Panajachel, Solola,Guatemala – 12NOV14
Two women from, Dining for Women came to visit last week.
The two women 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, to visit the shop and to meet with some of the artisans.
Earlier that week, the OB office had been perusing the International Quilt Show site and wondering what it would take to make such detailed, non-traditional quilts in their communities.The Grand Prize winning quilt was $10,000USD. Teh winning quilt loked as if it were at least Queen sized.
Could Oxlajuj B’atz’ women ever find enough space to layout and assemble the jigsaw puzzle of materials? And, more important, would there be any handicraft buyers willing to tote such an expensive and suitcase hogging item. The understated 1st prize winner resembled a 19th century lithograph. It was as detailed as any Currier and Ives landscape. It was complete with tiny village houses and suggestions of others set on distant hills. The elaborate design shows a sparkling river winding under bridges at sundown. And every cloud, each top hatted pedestrian and the illusion of reflections and vast space had been created with countless shreads of gossamer and gingham.
Judy would unknowingly reignite this conversation when she showed us a photo of a seven panels displayed together as a blazing wall hanging. The 1’x4’ banners were each from a different country that DFW supports. The elements were relatively small and because of that size such a creation might be possible. The photo was mighty inspirational. Each of the pieces packed an authentic punch because of the local materials and carefully embroidered words. Some used home photos printed on fabrics. The ladies noted that there was even one from Guatemala showing 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 a book about it.
Judy 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 first develops diagnostic criteria, then, targets a skill set based on that and, 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 OB initiatives had doubled income among the artisans, they were still making less than half the minimum wage: $90 a month.)
Last October, Lynn had come to Guatemala with a DFW delegation and she was welcomed anew to the OB’s new headquarters on the main shopping street of Panajachel. A Mayan mini-ceremony (complete with pine and candles) completed her review of “heritage” projects blooming at the lake. Later, she and her husband, Greg, visited the women of Las Rosas cooperative in Patanatic.
The DFW women’s paths would cross in front of the fire at Jenna’s B&B and they were able to review what they were experiencing. Judy’s trip will continue to Asia and Africa. While Lynn and Greg settle down and started installing Mayan Families’ efficient wood burning stove projects. They will certainly be back