My journey to see and talk with the Mayan artisans who create some of the beautiful jewelry and scarves I sell on Fair Trade Designs began with a 2-day stop in Antigua. No artisans here in this centuries-old Spanish colonial town. But plenty of young girls and women selling a vast variety of handicrafts.
“Buy for yourself?” as they held out their arms adorned with their wares. If I said no thanks, they’d eye my husband. “Husband pay?” When that didn’t generate a response, we’d hear, “Buy for your friends? Buy for your enemies?”
It pulls on my heartstrings. Poverty is rampant here. But because I know I’ll be buying from the Mayan women responsible for my products, who live in the Lake Atitlan area, I have to say no.
Antigua is a striking city of magnificent architecture, most of which is in ruins. Earthquakes in past centuries toppled the grand churches, convents, and palatial homes of the conquistadors. Some are slowly being restored, at least partially.
All the action in Antigua takes place in and around the Central Park. Our two days here saw 3 parades, one for forest conservation, one for schools, one for a saint. Guatemalans celebrate anything and everything by setting off gigantic firecrackers that sound exactly like bombs going off.
Massive thunderstorms greet every afternoon here, accompanied by torrential downpours. Coming from ultra-dry California, we actually are enjoying them.
We leave Sunday afternoon for Lake Atitlan, for 4 days of artisan workshop visits. Stay tuned!