Artisan Profile: Cecilia Chiroy

Basket Maker Cecilia | Mayan Hands

Cecilia is a determined woman and her persistence has reaped benefits not just for her, but for other women in her community as well.  Like many Mayan women, she is a weaver and adept at handwork, but could not make a living weaving. After finishing school, she worked in the fields, then took a basketry class in hopes of earning income. However, the organization that sponsored the class gave her few orders and paid too little. She picked up sewing piecework for another organization, but orders were few and far between and payments were always late.

She’d heard about Mayan Hands and three times traveled hours from her rural community in search of our office and the opportunity to present samples of her work. The fourth time was the charm. She met our fieldworkers Nancy and Mayra who recognized the potential. Cecilia and her compañeras started weaving coasters, our simplest pine needle product, which allowed them to earn income while mastering the finer quality Mayan Hands required. They progressed through more complex designs as they honed their skills. Their stitching is now fine and regular, and they are creating their own new designs. Their Catarina Basket has catapulted to the bestseller list.

The women in the cooperative elected Cecilia as their leader. She coordinates orders and presides over the weekly Sunday morning meetings when the women gather to weave baskets together before going to church. Children dart in and out among the women as chickens scramble at their feet and they catch up on family news as they work. Cecilia talks with each woman, checking in on the progress of her monthly order, reviewing quality, and reminding the women to do the stretching exercises that will help prevent repetitive stress injuries. She’s a natural teacher and has even traveled to teach a group of Mayan Hands basket makers who live a day’s journey away.

Cecilia says that being able to count on income month after month allows her to plan for the future. “I am very grateful that now I have opportunities. I am happy that I can help my parents who work very hard. I am saving so that I can continue my education. I want to be a good leader of my group and help the women in my community.” We're thrilled that Cecilia plans to apply for a scholarship to continue her education.

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