“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” ~ Rumi
Our recent adventures in Guatemala were hosted by Mercado Global, a fantastic nonprofit group that is empowering indigenous Mayan women to break the cycle of poverty by connecting them to international markets, fostering sustainable livelihoods for their families, and pioneering a socially responsible business model within the fashion industry.
Theirs the sort of business I am always pleased to support ~ especially as Guatemala has historically been among the world’s least-advanced countries in terms of women’s rights. Mercado Global is doing real work to change that.
The formula is fairly simple, but its impact is incredible. Weaving traditions in this part of the world have been passed down through mothers, grandmothers, daughters and sisters for centuries. Mercado Global creates community-based weaving guilds to connect women to each other, helps them update their at-home equipment, and gently fine-tunes their traditional designs in order to best address a globalized consumer ~ ultimately connecting these artisans to retailers like Levi’s, Anthropologie and J. Crew. This system helps Guatemalan women maintain their cultural traditions in a rapidly globalizing world, allows them to support their families without leaving home, and provides them with otherwise-unavailable gynecological services and education in family planning, nutrition, and personal finance.
In order to really understand how it all works, we traveled quite broadly around Guatemala in only a few short days, visiting several of the very-different regional guilds that make up Mercado Global’s workforce. Along the way, we got an unbeatable overview of the country’s breathtaking terrain and outstanding hospitality offerings.
Below, where to sleep, shop and eat if you too take the trek!
WHERE TO STAY: Make your first stop Antigua and check into Meson Panza Verde, an utterly romantic boutique hotel and restaurant tucked into a rosily-lit, verdant-gardened colonial castle. Swoon.
From there, travel on to Lake Atitlán and give yourself a few lazy days at the glamorously casual, art-filled Casa Palopó. You won’t ever want to leave.
ABOVE| piles of locally-woven fabric waiting to be made into bags, in Mercado Global’s Guatemalan headquarters BELOW| a seventeen-year-old girl in Comalapa, Chimaltenango learns to continue the traditions passed down in her culture for centuriesMy favorite way to get to know another culture is by getting lost in the markets of the locals. It’s the best way to see how people really live ~ how they eat and interact, and in what they place value. Across Guatemala, it is evident that weaving is truly a bedrock of this entire civilization. As such, there are few better places in the world to collect textiles!
WHERE TO SHOP: the most authentic markets we visited were scattered all over Antigua and Santiago Atitlán, a quaint, cloistered town about an hour’s boat ride away from the dock at Casa Palopó. ABOVE + BELOW| in Satiago Atitlán, both men and women still observe the ancient, colorful codes of dress ~ and the Barbies in Panajachel do too! ABOVE RIGHT + AT TOP| Rixo London dress, Stetson hat, Loeffler Randal shoes WHERE TO EAT: breakfast at La Carreta in Patzun, lunch from any cozy little restaurant in the market, dinner at Los Tres Tiempos (tapas-size takes on breakfast, lunch and dinner classics) in Antigua, and handmade tortillas everywhere you turn!READ MORE ABOUT THIS TRIP| on Harper’s Bazaar and HERE
And in case you missed it, take a pause to watch an 8mm memory of our Guatemalan moments: