We are now back in San Juan La Laguna to make grant presentations to the last 2 women´s group that will receive grants for 2009 from Education And More.
We met with Ajbatz’ Bal’ today – a group of 26 women artisans of Tz’utujil Mayan heritage. We talked with the president last week to work out new designs and place orders but today was the day for the grant presentation. It was apparently a very special day for the group because they had balloons put up and their partially finished little store really cleaned and fixed up. Nearly all the group members were able to attend and they were really dressed in their best. There were about 20 of their children there too – all dressed in their nicest clothes.
Judy, a volunteer from Oregon, had brought school supplies and gave out a tote bag with the supplies to each woman to help their children in school. We had some very excited children!
Ana and the group had voted to use the grant money to buy quality yarns at a wholesale price and keep replacing the yarn as they use it and sell the handcrafts and weavings. They were very happy to have been given the grant!
Next they gave us several demonstrations by the children of their members. First a young girl, about 9 years old, showed how to grind corn on a stone like they used in the past, to make masa for the tortillas. She said it would take about 1 hour to grind 1 pound of corn. The next demonstration was how to wind the yarn to get it ready for the backstrap loom. A short table with pegs is used to wind the yarn in preparation for the loom and is called a urdidor. Ana explained that every Sunday the women give backstrap weaving lessons to the young daughters of the group so they can learn the art and to make sure the art of weaving is not lost. A 13 year old daughter of one of the women gave us a show of weaving and seem so proud to show us what she was learning. Backstrap weaving is part of the culture of the Mayans of Guatemala and Ana´s group wants to keep that culture alive with the next generation.
The group then showed us a display of many weavings the women were working on or had finished- beautiful purses, shawls, winter neck scarves, napkins, totes, table runner and much more. What beautiful work they do! Ajbatz’ Bal’ is extremely dedicated and hard-working group — their main goal is to educate their children and help their husbands. They are a great group of women to work with as we develop new handcrafts and weavings to help them.