San Juan La Laguna on Lake Atitlán is famed for its weaving and this women’s textile cooperative uses natural dyes to create its handwoven fabrics. It is one of around 30 such groups, with memberships averaging about 35 women each who mostly work from home.
Guatemala – Been There

By Central America's deepest lake, these women weave for life

Photo by Ton Koene

Guatemala – Been There By Central America's deepest lake, these women weave for life

Plunging 340 meters, Atitlán in Guatemala is the deepest lake in Central America and has been compared to Italy’s Lake Como for beauty.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

On an overcast day, admittedly also common in Northern Italy, that description is a bit of a stretch but it is certainly a dramatic sight as the road winds down to it. A boat trip across the lake to Santiago Atitlán reveals more of its charm, with heavily wooded shores and dramatic glimpses of cloud-wrapped volcanic peaks.

The Maya people here wear more subdued colors than in nearby Chichicastenango, with the men sporting cowboy hats and rubber boots, a form of dress that reflects the number of men who go to Texas to find work. “The economic situation in Guatemala makes life hard for women so we decided to start this project to make some money for our family and our kids,” says Maria Francisca Hernandez, who is president of the Heart of the Lake Community Association, a weaving co-operative of 33 women.

“Anyone can join as long as they work hard. We weave at home because we have to take care of the family, cook and look after the house. When we sell anything, 90 per cent goes to the woman who makes it, while the rest goes to pay taxes and the running costs of the shops, marketing and so on. Our men work in the corn and coffee fields and make about $4 a day. That’s not enough to live on.”

She tells me their biggest problem is finding customers. “We produce a lot of goods but don’t have the people to buy it,” she says. “We need good roads first, so we can get out to market, and also a university so our children do not have to travel to Guatemala City. University costs about $60 a month and that takes too much of our income. We want to study, but it is difficult when it costs so much.”

Take me to Lake Atitlán!

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