Maria Elena Par
Age: 33 years old
1 daughter: Irla (7 years old)

“I started working with Mercado Global 7 years ago, and am one of the original founding artisans. I met Ruth in Xela when we used to sell necklaces, beaded jewelry, and other woven linens. Even though Ruth was only about 18 years old, she gave us the tools to learn and the trainings to improve our products. I was able to learn everything that I know now, even how to make earrings.” This was especially helpful for me, since I had just graduated university after studying Sciences and Letters, and was able to be independent and provide for myself. My father died when I was only 12 years old, and was forced to work during the week so that I could put myself through school on the weekends.

“Working with Mercado Global has given me the education to make new products, so that I am able to provide an education for my daughter. In Guatemala, there is a lot of machismo, and men get jealous when women succeed. It’s not men who are stronger than women, but it’s that we are equal. Here we have a space where we know our rights, our value, and can support each other and learn.” I am able to pass these lessons onto my daughter, even though I’m sure she doesn’t need it. “All of the other children are walking around with their dolls, but Irla walks around with her head in her books claiming that she’s a language teacher. My sister tells me that she’s strange and everyone wonders how she came out like that.” She is very independent and strong, and I know that she will succeed in anything that she wants to do in her life. She pushes me to be a better artisan, and to work even harder.

“Right now we are learning how to make cortes, and I love it.” When I was younger, only men were allowed to work with the looms because they were too difficult for women to use. “But what do men have that women don’t? For me, it’s easy and I am teaching my daughter how to weave as well. ”

In the future, I want to do more weaving and beadwork and have reliable work so that my family can have their own house. Now we are living with my husband’s family, and we are 12 people in a tiny house. Mercado Global has given me the opportunity to be independent, and to truly appreciate the power and value of being a woman. My daughter sees this, and is able to become a strong leader amongst her friends and in her school as well.

Interviewed by Taylor Tomasso