Kat tze’bena’

mayan weavers santiago atitlan

There’s a funny thing that happens when we visit our artisan partners. We’ve worked with these women for many years, shared tears and laughter. Anyway, after welcomes and introductions if necessary, we always ask if we can take photos. The women say yes, as they understand that their customers feel connected to them and love to know more about their lives, just as they are curious about the people who purchase their creations. 

But when it actually comes time to take the photo, just as the photographer’s finger touches the shutter button, their smiles vanish. Some women can barely maintain their composure before bursting into laughter as soon as the photograph has been taken. 
Today we visited the weavers in Santiago Atitlan. We talked about the idea of communicating the significance of their work through the use of photos, maybe even on a hangtag to accompany each product. The women told us how their work makes them happy, because they can feed their families, send their children to school, even save a little when there are enough orders. They were smiling as they told us this and we asked them to smile when we took their photos. 
So when Mayan Hands board member Mark Van Wormer, who is also a professional photographer, brought out the camera to take a portrait of each woman at work, the others stood next to him and coaxed smiles and laughter from his subjects. “Kat tze’bena’ (“smile” in Tz’utujil),” they encouraged and each woman good-naturedly complied and beamed. 

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