Guatemala 2013 Slideshows and Report

Special Appreciation to David Lingren and Gary and Roz Houseknecht for sharing their photos!

Click below to jump down to a particular story and slide show

Artisans and Families

Art of Weaving, Crocheting and Beading

Mayan Culture and History

Other Trip Highlights

FTJ Trip Participants

Artisans and Families

  • San Marcos La Laguna 01
    San Marcos La Laguna 01
  • San Marcos La Laguna 02
    San Marcos La Laguna 02
  • San Marcos La Laguna 03
    San Marcos La Laguna 03
  • San Marcos La Laguna 04
    San Marcos La Laguna 04
  • San Marcos La Laguna 05
    San Marcos La Laguna 05
  • San Pedro La Laguna 06
    San Pedro La Laguna 06
  • San Pedro La Laguna 07
    San Pedro La Laguna 07
  • San Pedro La Laguna 08
    San Pedro La Laguna 08
  • Chiriquiac 09
    Chiriquiac 09
  • Chiriquiac 10
    Chiriquiac 10
  • Chiriquiac 11
    Chiriquiac 11
  • Chiriquiac 12
    Chiriquiac 12
  • Tzanjuyu 13
    Tzanjuyu 13
  • Tzanjuyu 14
    Tzanjuyu 14
  • Tzanjuyu 15
    Tzanjuyu 15
  • San Rafael 16
    San Rafael 16
  • San Rafael 17
    San Rafael 17
  • San Rafael 18
    San Rafael 18
  • Miguel Hernandez Tax 19
    Miguel Hernandez Tax 19

Our first visit was with the crocheters of San Marcos La Laguna (slides 1-5) on Lake Atitlan, renowned for their beautiful MayaWorks’ kippot. The group is comprised of about 25-30 women and one man, Bruno, who designs and crochets beautiful bags. We spent an hour introducing ourselves and sharing a bit of our lives. We learned that the women are now earning enough money so they can send their children to school. Our next visit was with the beaders of San Pedro (slide 6), also on Lake Atitlan. They make the intricate beaded mezzuzot (as well as Christmas ornaments) for MayaWorks. Our last visit on Lake Atitlan was another group of crocheters (slides 7-8). They surprised Jeannie Balanda of MayaWorks with 5 new kippot designs that they created on their own! We were all impressed and can’t wait for them to hit the market! Next was the village of Chiriquiac (slides 9-12) in the western highlands near Quetzaltenango. This group of 16 women is very skilled and does several types of weaving as well as embroidery for Mayan Hands. We watched them embroider the word “Shabbat” on woven challah covers and “Pesach” on matzah covers. In our conversation with them we learned that most of them were married between 14-18 years of age. The money they earn is used for food, clothes, and school supplies for their children. One of the trip highlights was meeting Lila Carmen Rosario and the other women of Tzanjuyu near Comalapa (slides 13-15); Lila helped design and has woven all of MayaWorks’ tallitot. Her daughter is already a skilled weaver at the age of 16. Our last visit was with the artisans of San Rafael (slides 16-18) near Salama and Rabinal. These women are master weavers on the backstrap loom, an ancient tradition handed down from generation to generation of Mayan families. We watched them weave the challah covers and bookmarks for Mayan Hands, and were able to explain the meaning of Shabbat and its rituals. An unexpected delight was meeting Miguel Hernandez Tax (slide 19), whose wife cooked a delicious meal for us!

