Trama Textiles is a cooperative of female Mayan backstrap loom weavers across Guatemala. We work directly with 100 women from 17 weaving communities across 5 regions in the Western Highlands; Sololá, Huehuetenango, Sacatepéquez, Quetzaltenango and Quiché. We also collaborate with various individual weavers and artisans across the country who play a crucial role in Trama’s success.
Our cooperative was formed in 1988 after some of the most devastating years of the Guatemalan civil war. During this period, many Mayan men were lost: grandfathers, fathers, brothers and sons. As a result, the women across our communities united and decided to use their skills as weavers to support themselves and their families. This lead to the birth of Trama Textiles. Since then, our cooperative has provided a sense of purpose and empowerment and enabled the possibility of a brighter future.
Weaving is a century-old Mayan art which remains a fundamental part of Mayan identity today. Across Guatemala, each Mayan town has its own unique traje (traditional dress) which distinguishes it from the next. Some of the pieces worn by the women are so intricate they can take months to make. Despite their expertise, as many of our weavers don’t speak Spanish they are often forced to sell their products to middlemen for very low prices. In other words: making a living from their art can be challenging. This is where Trama Textiles intervenes. Able to communicate in their own Mayan dialects, our weavers decide on the price of each product and are paid up front. This guarantees both a fair wage and a reliable source of income for the women in our communities, meaning that they can support themselves and their families in regions where 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: Oralia Chopen
• Vice President: Amparo de León de Rubio
• Secretary: Lidia Sicay
• Treasurer: Maria Luisa Chavez
• 1st Member: Isabel Guarchaj
• 2nd Member: Socorro Sicay
• 3rd Member: Julia Diaz
Each village that works with Trama Textiles also has their own elected representative. Her job is to communicate with Trama to coordinate 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 potential improvements. Every three years, Trama hosts an assembly where all the women vote on the new presidents and update their constitution.
As the current president of Trama Textiles, Oralia’s dream is to fully employ the 100 women who work with Trama. For Oralia, paying women a fair wage for their products is 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.
AMPARO DE LEÓN DE RUBIO
Amparo is the vice president of Trama Textiles, and is passionate about improving opportunities 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 their communities.
As Amparo can read, write and speak in Spanish, she considers herself lucky since the majority of weavers represented by Trama Textiles are illiterate. Amparo has worked with Trama for over 23 years and is based at the Trama office in Xela, coordinating the work of the 100 weavers across the highlands of Guatemala.