Meet Team Mexico, our newest fair trade artisan partners. In the spring of 2017, Joy moved to Mexico to work with artisans, seeking to create jobs for women in rural areas without access to economic opportunity. We built partnerships with women's cooperatives in three areas: Oaxaca, the poorest state in Mexico but rich with artisan talent; Taxco, the silver capital of the world; and Mexico City, a trendy, design-driven metro..
Our partners in Taxco are masters of metallic jewelry, working in sterling silver, gold, brass, and alpaca silver. The city of Taxco exports tons of silver jewelry to the U.S., but it's almost entirely made by men. This artisan cooperative works with women in the villages outside of Taxco. There are currently 12 women that are a part of this group, primarily single mothers. Some were taught the craft while growing up by their fathers, others were taught by other women in the group. Regardless, the tradition of silversmithing in these small villages goes back generations, and it is the livelihood of most people in the area. Most artisans never learned to read or write, so their options for upward mobilization are limited. Working with this cooperative, the women are able to export their products at fair prices, as well as work from their own homes where they can care for their children. It's difficult work, but these women do it with so much pride!
Oaxaca City and its surrounding villages are bursting with colors from the many traditional crafts made in the area. We work with a women's cooperative in a village about half hour outside of town which employs 15 women weavers. The entire village is comprised of weavers, yet most work for pennies doing their meticulous and exhausting work, so it's especially important that we ensure fair trade practices (including fair pay!) when working with these women. Unlike other countries where weaving is a skill reserved for women, in Mexico, weaving is known as a "man's job" because it requires so much upper body strength. The women in this cooperative are strong, creative, and get the work done! This cooperative is doing amazing things for their community; in addition to paying fair wages and ensuring good working conditions for the artisans, this group also uses profits on projects to do things like donate supplies to the local school (there are just 15 students!). They make baskets filled with necessities for single mothers going through hard times, and they've purchased garbage cans that are all over their small villages (a big deal, given there isn't an organized trash program).
Mexico City is a bustling place-- it's one of the largest cities in the world. Amazing street food, an incredible design scene, and culture-packed everywhere you look. We work with an organization in the heart of the city; they're located near one of the cutest coffee shops in town. A two-story building with a shop on bottom and the workshop above, it's a beautiful place to work and a fun spot to visit! Here, 13 women (and 3 men) work together to create stunning clothing pieces. All design work is done in the shop, as well as the construction of the actual garment pieces. It's a light, airy, beautiful workshop, and the artisans are always coming up with new designs! We're excited to partner with this group on our first clothing line-- they're quality pieces that can go from office to cocktail hour.
Products from Team Mexico will be coming to the site soon!
Paula lives in Tecapulco, a village outside of Taxco, Mexico. She lives in a small but well-kept yellow home with bright purple flowers outside. She lives downstairs, and her daughter (and granddaughter!) live upstairs. Their workshop is right next door, where they make beautiful pieces from stone and silver. Paula knows that not many women do the work she does, and she attributes her skills to her father, who taught her silversmithing at a young age. Now, she makes it her goal to teach other women, and make sure that the profitable Mexican silver industry is benefiting women in her town, too. Her granddaughter, Frida, is adorable; running around outside and playing with the dogs and cats-- she can be a distraction from their work, but a welcomed one! Paula's motto: "Everything is possible."
Berta (pictured second from right) lives in Taxco el Viejo, a village outside of Taxco, Mexico. She lives in a two-room cement home with her husband and 3 children. Years ago, her husband made the journey to the US looking for work, hoping to build a better life for his family. Coming to the US illegally, however, is a very, very dangerous journey, and he was badly injured in the process (before making it to the border). Because of this injury, he's now completely paralyzed, unable to work, though he guards the community bathrooms during the days. Berta was hit with a hard reality, that she alone would need to provide for her whole family, and without an education. She learned silversmithing from the artisan cooperative, and now has been working with them for 10 years. "Not many women do the work that we do. We support each other so we can all have a better life." - Berta