom and the foot-pedal loom, and have had great success in combining the two.
Angelica is the youngest member of the group at 21 and lives with her mother, father and three brothers. Her father is a garlic farmer and her mother works in the house. Angelica had the good fortune of receiving a scholarship to study middle school and finish her vocational studies in computer science and now teaches basic computer skills at the local middle school.
“I taught myself how to sew when I was 15 by trial and error. My mom had an old sewing machine and I wanted to be able to create my own designs,” Angélica said. “I already knew how to weave but learning to sew gave me the freedom to be more creative and make my own designs.”
The women work as a group but are also able to work individually in their free time, which is a great benefit to them. Most of the group members are mothers who are busy with family responsibilities for much of the day.
However, they enjoy creating and by selling their creations are also able to contribute financially to their families.
When asked about her dreams for the future, Angélica explains, “I dream of one day earning enough money to travel the world, but in the meantime I just want to help my family make a better life for themselves and send my little brothers to school.”
Products made by Flor de San Juan can be found in La Antigua Guatemala at Casa de los Gigantes, 7a calle oriente #18, across the street from the San Francisco Church.