Trama Textile Cooperative: Weave Your Own Memory of Guatemala

trama1By Maria Taylor

Want to weave your own scarf? After shopping through the highland mercados of Guatemala for the perfect scarf for yourself or for a gift, you may just want to try making your own. What better experience could you want in Xela? If so, take a look at Trama Textiles, located at 3a Calle 10-56, Zona 1.

There, the Trama weaving cooperative of more than 400 women members from 17 weaving groups in five pueblos sell their beautiful native weaving products and also teach their weaving craft. So, you can either buy yourself an indigenous Mayan gift or learn how to use the backstrap loom to make your own scarf, table runner or sampler. Some of the lovely weavings are even hand-dyed with native plants, roots and seeds by women who gather these materials in the Highlands region.

Trama was formed as a cooperative in 1988 after the civil war (la violencia) when so many husbands, sons, fathers and brothers were killed. The women’s groups organized the early stages of Trama (literally – the binding thread) by bringing two representatives from each group together at a biennial General Assembly to elect a board of directors as leaders for the collective. These leaders run the daily business at Trama and teach weaving for two years until the next leaders are elected.

 This mutually beneficial cooperative allows the women an independent source of revenue to support their families in the comfort of their home without the expense of a daily commute to market or buying a storefront. Trama Textiles cooperative enables them to earn a sustainable living for their families and to keep the backstrap weaving tradition alive. Trama is a metaphor for the threads that weave the women into a stronger fabric that holds them together for their future.

Volunteers come from all over the world to work at Trama and help the women in the day-to-day business of scheduling, teaching, weaving, taking online orders and generally promoting the cooperative to travellers passing through Guatemala. Indeed, word of mouth advertising has been an effective means of marketing the colorful Mayan weavings. These weavings are marketed at the Trama tienda in Xela. The attractive tienda at Trama offers affordable weavings of scarves, table runners, toys, shawls, hats, hammocks and much more.

Trama products are available online as well at the Web site: www.tramatextiles.org.

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