Mayan Hands weavers and basket makers living near Rabinal in northern Guatemala gathered with our dedicated staff members Julio, Nancy and Mayra to celebrate a successful year. The highlights of this joyful and fun fiesta were the presentations from each of the groups, during which the women shared some of the special traditions from their local communities.
First, there was an enactment of traditions around the Day of the Dead. Once a year, on November 1st, people hold a party at the cemetery, remembering their loved ones, talking with them, and bringing food offerings that are left behind for them to enjoy in spirit. Weavers from the Chuaperol cooperative brought traditional foods to share with everyone.
Then came the dance of the Moors and Christians, an ancient dance brought by the Spanish conquerors to Guatemala more than 500 years ago. The dance represents the battles between the Christian Kingdoms and the Muslim Moors for the unification of Spain, which was finally accomplished in 1492. Donning the typical masks and other paraphernalia, our artisan partners from Chilasco shared an impressive rendition of the dance.
Finally, the weavers from San Rafael enacted a Posada, a much-loved tradition practiced widely in Guatemala. During the nine days before Christmas, groups of friends carrying images of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph process from house to house with lanterns, looking for shelter in neighbors’ homes. Prayers and songs accompany the petition and the answers from the homeowners who, in the end, open their doors, share traditional foods and drinks with friends, and shelter the images until the next day. Women from San Rafael then donned their special traditional traje and helped dress Nancy and Mayra into traje they brought for them to wear.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the presentations, then ate traditional party food and danced to marimba music to their hearts content. Julio Cardona, Mayan Hands manager in Guatemala, thanked the women and congratulated them for their dedication and excellent work in 2018, then distributed a small cash productivity bonus and gifts of yarn and embroidery floss.
Women stood up to express their gratitude for the party and gifts. But more than anything, they said, they were grateful to Mayan Hands and supporters from far away for the opportunity to work and earn a regular income they can count on month after month, allowing them to provide for their families.
At the end of the celebration the women returned to their communities with lifted spirits and looking with hope and optimism to 2019, as do we.