There is a quote I read recently that I absolutely love: 

“She packed up her potential, and all she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes, and headed out to change a few things.” –Anonymous 

The women and artisans of Mercado Global are the true embodiment of this quote.

The journey that led to me volunteering with Mercado Global as a Design Ambassador starts about five years ago at Levi Strauss.  I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Ruth DeGolia, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mercado Global, on designing a scarf program for the Levi’s retail stores.  From the moment I heard about the mission and heart behind Mercado Global, I fell in love with the spirit, the goal, and the culture of these hardworking and beautiful women.

When I heard about the Design a Difference Program, I jumped at the chance to be able to finally see and get to work with these women in Guatemala. Since arriving in the breathtaking country of Guatemala, my heart and my senses have been overwhelmed.

My favorite sound, other than the soothing, melodic tempo of the Spanish language, has been the almost rhythmic clapping of the women making tortillas in the many tortillerias that I pass on my way to la oficina de Mercado Global.

My eyes have indulged in more color than I have ever witnessed in one place.  From the gorgeous landscape, to the hand-woven colors of the traditional trajes, there is much to be inspired by.  But even more inspiring than the daily surroundings, are the genuine smiles of the artisans, as they welcome you with open arms and open hearts.

Here they live with far less than we are accustomed to in the US. It truly is not about the quantity, but the quality of things. They wear the most beautiful clothes and smiles.  Their houses, doors and buses are all bright colors.  It's truly inspirational, and it makes you stop and think how we define, and are often oppressed by, our own notion of beauty and need for material things. 

The passion and work ethic of the artisans has served as a reminder to me that across all cultures, religions, and boundaries, we all yearn and strive for the same basic things…a better life, to have a place we belong to and love.

As beautiful and inspiring as the artisans are, so are the women who make up the other side of the staff of Mercado Global.  Coming from all over the United States (and one as far as Argentina), these women are true examples of what sharing your talents for a greater cause can accomplish.  They have been nothing but warm and welcoming, and freely share their own inspirational stories of what has brought them to the wonderful world of Mercado Global. 

While my intent and excitement for being a Design Ambassador with Mercado Global was to work with and help the artisans of this wonderful organization, I have to say that selfishly I think I am the one who has been affected the most.  What a life-shaping experience and organization to be a part of.


Julianna Reed is an L.A. based designer and 2012 Mercado Global Design Ambassador