In 2017, the Cojolya Association of Maya Women Weavers began its social program Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo (Hand in Hand for Development), where we offer academic support to our weavers’ families as only 24% of local youth have the opportunity to attend high school. In 2019, we will continue supporting 12 students’ education in our intentional, local, and multi-generational way. In turn, we want to open a space where the young Maya Tz’utujil women who participate in our program can receive a cultural education that empowers them as indigenous women. Our student Yulissa inspired us to expand the social program, “I would like if Mano a Mano could support us with conversations between women, enhancing our knowledge about our culture and our traditions.”
Your Impact, Our Community:
Balancing the ancestral culture of their home with the westernized education that dominates high schools that barely offer classes in the students’ native dialect of Tz’utujil is a daily practice for girls from Santiago Atitlán. Considering this challenge along with the racism that indigenous people experience across Guatemala, maintaining tradition is far from easy. There, the granddaughters of the milpa find another challenge that transcends the everyday task of choosing between traditional garments that help them identify their heritage or Western clothing that is cheaper and more comfortable for some.
Studying is necessary to change the norms while 40% of women in our state of Sololá are illiterate. Your contribution towards these girls’ schooling, through paying for internet access, inscription fees and printing costs, would alleviate economic strain on indigenous families. Furthermore, to become leaders that honor their proud culture, they must practice the indigenous arts and celebrate the Tz’utujil language, maintaining the artistic and resilient memory of their pueblo. Because of this, we want to open a cultural space where indigneous girls feel heard and understood, not only as young women but also as Tz’utujil women. Cultural education in weaving, embroidery, hand-dyeing and Tz’utujil literacy, their native oral language, has great potential to empower young women as traditions such as weaving have therapeutic qualities, and celebrating cultural history is a source of communal pride. Your donation would make a difference in providing tools for these classes and covering the salary for our Social Programs coordinator, a Tz’utujil teacher who wants to support the co-curricular education of these girls through a cultural, feminist lens.
Our Students, Tz’utujil Maya Young Women:
Our students have big dreams, and their ambitions are linked to uplifting the community that has inspired them so much with its history of strong women weavers.
Lourdes wants to be a doctor while continuing to practice the historically male art of jaspé dyeing. Chonita is going to become a teacher but also wants to learn how to weave at the backstrap loom. Hadasa tells us she wants to become a nurse so that she can cure people but also improve her embroidery skills as her mother is an embroiderer. Julissa is also going to become a teacher this year, but she hopes to maintain the traditions of her ancestors through recounting them to her students. Dolores wants to perfect her beadwork abilities but also become the first woman in her family to graduate high school.
The daily perseverance of indigenous Guatemalan women is a testament to women’s strength everywhere. We ask for your support so that these young women don’t have to choose between preserving their culture and reaching their academic potential. We believe that with educational opportunities these Maya granddaughters can disrupt the national marginalization of indigenous women and change Guatemala.
Our Experience: About Cojolya and Mano a Mano
Despite centuries of persistent domination and systematic racism, the backstrap loom weaving technique is a key Maya art form that has persisted intact in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Cojolya is both a registered non-profit working to improve the lives of our artisans and their families, and a certified Fair Trade organization dedicated to the conservation of the tradition, not as a historical relic, but as an economically viable source of employment for our women weavers.
Cojolya first emerged in 1983 during the Guatemalan Civil War. Because indigenous people were suspected of conspiring against the government and joining the resistance, meetings were not allowed by the military, making working with Cojolya difficult at times. Coming together as weavers, celebrating cultural traditions and textile arts, made our work a peaceful yet powerful protest for the right to a sustainable way of living as indigenous women. Beyond economic stability, this history of persecution motivates the artisans to pass this Mayan tradition of cultural self-determination and resilience onto the next generation.
Through the Mano a Mano program, we aim to empower this generation. With low secondary school enrollment rates, we seek to tackle three core problems that limit educational opportunities in our beloved Santiago Atitlán: economic difficulties, lack of indigenous mentors, and lack of academic support. Through this campaign Nietas de la Milpa, we want to link our mission to maintain Tz’utujil Maya culture with our drive to offer our weavers’ children the best educational opportunities through empowering young indigenous women who will act as role models for younger students.
As a small organization with a 36 year history, we have extensive experience with community development and a close relationship with our weavers based in mutual trust and intentional, multi-generational collaboration. Since starting Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo, which involves many digital fundraising campaigns, being transparent about where our donors’ contribution goes is even easier through platforms such as GlobalGiving, where we are a top ranked organization. Through supporting this project, you can trust that your donation is in the right hands.
What your Donations Support:
$200 – monthly salary of Program Director
$100 – 1 month of embroidery or weaving classes
$75 – cost of 10 books written in Tz’utujil
$60- monthly cost of students’ internet use
$50- cost of 5 backstrap looms for students who want to learn to weave
$40 – year of school supplies for a high schooler
$25- cost of yearly school supplies for a middle school student
$20 – cost of 1 empowerment workshop with women students
$10- year of school supplies for an elementary school student
$5- 2 weeks of transportation to and from school for students living outside of town
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Vincent & Kristy Hughes
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