"My hope is that we can live in a better world where women are always respected and loved (...) because one day she may stop producing, but she'll never cease to be what she is, a Woman."
Yama Aj Chixot Artisan Group was started by women from San Juan Comalapa in the year 2000. In the Maya Kaqchiquel language, Aj Chixot means "from Comalapa," but Chi Xot also means comal a smooth griddle we use to make tortillas, and it makes reference to the shape of their village: round with a drop in the center.
"The Yama part of our name is actually 'Maya' spelt backwards, and we did it to stand out from most groups featuring Maya in their name," says Mirian Otzin, who heads the group.
"I grew up in Comalapa, just like most of the women in the group. It is a village of humble means where families are large, on average seven members per family. Women start teaching their daughters how to weave when they are 10 years old. As we grow up and have daughters ourselves, we teach them too so the tradition never ends. This is also we ensure that the weaving techniques of Comalapa are preserved.
"When I realized that people did indeed like what I wove, I ventured out looking for a place to sell my creations. That’s when I changed from using the back strap loom to the pedal loom to save on costs. It was a challenge for me to make this switch because the pedal loom is usually only used by men, and women are expected to use only the back strap loom.
"As a women's group we have received different training courses in order to improve our quality so that our products are valued as more than a piece of cloth. We have purchased sewing machines so we can offer a better finish for our bags, purses, and other items.
"My dream is to be able to help other women, be able to guide them and tell them that life is always filled with ups and downs. But that no matter how complicated problems can be, there is always a tomorrow to fix them.
"My hope is that we can live in a better world where women are always respected and loved, not because of what she produces, but for what she is, because one day she may stop producing, but she'll never cease to be what she is, a Woman.
"I remember the first time I went to a building in Guatemala City – it was the first time I had used an elevator and when it started to move I screamed so loud! All the people in the elevator looked at me and started to laugh, which made me feel so embarrassed but the only thing I could do at that moment was to laugh too.
"To me, in order to become successful, it is very important to be able to help one another. That's why we are part of a group. For example, once one of the women was struggling with a particular weaving technique and was disappointed that she couldn't do it on her own. Another member of the group offered to help and taught her how to do it in a way that was easier for her to understand. She was patient with her, and now this woman has become experienced in so many different techniques! She now teaches others, understanding first-hand how frustrating it could be when learning something new. To share what we know so that we can help each other out is one of the greatest gifts we can give if we set our minds to it.
"We are a group of women from a Kaqchiquel community in search of our own social and economic empowerment, so that we may break the cycle of poverty that has been affecting us for several generations. Thanks to the art we share, we can have more benefits and sow seeds for our children to reap."