Meet the Artisans of El Salvador
People of Hope Crafts' coordinator travels to El Salvador every year to work with our artisan groups on product development. This is a brief description of part of her visit last January, when she traveled to Guarjila.There I was, sitting on the plane anticipating yet another exciting visit with the artisans! The sunset from the window was just amazing. What a way to start yet another exciting journey!I was looking forward to spending one-on-one time with the artisans. The first of many stops would be to the town of Guarjila, located in the northern mountainous region of Chelatenango. During the 1980's, there was heavy presence of the civil war in this town and the hills surrounding. Almost every Salvadoran of Guarjila has an emotional story to tell of how the war affected them and their loved ones. Today citizens of Guarjila are also banning together to try and stop Pacific Rim from mining in the hills surrounding their village. If mining does take place, it would compromise the health of the people and beauty of the village. The struggles continue, but Guarjila's pride and strength moves forward.Arriving in Guarjila, the paved highway quickly led to a nice and even dirt road, then to a heavy pot-holed road. We slowed the truck down and took the pot-holes as they came. We then stopped at a cute, colorful home. Entering through the front gate I was greeted by two puppies who ran to my feet with excitement. Morena, the coordinator of the artisan group of Guarjila, greeted me with one big "abrazo" (hug).Almost immediately after arriving, I was offered a meal of Salvadoran food, not shy of quantity. The meal included rice, beans, vegetable and meat. I enjoyed the food and conversation equally in the company of Morena and her lovely family.The next morning we headed to the artisan workshop. The women were very excited that I would be working with them that week. I brought with me to the village a pattern for a new style wrap skirt and some embroidery design ideas. The women also had many ideas of their own. Before arriving I thought I might teach them how to sew this wrap skirt, but oh boy was I wrong! The women took the skirt right from my hands and duplicated another, equally the same. What talent! Upon returning from El Salvador, I am reminded of the importance that the crafts program has in the sustainable livelihood of the artisans. All of the artisans with whom we work always receive an up-front payment upon placement of an order, are paid fairly, have safe working conditions and are provided with capacity building tools and technical assistance when needed. I truly feel grateful to be a part of such an extraordinary program.