Last week, Mercado Global staff traveled to the Guatemalan highland town of Nahualá to witness something exciting. Through our microloan program, which offers a flexible way for artisans to purchase much-needed tools and equipment, one of our partner artisan cooperatives had just received a brand new foot loom.

A foot or treadle loom is a large, stationary loom operated with a series of floor pedals. Known as a telar de pie in Spanish, these looms are more expensive than back strap looms and have traditionally been used by male weavers since their introduction in the 15th century. (You can learn more about back strap looms and foot looms here.)

The cooperative (known as La Esperanza, or “hope” in Spanish) which received the foot loom was able to partner with Mercado Global last year in large part due to a Mother-Daughter Insight Trip that visited our Guatemala operations in June 2013. Artisans from La Esperanza were key producers in our recent Comptoir des Cotonniers capsule collection, receiving advanced weaving training to complete the order. The intricate triangle brocade pattern that they mastered can be found on the Madeline Tote, the Marabella Clutch, and many other pieces from our Spring/Summer 2014 collection.


La Esperanza artisans are currently being trained to use their new double-wide foot loom by the Mercado Global community staff. Constructed with six pedals (four more than the traditional design), the loom will allow the artisans to weave more bolts of fabric in a shorter amount of time, increasing the cooperative’s production capacity and breaking down gendered labor barriers in the process.

Mercado Global’s donor-funded microloan program is an important complement to our work in Guatemala. With access to microloans, indigenous women entrepreneurs can purchase equipment that allows them to work more efficiently and increase their income. Once a Mercado Global loan is paid back, it is reopened to generate a new opportunity for another artisan. This revolving loan fund structure ensures that gifts from our donor community will go on supporting our partner artisans and their families in a sustainable and impactful way.

Congratulations to La Esperanza on their new foot loom!