Art of Weaving, Crocheting and Beading

  • Weavings for sale 01
    Weavings for sale 01
  • Tallit on the loom 02Tallit on the loom 02
  • Lila and the long foot loom 03Lila and the long foot loom 03
  • Tallit - complete and in process 04Tallit – complete and in process 04
  • Miguel threading yarn 05Miguel threading yarn 05
  • Colored yarn 06Colored yarn 06
  • Miguel showing outline 07Miguel showing outline 07
  • Big loom 08Big loom 08
  • Miguel working the foot loom 09Miguel working the foot loom 09
  • Shuttles 10Shuttles 10
  • Backstrap challah cover 11Backstrap challah cover 11
  • Weaving challah cover 12Weaving challah cover 12
  • Backstrap bookmark 13Backstrap bookmark 13
  • Ikat drying in the street 14Ikat drying in the street 14
  • Separating ikat threads 15Separating ikat threads 15
  • Ikat loom 16Ikat loom 16
  • Ikat process 17Ikat process 17
  • Kippa crocheting 18Kippa crocheting 18
  • Group cricheting kippot 19Group cricheting kippot 19
  • New kippah design 20New kippah design 20
  • Variety of kippot 21Variety of kippot 21
  • Beading mezzuzot 22Beading mezzuzot 22

One of the first things you notice throughout Guatemala is the peoples’ love of color (slide 1). Each community/region is known for its particular colors and styles of huipiles (women’s tops). Lila (slides 2-4) also uses a large foot treddle loom for her tallitot; it takes at least 12 hours to weave a tallit and another 5 to prepare the yarn and loom. You can see a finished tallit compared to what Lila is working on. Miguel (slides 5-10) is an accomplished weaver who works from home. We enjoyed seeing his creativity in using a bicycle wheel to thread his yarn. He designs his weavings initially on graph paper, and then translates that to the large foot looms he weaves on. The backstrap loom (slides 11-13) is one of the world’s oldest forms, passed from one generation to the next. One end of the loom is attached to a fixed object and the other to the weaver; by leaning back and using their body weight they create the tension for the loom; here you see one of Mayan Hands’ challah covers being woven. One of the most intricate processes is involved with ikat (jaspe in Guatemala-slides 14-17) used in countries around the world. It is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that involves a resist dyeing process similar to tie dye, but used on individual yarns before weaving. It involves at least 17 different steps and requires constant adjustment by the weaver to assure that the pattern is revealed accurately in the weaving process. Crocheting kippot (slides 18-21) is a more adaptable skill as it can be done almost everywhere, although constant awareness is required to follow the specific pattern. It takes almost 4 hours to make one kippah. The MayaWorks’ kippot crocheters have become expert enough that they are now creating new designs on their own. Another artistic skill is demonstrated by beaders (slide 22), who weave these tiny pieces of glass into beautiful mezzuzot.

Mayan Culture and History

  • Coffee beans drying 01
    Coffee beans drying 01
  • Drying peppers 02Drying peppers 02
  • Drying corn 03Drying corn 03
  • Pedro telling the Mayan creation story 04Pedro telling the Mayan creation story 04
  • Pedro and Deborah 05Pedro and Deborah 05
  • Shaman at Iximche 06Shaman at Iximche 06
  • Iximche Shaman 07Iximche Shaman 07
  • Church candles 08Church candles 08
  • Natural remedies in the market 09Natural remedies in the market 09

Traveling around Guatemala, you are consistently reminded of the agricultural season. While we were there in late January-early February, we saw people drying coffee beans, chili peppers, and corn on the sidewalks and in their yards (slides 1-3). A highlight of the trip was meeting Pedro Guoron Ajquijay (slides 4-5) who used to work with the Ministry of Education and is now working to revitalize Mayan culture. He shared the Mayan creation story with us, and we learned that gratitude, seeking opportunities to improve oneself, and living a good useful existence are major themes. We then spent some time at Iximche Ruins (slides 6-7), a holy place to the Mayan, and were blessed to witness a shaman leading a sacred ritual. These candles (slide 8) were lit inside a Catholic church, where Mayans also go for Sunday morning services. People still depend on natural healing remedies, which can be found in the local markets (slide 9).

