Natural Expressions of the Holidays, Guatemala
They say the most treasured gifts come from nature and from the heart.
Celebrating its 50th holiday season in La Antigua Guatemala, Casa de los Gigantes surrounds visitors with both. All of the handcrafted housewares, accessories, furniture and decorations in this enormous store—once a 17th century Spanish colonial home—are crafted with natural materials and whisper the stories of the hands and hearts that created them.
The store’s current owner, Siggy Bataille, has dedicated the past 20 years to offering “handmade items using earth-friendly materials.” She emphasizes dignity and fair pay for artisans and designers, and well-established women’s cooperatives make many of the items in the shop. Gigantes collaborates with artisans from all over Guatemala; the work these artisans do and the money they earn create lasting change for their families.
Pointing to a sweetly embroidered three-piece nativity set made with tipica fabric, Siggy explains.
“These are made by a collective of women artisans. They live in one of the worst areas of Guatemala City, but now they all have work and their kids go to school. It’s wonderful.”
Nearby, handmade pine needle and recycled-paper ornaments hang from a clever teak holiday tree that folds flat for storage. “These paper decorations are made by people in the Highlands with disabilities,” says Siggy. “And the pine needles are made by women in Baja Verapaz.”
On a holiday table set with hand-carved and painted napkin rings sits a basket of intricately embroidered greeting cards. “These are so special,” explains Siggy. “A group of nuns in the capital bring prostitutes in off the street and teach them to earn a living making these beautiful cards.”
Unique Christmas decorations fill just one corner of this “gigantic” two-level store. Browsing is encouraged throughout, so it’s a pleasure to explore each room.
One room brims with unique housewares, like coffee-root kitchen utensils and blown-glass tableware. Another room features clay, metal and beaded jewelry, as well as accessories and linens, like handbags and table runners, that combine centuries-old techniques with contemporary colors and styles.
The interior garden patio displays hand-carved architectural features and carefully painted wood statues depicting saints, apostles, and traditional masked Guatemalan dancers.
Throughout the store, plantation-grown teak furniture and decorations—from votive candle holders to butcher-block tables, lawn chairs and side tables—beg to be touched. Five carpenters craft these pieces in a workshop Siggy created 20 years ago inside of the store itself.
The store proudly displays new pieces designed by students from Universidad Rafael Landívar, who collaborate with the workshop’s carpenters to make their ideas come to life for college credit.
Expressing new designs with natural materials and traditional workmanship is one of the ways that gifts from Casa de los Gigantes blend Guatemala’s rich history with the heart and future vision of its artisans.
Located at 7a calle oriente #18, between 1a and 2a avenidas, across from the entrance to Iglesia San Francisco, Casa de los Gigantes is full of carefully crafted, affordable gifts. For online shoppers, casadelosgigantes.com
Article by by Linda Conard – photos by César Tián