Panajachel, Solola,Guatemala – 12NOV14
Two women from, Dining for Women came to visit last week. They were on unrelated missions and did not know each other (until later.) Judy Duggan and Lynn McLenahan each took the time to drop in at Oxlajuj B’atz’ offices to ask questions, visit the shop and meet with some of the artisans.
Earlier, the OB office had been examining the International Quilt Show site and wondering what it would take to make such detailed, non-traditional quilts in the communities.The Grand Prize winning quilt ($10,000USD) loked as if it were at least Queen sized. Could Oxlajuj B’atz’ women ever find enough space to layout and assemble the myriad materials? And, more important, would there be handicraft buyers for such an expensive and suitcase hogging item. The understated 1st prize winner resembled a 19th century lithograph. It was almost a Currier and Ives landscape — complete with exact village houses and suggestions of others set on distant hills. A sparkling river winds under bridges at sundown. Every cloud, the top hatted pedestrians and each illusion of reflection and vast space had been created with thousands of gossamer and gingham swaths of cloth.
Days later, Judy would unknowingly reignite this conversation. She showed us a photo of a seven panel quilt hung together as a blazing wall hanging. The 1’x4’ banners were each from a different country supported by DFW. The elements were relatively small and because that size might be possible – the photo was mighty inspirational. Each of them packed an authentic punch by using photos printed on fabrics, local materials and embroidered words. There was even one from Guatemala with the familiar three high pyramid and strong geometrics. Judy had won the quilt and was traveling around to the places it represented gathering material for her book about it.
She had come to further study “Women Empowering Women” so, Lucia sat her and down and told about how OB does it one workshop at a time with the artisans. In five years OB has trained women in self-esteem, imparted organizational and leadership skills, developed a radical sense of entrepreneurship and, best, caused these trainings to be replicated by the recipients. The OB model develops diagnostic criteria, targets a skill set based on that and, then, rolls out the program to be tweaked, mastered and shared. Ana gave Judy a synopsis of some preliminary results of a recent survey. (They showed that although income had OB initiatives doubled income among the artisans, they were still making less than half the minimum wage — set at about $90 – a month.)
Last October, Lynn had come to Guatemala with DFW and she was welcomed anew to the expanded headquarters. A Mayan mini-ceremony (complete with pine and candles) completed her review of “heritage” projects blooming at the lake. Later, she introduced her husband, Greg, to the women of Las Rosas cooperative in Patanatic.
Their paths crossed in front of the fire at Jenna’s B&B and they were able to recap what they were experiencing. Judy’s trip continues to Asia and Africa to revisit other contributing communities. While Lynn and Greg settled in down and started working on Mayan Families’ efficient wood burning stove project for a while. They will be back