Other Trip Highlights

  • Chichi produce market 01
    Chichi produce market 01
  • Chichi weights and measures 02Chichi weights and measures 02
  • Chichi embroidery 03Chichi embroidery 03
  • Lime for tortillas 04Lime for tortillas 04
  • Music in the plaza 05Music in the plaza 05
  • Jeannie sharing gifts 06Jeannie sharing gifts 06
  • Pumpkin seed and chili pepper sauce 07Pumpkin seed and chili pepper sauce 07
  • Our favorite meal 08Our favorite meal 08
  • View of Lake Atitlan 09View of Lake Atitlan 09
  • Atitlan volcanoes 10Atitlan volcanoes 10
  • Lake Atitlan at dusk 11Lake Atitlan at dusk 11
  • Hotel hammocks 12Hotel hammocks 12
  • Biotopo orchid 13Biotopo orchid 13
  • Biotopo waterfall 14Biotopo waterfall 14
  • Chicken bus and tuktuk 15Chicken bus and tuktuk 15
  • Glass divided by color 16Glass divided by color 16
  • Finished glass products 17Finished glass products 17
  • Using recycled bottles 18Using recycled bottles 18

A trip to Guatemala is not complete unless you attend the Thursday or Sunday market in Chichicastenango (slides 1-4). Although many tourists attend, it is a regional market where local Mayans purchase vegetables, flowers, and even lime for making their tortillas. This woman is even doing her embroidery while waiting for customers. We heard live music (slide 5) in one of the plazas as we walked through the markets. It was a blessing to bring and share gifts with the artisans and their families (slide 6). We were treated to two home cooked meals by the artisans (slides 7-8), including a yummy sauce made from grinding pumpkin seeds and chili, homemade blackberry juice, and tamales. Lake Atitlan (slides 9-12) was one of the most beautiful places we visited, with the clouds and volcanoes playing hide and seek with each other. And, our hotel, had an entire line of hammocks to relax in, night or day! A special treat was going for a walk in the Biotopo Quetzal reserve (slides 13-14) where we saw beautiful plants shrouded in the moist dampness, known as “chippy-chippy”. The ever present “chicken” buses and tuktuks used for local transporation (slide 15). Deborah Chandler of Mayan Hands introduced us to an artisan cooperative running a recycled glass factory (slides 16-17); Fair Trade Judaica is talking with them about a possible Kiddush cup and candle holder set for Shabbat. We were inspired by the creative use of recycled plastic bottles (slide 18), used both for infrastructure and design.

FTJ Trip Participants

  • Tu B'shvat baskets 01Tu B’shvat baskets 01
  • Ilene choosing fabric 02Ilene choosing fabric 02
  • Gary and a local boy 03Gary and a local boy 03
  • Antigua lunch stop 04Antigua lunch stop 04
  • Carol checking out weaving yarn 05Carol checking out weaving yarn 05
  • Judith learning how to thread 06Judith learning how to thread 06
  • Barbara with her new weaving 07Barbara with her new weaving 07
  • Making tortillas 08Making tortillas 08
  • Joel leading Erev Shabbat services 09Joel leading Erev Shabbat services 09
  • Final group photo 10Final group photo 10

We had a fabulous group of 13 participants, in addition to the wise and gracious counsel of Jeannie Balanda of MayaWorks and Deborah Chandler of Mayan Hands, as well as their other staff. We gather for our first evening together (slide 1), wrapping up platters of dried fruit for Tu B’shvat to share with the Jewish community. Ilene is appreciating and choosing fabric to bring home for a sewing project. Gary, our group photographer, is showing some photos to one of the children. We’re enjoying a delicious lunch outside in the perfect weather. Carol is checking out the beautiful colored yarn at Miguel’s place, while Judith is trying to thread the yarn on the home fashioned bicycle machine. Barbara is enjoying her new Mayan weaving. We’re helping to make tortillas for lunch! Cantor Joel Bressler leading a final Erev Shabbat service in the cloud forest. The whole group, happy and exhausted at the end of our 10 day trip together.