Friendship Bridge client for five years.
In addition to having one of the largest and most colorful markets in Central America, Chichicastenango is known for its hardworking men and women and K’iche Mayan culture. It is located about 90 miles from the capital, Guatemala City, and has 85 communities within it. Agricultural and artisanal production are among the most prevalent economic activities in the area. Among the artisanal products, one may find looms; figures and drawings; bags; wallets; toys; hammocks; clothes; musical instruments; masks; wooden furniture; baskets; palm hats; leather products such as shoes, bags, hats; jewelry; and candles. For thousands of years, the locals have passed the wisdom about handicraft production from generation to generation. That is how Martina, 41 years old and a mother of six, learned the craft.
Martina's childhood was divided between learning to weave alongside her mother, supporting her father in crafts, and doing other domestic work. In addition to this, she and her seven siblings (four sisters and three brothers) were in charge of hauling water from the river to her house, as there was no running water at her home. Martina's mother was a seamstress and weaver, her father a craftsman and merchant. Her father made all kinds of bags and traveled to the Chichicastenango market to sell his products. Being the second-oldest daughter, Martina had an obligation to accompany him to the market several times a week to help, but this time commitment prevented her from continuing her studies - she completed three years of formal education. Moreover, her father - like many men in such cultures still dominated by machismo - did not see the value in education for girls. Martina laments not having been able to study more; she now realizes the importance of education.
Through the countless trips to the market, Martina learned to sell, to deal with customers, to realize which products sold well and which did not. She also witnessed her father buy his raw material. At home, she continued fine-tuning her skills in sewing and embroidery with the help of her mother.
The prospect of changing her future for the better led Martina to make the decision to marry Manuel when she was just 16. She then realized that her decision to marry was not so wise, as she still had lots to learn when it came to housework. At the age of 18, she had her first child. Her husband did a lot of sewing and also worked jobs for others in the community. Martina continued with her production with diverse fabrics and sold them in order to support her family.
Martina always had aspirations to expand her business and make it sustainable so that it would support her financially in the near future as well as for the rest of her life. With the intention of investing in her business, Martina joined Friendship Bridge for the first time in 2016. The Facilitator told her about the benefits she would have, including all that she would learn. Martina's first loan was for Q3,000, and this helped her buy raw materials. The loan also allowed Martina to fulfill one of her dreams of owning a sewing machine (today, she owns four such machines!). With a new work tool and sufficient capital, Martina was advancing in her business.
In 2016, Martina was invited to be part of Handmade by Friendship Bridge®. Although she was not familiar with all of the requirements, she was excited and thankful for the opportunity to participate. In this program, she has learned about budgeting, measurements, color schemes, and international market requirements. Previously, Martina had worked with decorative randa seams, but she did not have a good color scheme - thus, the trainings proved beneficial. With increased levels of production and a greater variety of products, Martina was acquiring more and more customers - so much growth prompted her husband to stop working for other people and to instead support her.
Together, Martina and her husband are currently partners in the business. Her husband has been understanding throughout the process, and he sees the benefits that Martina reaps by being part of Friendship Bridge and Handmade by Friendship Bridge®. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Martina had a craft shop in the Chichicastenango market, but they had to close to save money. They hope to be able to buy the space again soon. Among the products that Martina produces are bed covers, bags, pot holders, purses, and more.
In addition to loans and training, Martina has received home visits from nurses for her medical exams through the Health for Life program. She feels at peace knowing she is in a state of good health.
Martina has three daughters and three sons.
Martina and her husband currently have no additional employees.