June 13th, 2014
Arrival in Guatemala!
So I ended up going to Guatemala last March to work for a few days with the women of San Rafael and help them with the Natural Dye Project.
Deborah Chandler received Donna Brown, Diane de Souza and me in Guatemala City. I had never met them! I arrived to Guatemala, just trusting and excited to meet new people. interested in the same things I am interested in! Naturally dyeing and community support.
Deborah took us to San Rafael, a small settlement four hours away from the capital! We spent four days with the women. Our main goal was to try to figure out why they weren’t achieving the bright, vibrant natural dye colors they should, on the cotton yarns they were using.
On our way from Rabinal to San Rafael
The Natural Dyes Project
It’s important to mention that this Natural Dye Project started a year ago, when Donna Brown and Catharine Ellis traveled as volunteers to Guatemala in order to teach these women the process of natural dyeing so that they could support their income as weavers. They sell their handwoven products to Mayan Hands, at a fair market price. Deborah Chandler, who lives in Guatemala City and is very involved with the Mayan Hands organization, made this possible.
Mayan Hands is a fair trade organization founded in 1989. They work with over 150 women in eight Guatemalan communities.
Brenda Rosenbaum, a Guatemalan/American woman is in charge of it. They will help these women sell cotton yarn kits in the USA. More about that interesting project in a later blog, so stay tuned as I report from the field.
Catharine and Donna taught the women in San Rafael how to dye with natural dyes last year. The idea is to sell cotton yarn to increase their income. Which is less than one dollar per day.
We went to Guatemala this year, because they were having trouble; the colors were very pale. After having a lot of theories about why they weren’t getting the right colors, we finally were able to solve the mystery!. The mystery? We discovered that they were using baking soda, instead of soda ash !!! In English we can’t really see how they made that mistake, but in Spanish the words are very similar: carbonato de sodio (soda ash)/ bicarbonato de sodio (baking soda)
So that was the main problem! They weren’t mordanting with the proper product!
Those days were a success, we got the beautiful natural dye colors and then I could see that the women were now very interested in the project!
I can communicate with them in Spanish (even if their first language is Achí, a Mayan dialect) And that’s how I ended up with this Natural Dye Project (Tintes Naturales)
If you want to hear more about this first trip to Guatemala, you can visit the Dyeing2weave blog written by Diane DeSouza. You’ll find amazing photos and stories!
My trip to the United States
It’s also important to mention that last month, I went to the WARP (Weave A Real Peace) conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I then spent almost three weeks with Catharine Ellis. She invited me to her beautiful home in Asheville, N.C. We spent that time testing natural dye formulas and learning more about natural dyes so that I could be ready to pass this information onto the women in San Rafael!
She taught me a lot!! And it was an amazing experience!! Catharine was great and I enjoyed meeting a lot of interesting people!
Preparing myself.. the last preparations!
So here I am for now, in Mexico City, my hometown, preparing for my journey. I’ll be in Guatemala next week. Sharing my experiences and adventures with you!
So don’t forget to register to receive notice of whenever I post a blog, so you too can be part of my adventure!
I’m sure I will be learning a lot from these women and from this experience, and I hope I will be able to help them too.
Until next time, Adios!