Joyful Finds

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Way back we spent a lovely week exploring San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.  Home to both local craftsman as well as foreign artists San Cristobal is a shopper’s dream.  Tom and I definitely did our share of perusing the markets but our best find comes from Bela who showed us the most amazing shawl in modern colours.

Often the Mayan fabric, thought intricate and impressive, has pretty brash colours, at least to my eye, so when I saw a hand-woven scarf with rich purples mixed with bright lime greens and tiny details of teal I was interested to find out who made them.  Leave it to the French to track down a women’s co-operative of weavers, suggest a few modern colour combinations and, as they say, Voila!  Amazing fabrics in great colours.  Bela explained where the co-op was (well sort of) and we decided to track it down before we left.

On a whim, after returning from a visit to San Juan Chamula, I pulled Tom off the bus in the middle of nowhere convinced that the co-op was close at hand.  The soccer field and a white building where the two main landmarks Bela mentioned and after a bit of aimless wandering a group of construction workers pointed us in the right direction.

We arrived to a few small buildings, a play park and a couple of cars.  We poked around and were greeted by friendly gal who took us straight to the stock room.  Shelves from floor to ceiling were jam-packed with thousands of scarves, table linens, bags, tea-towels and shawls. It was pretty overwhelming and even more overwhelming to think every item was woven by hand, thread by thread.  We treated ourselves to a few things.

Scarf
Modern Colours

Jolom Mayaetik, meaning “Mayan Women Weavers”, is a co-operative made up of 250 women from 11 different communities within the Chiapas Highlands.  A group of three women from each community form a General Assembly. The General assembly represents the co-op with different organizations in both Mexico and other parts of the world.  The women in Jolom Mayaetik are trained on the back-strap loom as well as the pedal loom and, for some, the sewing machine.  Many of the women receive training in book-keeping, administration and design.

Backstrap Loom
The products at this collective are by far some of the nicest weavings I have seen thus far.  Expect to pay fair prices, quite a bit more than in the markets.  You can check them out here (though the link seems to be down at the moment) or if you are in San Cristobal take a bus to La Quinta San Martin, get off at San Martin, walk to the right until you come to a big white house.

Te Chirrepeco

As a lover of tea (especially chai), I was pretty ecstatic when Krista mentioned a cinnamon tea grown on a local cooperative in Guatemala. At her suggestion I asked our lovely host mom, Sonia, if she might be able to tell me where to buy Te Chirrepeco, and she was quick to tell me that she would buy and prepare it for Tom and I. I tried my best to dissuade her from actually buying the tea but she refused to listen—and every morning till the day we left there was piping hot cinnamony-goodness waiting for us!

This little box makes twelve cups of tea and costs about twenty cents. All that’s required is to boil some water with a few cinnamon sticks, add a few leaves and let it steep for a while. Not only does it taste amazing but, according to the cooperative website, some of the health properties include:

1. Strengthens mental capacity
2. Increases energy
3. It eliminates the bodies absorption of heavy metals like lead and mercury
4. Helps to reduce cholesterol levels
5. Contributes to the decrease in uric acid and much more

It is an absolutely divine tea and great for cold mornings in Xela. If you are interested if buying some I believe you should be able to order it here.

One of the reason for Joyful Finds is to try and discover items different from the typical tourist paraphernalia…really one can only buy so many beaded necklaces. While in San Marcos I noticed some scarves made by a company called Lento, I admired them but decided not to buy one. Then, in Antigua, I stumbled across the Lento store so we stopped in to check it out.

Created by a group of Italian women in collaboration with a group of Mayan women, the Lento products are coloured using Mayan dyeing techniques. The 100% natural dyes are sourced from plants found in the Lago Atitlan area.

I decided to make a purchase right around Christmas time and chose this lovely grey bag. It even fits my Digital SLR so I don’t have to carry around my geeky camera bag!

Ahh… the taste of home, it’s been a few years. No doubt there’s probably some completely justified North American trade agreements protecting their dairy industry, but when it comes to the fat of the land I’m obliged to get my own flag out.

I was extolling the virtues of butter before it was unfashionable and a devoted supporter through the tough times, the ‘marge’ years, so when studies fell in favour of butter fairly recently I felt somewhat vindicated.

Imagine my joy to find good old New Zealand butter sold in the smallest of shops in Guatemala. Good on ya Anchor! …’it tastes a lot better with a little [nz] butter’.

While we were in Mexico city we were lucky enough to spend some time with Fabi, a great gal who just happens to work in PR for one of Mexico’s up and coming designers (yes, I know how amazing is that!).

One of the first things I noticed was Fabi’s really awesome ring…I was in love with it the moment I saw it and, lucky for me, it happened to be designed by Paola Hernadez, the designer she works for. Fabi invited us to the showroom which was pretty cool and it was there, in the actual showroom, that I bought the amazing black rose ring.

The ring comes in a few other colours but since black goes with everything I figured that was the best choice. It is pretty comfy to wear, though having a ring sit on two fingers does take a little getting used to, and it is very cool to have such and unusual ring by a Mexican designer!

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