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March 04, 2020 5 min read

Love Is Project photographer Anna Watts recently visited San Antonio village in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, to better get to know some of the artisans that we work with. Here are their stories:

Carolina, Claudia, and Wendy

These three sisters are all artisans working with Love Is Project in San Antonio Palopó in Guatemala. From left to right: C​arolina Sicajan Sicay​ (the eldest), ​Claudia Marisol Sicajan​ (the youngest), and ​Wendy Elizabeth Sicajan​, photographed in the home they share.

Love Is Project artisans Carolina, Claudia and Wendy, live in San Antonio village along with their mother, Wendy’s husband, and their 5-year old daughter, Ruth. Their father passed away, so they all pitch in to support their mother. Wendy’s husband is a driver in Guatemala City, which means she only sees him about once a month. 

Carolina, Claudia, and Wendy have been weaving simple bracelets since they were very young. When Wendy was 12 years old, the family bought their first foot loom so that they could begin to make and sell woven hair wraps (cintas) that the indigenous women of San Antonio use. They also began making bracelets that were sold to tourists on the street. Over time, they learned how to weave clothing (traje) and embroider.

A year ago, the sisters began working with Love Is Project. Learning how to make LOVE bracelets was challenging for them at first because they had never woven letters onto bracelets before. Out of 25 women who were initially trained to make these bracelets, the sisters were the only three women added to the team. No other artisans were able to pass the quality tests.

Little by little, we were able to overcome obstacles in order to make the bracelets,” Wendy shared. “We needed the work. For us, it was an obstacle, and a goal that we were able to achieve.

Photo left: A foot loom that the three sisters use to weave. ​Photo right: Wendy watches Carolina use a tiny handheld loom. All of them learned how to weave on this loom when they were very young girls.

 

What does love mean to you?

For me, love is work. If I work, I am able to take care of my family and be happy. If I don’t have money, I can’t buy things for my daughter or for me. But when I do my work with love, I make a living and I live a better life. For me, this is love.” - Wendy

For me, love is a word that means a lot of different things for our lives. The people that ask for orders so that we can make bracelets, we send a lot of love to them because it is work that helps us not only a little, but a lot—we are now able to feed ourselves and take care of ourselves day in and day out. So, the word LOVE fills us with a lot of happiness and satisfaction.” - Claudia

“​Love means a lot to me because we have work and we earn what we need for our family. This is what love is for us, because it has helped us a lot. It is also the family.” - Carolina

Grupo Chosij 

Above, from left to right: ​Leticia Carolina Perez,​ 18 years old, and ​Rosa Perez Sicay,​ 33 years old, are artisans in ​Grupo Chosij​. They make bracelets for Love Is Project. Rosa has been working with Love Is Project for two years and Leti is the newest addition to the team, joining just two months ago.

 

What does love mean to you?

Love is to love the person next to you, to love God—all of this.” - Rosa

Love is a very beautiful feeling because love also exists in friendship, in family, in a partnership (like with your boyfriend), for your neighbor, in kindness—this is what love is for me.” - Leticia

From left to right: ​Angela Sicajan​, ​Ofelia Calabay​, ​Cristina Aquilo​, and ​Juana Miriam Calabay Perez​ (the president of the entire artisan group working with Love Is Project). Front: ​Daniela​, 5, Juana’s daughter.

 

Artisan names again, left to right: ​Ofelia Calabay, Juana Calabay Perez,​ her daughter ​Daniela, Cristina Aquilo​, and​ Angela Sicajan​.

Artisans Angela, Ofelia, Cristina and Juana began working with Love Is Project two years ago. They call themselves “Grupo Chosij.” Chosij means “place of rocks” in Kaqchikel, a reference to the community of San Antonio. The group has since grown to include nine artisans (Juana, Angela, Ofelia, Cristina, Leti, Rosa, Wendy, Claudia, and Carolina). Juana is the president of the group and has been for the past two years. Her sister, Ofelia, is also an artisan in the group.

Juana has the most children—three in total, two older boys and one daughter, Daniela. Cristina is the only other artisan in the group with a child. She has a 2-year-old boy, Juan. For both Cristina and Juana, part of their motivation to work is putting their children through school. With the earnings they receive from Love Is Project, this goal has become much more attainable for them.

My wish for my son is that he has the opportunity to study so that he can become something more in his life. This is my great wish in my life—my greatest wish for my child is education,” said Cristina.

Most of the women have known how to weave since they were five years old. They were taught by their mothers. Juana said she loved it when she first learned to weave because it was like a game to her—it was fun. Juana is now continuing the tradition by teaching her five-year-old daughter, Daniela, how to weave. Daniella also loves making bracelets. 

Working with Love Is Project has helped these artisans to also learn new weaving techniques, like making letters. They enjoy the challenge of learning and weaving something new.

Before working with Love Is Project, the artisans were weavingguipiles (a traditional blouse worn by indigenous women) and selling their goods on the street. This meant that their wages were much less stable, since they needed to succeed at both weaving and sales. As Cristina said, “Before we began to work with Love Is Project, our work was a little difficult. We both had to weave and sell and, every time, we had doubts about whether we would be able to make a sale that day or not. Now, we are sure that our work will sell. Our work is now stable.

This change has meant a lot to the group, because it means that their earnings solely depend on how much they work within a day. As a result, they have much more control over their income and feel more secure. For Juana, this means that continuing to keep her children in school is actually attainable. She has the funds needed to both keep her children in school and provide for their basic needs.

What does love mean to you?

​“For me, love means that I love my work, my family, my children, and my friends. This is love.” - Juana

To me, it means the love I have for my mother, my brother, my group [of artisans], and other things. Love is the feeling I have making [Love Is Project] bracelets.” - Ofelia

Love means a lot to me. Love is to love my mother, my work, God, and my town. This is what love means to me, only this.” - Angela

For me, love has a lot of meaning. It is the love for my son, for my mother, and my family. I love them. Love means a lot—it means to love everything, to love my work, and the friends that I work with. This is what it means to me.” - Cristina

When asked, ​who do you love?​ “My mama, and my brothers, and my dolls.” - Daniela 

Daniela, 5, and her mother, Juana, the president of Grupo Chosij. Daniela is using a tiny handheld loom where she is learning to weave for the first time. Her mother also learned how to weave on the same loom at age 5.

 

By Anna Watts

 


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