Solutions from Within

David Feurerbach was a Natik intern during the summer of 2016, between his junior and senior year at Denver University, in the International Studies Department.  His job was to document all our projects in Guatemala and Chiapas through photographs and videos. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with all of Natik’s programs…

I grabbed a chair and sat down behind the camera, ready to start the video interview with Doña Magdalena. We were seated in the kitchen of her home in Zinacantán, a small, indigenous, Mayan town tucked away in the mountains outside of San Cristobal.

Doña Magdalena was seated in front of me, wearing the traditional clothing of Zinacantán, the colorful flowers stitched into the purple fabric around the neckline. I turned the camera on and started recording, making sure that it could pick up Doña Magdalena’s voice over the crackling of the fire burning in the wood stove next to us, which was slow cooking the strips of meat hanging above it. I asked her if she was ready to begin. She smiled, nodded her head, and then began to tell me the story of Mujeres Sembrando la Vida.

Doña Magdalena’s story is an impressive one. When her husband died about 15 years ago, she was left with four daughters and no means of supporting them. At the time, she spoke very little Spanish, as the main language in Zinacantán is Tzotzil. However, with a desire to provide her daughters with the opportunities that she never had, she searched for options. Like many of the women in Zinacantán, Doña Magdalena had practiced weaving since she was a child. Textiles are an important part of the culture of Zinacantán, and the works that are made there are extremely impressive. Because of this, the market for textiles from the community had already existed.

Doña Magdalena recognized the potential in this market, and she recognized that she had the opportunity to not only help herself and her daughters, but also the community of Zinacantán at large. Thus, while teaching herself Spanish, Doña Magdalena began the process of bringing together weavers from Zinacantán to form a cooperative to make and sell these textiles. The cooperative, after years of hard work, has become Mujeres Sembrando la Vida. Today, Mujeres Sembrando la Vida employs many women in Zinacantán and also in the surrounding communities. It empowers women to earn a source of income and to help support their families. And it all began when one woman recognized a need in her community and developed an idea to initiate positive change.