Artisan Stores with a Cause
In the last post we talked about purchasing items from pueblos, directly from the artists. When we are not purchasing from the artist, we look for businesses with the “fair trade” symbol to ensure that the artists are being paid fairly for their work and we always ask “where did this item come from?” and “is it handmade”. We do our homework and focus on items that are known to be made locally in that region. We also purchase handmade goods that support nonprofit organizations and from stores with good causes like the ones below.
Nemi Zapata – San Cristobal, Chiapas, MX
On November 1, 1994, the day that the NAFTA trade agreement was signed, which enabled free trade between the US, Canada and Mexico, the Zapatistas or Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) overtook San Cristobal and other surrounding towns in Chiapas. Why? According to the documentary, A Place Called Chiapas, one reason was that with this new trade agreement, the government was no longer planning to guarantee land for local farmers and indigenous groups who had been there for generations. The land would most likely be taken over by big government corporations wanting to export crops like corn. The fight got violent and ultimately the Zapatistas retreated to the jungle and mountains. A ceasefire was reached a couple of weeks later with the help of a local trusted priest who mediated negotiations. Since then, the Zapatistas seem to be in a complicated yet peaceful battle with the government for autonomy and respect for their indigenous people.
One of the ways in which the Zapatistas peacefully fight for their cause is by increasing awareness of their struggle and their identity through social media and art. One fair trade store we visited called Nemi Zapata sells items made by Zapatista communities. We fell in love with these little Zapatista dolls which symbolize their identity, struggle, and strength that exists amidst the cheerful, colorful and vibrant city of San Cristobal de las Casas.
Pina Palmera – Zipolite, Oaxcaca, MX
We bought just a couple of “flying birds” at Pina Palmera, a wonderful nonprofit organization in Zipolite, Mexico on the coast of Oaxaca that provides free rehabilitation, treatment, and care to people with a wide range of disabilities in the rural communities of Southern Mexico. According to their website, “the central axis of our work is respect towards differences and the formation of an integrative society. The center’s efforts focus on changing the way local people regard people with disabilities, by promoting change of attitude and accessibility within the families, schools and local communities.”
We were given a free tour of this organization the last time we were in Zipolite (8 months ago) by a generous volunteer who was studying how this local organization was using integrative community techniques to treat and care for clients with disabilities. We learned that Pina Palmera relies heavily on volunteers from around the globe to prepare meals and help with therapy and a wide range of tasks. One way that it sustains itself financially is through it’s handicraft store which sells many beautiful items including the “flying birds” which are carved and painted by volunteers and clients. They hang from the ceiling and when you pull on a string, the wings flap and it looks like it is flying. We got two flying birds because we wanted to support this great organization and we hope you will too!
Mujeres Artesanas – Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, MX
In Oaxaca City we visited a fantastic store called “Mujeres Artesanas” or Craftswomen. The store is a cooperative featuring crafts made by local women who were concerned that much of the art and crafts in Mexico were beginning to become too commercialized and removed from tradition. They started the organization Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca (MARO). Their store is huge and has lots of fantastic artisan work such as Hoja de Lata (tin work). These beautiful and colorful pieces really brighten up a room and date back to the 16th Century.
And more pictures from our time in Zipolite, Oaxaca, MX