Meet Elena

Meet Elena

Meet Elena

Friendship Bridge client since 2014; part of Handmade by Friendship Bridge® since 2016

Elena, a Tz'utujil Maya woman, lives in the western highlands of Guatemala, on the outskirts of San Juan La Laguna. She helped her parents with the household income by weaving as well as attending to household chores. She only attended school for five years and was part of a family with seven siblings.


The Artisan’s History

Elena’s mother taught her to weave at age eight and she became skilled at creating shawls, scarves, blouses, and other textiles items. She, like many other indigenous Maya women weavers, incorporates Ikat patterns into her products—signature textile designs created using a specific technique in which threads on the loom are tie-dyed before weaving. She’s also adept at the art of natural dyeing, also a craft practiced among the ancient Maya, and knows how to use tree bark, seeds, plants, and insects to create a wide range of colors.

The Friendship Bridge Impact

Elena decided to start her own textile business after working in a restaurant for many years, which helped her learn what products were popular among tourists. The same year, she joined Friendship Bridge, and the loan she acquired allowed her to purchase supplies for her business. Because of her work, she can afford to keep her children in school and make improvements to her house. She’s proud that her daughters are bilingual in English and Spanish, which has afforded them more professional job opportunities as young adults. Once, she participated with a group of women in the Women's Office of the City Hall in San Juan La Laguna, where the mayor invited her to represent her neighborhood. Together with other women, she helped identify opportunities for the artisan sector. 


Elena is always seeking new designs for her business, and hopes to continually help the indigenous Maya to become more prosperous. She believes that more women should participate in decision-making spaces. She has the continued goal of supporting her family and allowing her children to stay in school.

Will you donate to support our artisans?

When you donate by July 31, your donation will be matched by a generous $3k distribution from the Marilyn Lone Endowment for Artisans.