Located about an hour and a half away from Guatemala City is the town and municipality of San Juan Comalapa. The town is famous for its painting tradition as well for being the birthplace of renowned Guatemalan painter Andres Curruchiche. Beyond the busy streets of town and up one of its various dirt roads, you can find one of Mercado Global’s brocade cooperatives. This group of seven women, has been part of Mercado Global for two and a half years. 

The Comalapa cooperative represents the beginning of the organization’s production line.
The women of the group create the beautiful brocades that are later used in Mercado Global’s products. The artisans work with foot looms in order to make the intricate patterns. Most of the women already had experience with this type of work before joining Mercado, except one member of the group who is in the process of learning with the support of Mercado Global and her fellow co-op members.

I accompanied Barbara Quieju, our Training Coordinator, for a nutrition workshop with the cooperative. According to the World Food Programme, Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, 49.8% of children under the age five experience chronic under-nutrition. 

Upon our arrival, the group of women gathered around the room making jokes and speaking in Cakchiquel, their native language - before settling down. “What is nutrition?” asked Barbara as a way to get the conservation started and going right into the subject. The women discussed various concepts and later participated in a dynamic activity where they were asked to identify what foods are considered to be part of a balanced diet. Barbara then explained the importance of practicing a nutritious and balanced diet, as well as the possibilities of doing so within a budget.

Next, the women stoop up to share stories about their eating habits and cooking practices. As explained by many of the artisans, baked goods high in sugar, processed packed snacks, and sodas are frequently part of their family meals. For some, getting rid of these unhealthy habits represents a major challenge since their children and husbands are already used to consuming these products. As explained by Barbara, it is customary for many families in Guatemala to allow kids from a very young age to consume sodas and sugary snacks; in some cases, coffee can also make way into a toddler’s diet. 

The training also encouraged the women to make medical visits at least once a year and get health assessments, if possible. One of the women of the cooperative shared that her gastritis problem has made her rethink her diet as well as her family’s. Other members of the group have followed the same path, particularly the ones that have relatives or neighbors with diabetes or high-blood pressure.  Finally, the women agreed on the importance of maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, as well as the need to improve their eating habits. 


These community visits are part of Mercado Global’s ongoing health training curriculum. The indigenous women who partner with Mercado Global often lack access to basic healthcare and health education based on geographic isolation, language barriers, and widespread racism. Through these community workshops, Mercado aims to enroll the women artisans in the educational programs that equip them to succeed.