Trama Textiles is an Association of Women for Artisan Development in Backstrap Loom Weaving in Guatemala. We work directly with 400 women from 17 weaving co-operations across five regions in the western highlands of Guatemala; Sololá, Huehuetenango, Sacatepéquez, Quetzaltenango and Quiché.
Our association was formed in 1988 after some of the most devastating years of the Guatemalan civil war. The civil war was a time when most of the men from our communities disappeared: our grandfathers, fathers, brothers and sons. During this difficult time, our community united and decided to use our skills as weavers to support ourselves and our families. This lead to the birth of Trama Textiles. The co-operative gave us a sense of purpose and empowerment. We started to work together exploring different colours by naturally dying the fabric, creating new designs and weaving many textiles. Little by little, we began to grow stronger and started to look towards a better future.
Weaving is a century-old Mayan art still very much part of Mayan life across Guatemala. Every region can be identified by the unique patterns on their traditional woven clothing. Some of the pieces worn by the women can take months to make as the designs consist of so many intricate details. Despite their expertise, it’s often very hard for the weavers to make a living from their art, especially as most of them do not speak Spanish. The women usually speak in their respective Mayan language. They are often forced to sell their products to middlemen for very low prices.
This is where Trama Textiles intervenes. Our weavers decide on the price we pay them for each product. Each woman is paid up front and in full for her work and is guaranteed a fair wage for what she has produced. This allows the women in our communities to earn an income to support themselves and their families in a region where paid work is hard to find.
Our mission is to create work for fair wages for the women of Guatemala; to support our families and communities; and to preserve and develop our cultural traditions by maintaining our textile arts and their histories.
Trama Textiles is an 100% worker owned and run cooperative.
• President: Amparo de León de Rubio
• Vice President: Oralia Chopen
• Secretary: Lidia Sicay
• Treasurer: Maria Luisa Chavez
• 1st Member: Isabel Guarchaj
• 2nd Member: Socorro Sicay
• 3rd Member: Julia Diaz
These women represent a snapshot into the stories and background of the 400 women represented by Trama Textiles.
Each village that works with Trama Textiles has their own representative that is elected by the people she represents. Her job is to coordinate with Trama the delivery of the weaving, and to ensure each weaver is receiving a good price for her work.
Every three months the women gather at the shop in Quetzaltenango to review the success of Trama Textiles and to discuss how it could improve. Every three years Trama hosts an assembly, where all the women vote on the new presidents and update their constitution.
AMPARO DE LEÓN DE RUBIO
Amparo is the current president of Trama Textiles, and is passionate about improving opportunity and livelihood for women. Amparo’s father died when she was 11 years old, leaving her mother and siblings destitute. Amparo learnt to weave to support her family and has devoted her life to empowering other women through weaving to support themselves, their families and communities.
As Amparo can read, write and speak in Spanish, she explains that she is lucky as the majority of weavers represented by Trama Textiles are illiterate. Amparo has worked with Trama Textiles for over 23 years and is based at the Trama office in Xela, coordinating the work of the 400 weavers across the highlands of Guatemala.
As the vice president of Trama Textiles, Oralia’s dream is to fully employ the 400 women who work with Trama. For Oralia, paying women a fair wage for their products is incredibly rewarding as it has a direct impact on empowering women within the community.
Oralia joined Trama as a teenager, encouraged to pursue Trama’s mission as her father was passionate about helping women affected by the civil war.
Oralia lives in Xela with her family, and in addition to managing the Trama cooperative, she teaches weaving at the Trama office.