The mountainous village of Sacualpa in the Quiche region of Guatemala is off the beaten tourist path, and artisans there have fewer opportunities to sell their goods. Francisco Jimon leads a group of five people who make machine embroidered textiles using locally made backstrap loomed fabric. The group is made up of Francisco, his brother, Tomas, and other family members. They have been working together for twelve years and use the income from their crafts to supplement what they make working on other people’s farms as day laborers. They earn decent wages planting, tending, and harvesting crops of corn, beans, and tomatoes, but the work is seasonal, and their craft sales provide income they can count on when there is no work in the fields.
Francisco and Tomas were not able to complete their education beyond grade school. Francisco had to leave home at an early age to find work, first at a farm on the coast, and then in an artesania (craft) store in Panajachel. But they are proud to say that Tomas’s kids have all gone to school thanks to the income from craft sales. Of Francisco’s three grown nieces and nephews, two are now teachers and one is a bookkeeper; their younger siblings are still in school and can also look forward to more job opportunities than were available to the previous generation.
The brothers do not linger on thoughts of what might have been had they been able to complete their own educations. They know they have provided a good life for themselves and their families, and they are proud of the business they have built in the past 28 years. Francisco takes pride in his store and his products, and the fact that the embroidery produced by their family is top quality with finer stitching and greater detail than much of what can be found in the market.
Like Francisco himself, the fabric for the Wild Blossom Bags has changed paths. The fabric was designed for table runners, but Sharon began transforming them into gorgeous bags. The bags are a joint project of several artisan groups. The material is purchased from the group in Sacualpa and then goes to artisans specialized in sewing or leather work who create the final product. No leftover pieces go to waste; scraps are used to make coin purses and small pouches. The results of this collaboration are terrific products and more work for artisans like Francisco and his family.
Sometimes it takes a winding path to end up right where you belong.