I began my visit to Guatemala as part of an excited group of travelers, proud that I earned this trip through my work with my business. We were thrilled by the chance to put names and faces to the stories we already tell as Fair Trade Partners with Threads Worldwide. I left Guatemala understanding true partnership, humility, and joy; my spirit grew with the connections and moments we experienced. I am changed by the dreams we shared together.
Sharing Dreams in Patulul
Maria Pacheco is dreamer extraordinaire and founder of the artisan group we partner with in Guatemala. Each item is handmade by women in rural villages, transforming “cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity.”
When we arrive in the village of Patulul, a smiling group of women are seated under the bus stop and we gather together inside a nearby building, separated into two tables for the ease of translation. Alejandra, one of the leaders of the local artisan group, greets us with gratitude that we have made it safely.
Maria begins. “We can rethink the way the world works.”
She leads us through the story of her organization and how she connected donors, rotarians, and local people to incubate businesses and link production to markets around the world. This work has changed lives, but there is much left to do.
I glance across the room at the women who chat quietly amongst themselves and put their work away as we are given directions in Spanish and English. We shuffle our chairs and sit next to our artisan partners for the first time.
And then we draw our dreams. I’m next to a woman who grins and chuckles at my drawing and we trade Spanish phrases back and forth – “A mí me gusta el mar,” “una familia moderna,” “mi casa.” I like the sea. I have a modern family (only one child so far). My house. She laughs and hides her drawing and I hide mine too. We’re both shy. Happy to be here together. Unsure.
After we move our chairs into a circle, we begin the slow release of explaining and exploring the dreams we drew, and individual dreams meld together in a beautiful space.
We all dream of a safe and healthy family. We all dream of a peaceful life and love for one another. We dream of education for our children. I begin to weep in the heat and the stillness as my tears draw from a cavern inside that begins to be filled by belonging. Connecting. Breathing together.
“Where are the tears coming from?” Maria asks. Some of us share that we are touched with hope, from connecting with our loved ones, from being amongst our new friends. Maria in her own tears tells us that we cry not because we are weak, but because we have been strong too long. She says that many tears have been shed together by the Guatemalan women who have fought bravely for the right to work for a better future.
Our partners in Guatemala face ridicule, violence, and even banishment from their villages for becoming entrepreneurs in a world that teaches women to keep their heads low and their feelings inside. The courage of the women before us is palpable. Health and hope fills rosy cheeks and mothers beam with pride as they share about their children. A seventeen-year-old girl that will graduate from high school with honors next year. A son at the top of his class. A family where every daughter is enrolled in school.
Maria Pacheco, aka the Mother Teresa of Guatemala
And I realize that we’re brave too, this group of travelers. We left our young children to be here in this moment. We hold on to one another and we hold fast to our belief that this work can change our own lives, too. We are opening ourselves to the idea that words like giving and creating don’t belong to us at all – they belong to the connection between us that gives and creates the world around us.
Carly Oduardo learning how to make bracelets