Mayan Hands is a fair trade organization founded in 1989. We partner with talented Maya weavers in their quest to bring their families out of extreme poverty. Because of fair trade, the women and their families are able to continue to live within the culture they cherish.
As a member of the Fair Trade Federation, we make the deepest commitment to 360° fair trade. We undergo rigorous screening and strive to create positive change through all of our work: socially, economically, and environmentally. We work with small farmers and artisans in holistic partnerships built on trust. These relationships go beyond ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions — they empower producers to strengthen their communities and grow their businesses sustainably.
We work with more than 150 artisans who inhabit 8 different rural communities in the highlands of Guatemala. Working together, we design products that fit the tastes of people in the international market, then seek out markets for them that pay a fair return. Additionally, we collaborate with other organizations to provide opportunities to our artisan partners in other areas, including scholarships and school supplies for their children, home improvements, micro-lending, training in new skills and techniques, as well as classes in gender awareness, domestic violence, conflict resolution, and herbal medicine.
Our weaving partners produce the exquisite, high quality products that we proudly offer you. The backstrap loom is a painstaking art form, whereby even experts weave only one inch of brocaded cloth per hour. Considering this, we think their craftwork is very reasonably priced and hope you'll agree. With fair trade, you can rest assured that your purchases allow these talented weavers to earn a regular income with which they can feed their families, send their children to school, and harbor dreams for a better future.
Our Grandmother, the Moon, taught the first woman to weave on a backstrap loom more than three thousand years ago. Among many Maya groups, women still experience Our Grandmother coming to them in their dreams and teaching them this complicated art form.
Through the centuries, using the backstrap loom, Maya weavers have clothed their families and themselves and brought an income to their households. Maya weaving became an instrument to resist being absorbed totally into the oppressive societies that invaded and took over their territories. Women were able to weave into their cloth esoteric symbols of their culture, thus allowing important aspects of their culture to survive even under strict surveillance of the conquerors. Transmitting this gift to their daughters and granddaughters, they were able to maintain the connection and commitment to the vision of their ancestors. Weaving on the backstrap loom has been essential to the survival of Maya culture as a distinct entity.
In the 21st Century, weaving continues to be an instrument of resistance. It enables Maya women to stay in their communities, speak their native languages, and socialize their children into a Maya vision of the world. When women can make a livelihood by selling their woven goods, they are not compelled to leave their communities and work in new,off-shore factories, under appalling conditions, or to surrender to the colossal globalization machine.
To learn more about our organization and mission, please click here.