top of page
  • Writer's picturerasmusdahlj

Exporting Mayan Handicrafts: Alleviating the Guatemalan Economy and Mayan Livelihood

Tourists will always find a way to remember

the places they have visited. Some take a lot of pictures of architecture, food, or even a cute dog they saw while they were walking around a city. Some just take everything in with their basic senses: the feel of sand under their feet and beach water as it touches the skin, the taste of freshly cooked native cuisine, the sight of remarkable architecture built hundreds of years ago, the sound of a busy marketplace while looking for something to buy and take home, or the smell of freshly bloomed flowers in spring. There are also those tourists who will always look for something to buy as souvenirs that they can either keep for themselves or give to their friends and family when they get back home. If you find yourself looking for useful souvenirs in Guatemala, we assure you that you’re not only buying authentic Mayan handicrafts; you are also helping alleviate the whole Guatemalan economy and the lives of the locals. But what if you aim to make these Mayan handicrafts accessible to a wider population? This article talks about the major exports in Guatemala, the challenges that the population is facing, and how one can help alleviate the Guatemalan economy by exporting Mayan handicrafts. By the end of this article, you will find out how exporting products help the Guatemalan economy and the livelihood of the locals in the Highlands.

The famous Chichicastenango’ s

market is the largest in all of Central

America! It is the most vivid expression

of living Mayan culture. Is in the Santo

Tomas church where the Maya book

the “Popol Vuh” was found.

Guatemalan Economy and Its Challenges

A 2019 Annual Report states that Guatemala is the largest economic contributor in the Central America, contributing $75.6 billion in terms of GDP in 2017. Famous exports from the country to the United States and other countries are coffee, grains, clothes, and manufacturing such as light assembly and food processing. Since the approval of the Free Trade Agreement, Guatemala’s exports improved. Although this is the case, the inequality in income is visible in the country. The aforementioned Annual Report states that only 20 percent of the whole population gains 51 percent of the country’s overall wealth. The rest of the population, usually residing in the Western Highlands, are below the poverty line. Much of the population living below the poverty line reside in the Western Highlands.

Corn in Guatemala has been a vital piece in the history of this country, from ancestral times with the Mayans, until today. It is part of the daily diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The famous tortillas are the eternal accompaniment at the Guatemalan table.

A path of hope. Even with these realities, the Mayan people are more often than not, people of dignity and hope. They see their country struggling towards more stable and just democratic and economic structures. They understand education to be an extremely important contributor to the development of their families, their communities, and their country. And finally, they continue to believe that there can be better life for themselves and their children, if only given the opportunity.

The Western Highlands: Livelihood and Poverty

The Western Highlands of Guatemala is a place like no other. Spreading from the city of Antigua to the Mexican border, the region boasts its natural environment, a prominent opposite from the urbanized area of the country. It is a region surrounded by volcanoes, mountains, forests, and bodies of water, and one of its famous features is its altitude.

The Mayans residing in the Western Highlands live by engaging in agriculture, but it is also in the Highlands where locals make Mayan handicrafts for a living. Mayan residents concretize their county’s rich history and culture through their creative hands by making them into handicrafts. They range from baskets, jewelry, woven bags, and worry dolls among others. The fact that these handicrafts are not only ethnic and authentic but also useful are some of the best products one can get from Guatemala.

Even though Mayan handicrafts have the potential to be some of the best souvenirs from Guatemala, its prominence to tourists are low. One reason may be the inaccessibility of these handicrafts, needing visitors to hike 1,500 meters above sea level before they can get their hands on them.

Another reason is the limited ideas of the artisans to current trends in crafts. They know how to make their traditional crafts by heart, but the problem they face is what potential buyers look for when buying. This relates to the first mentioned reason; the geographical location of the Western Highlands where artisans reside makes it hard for these artisans to explore the world outside of (and below) their villages, making it difficult for them to make their traditional Mayan handicrafts enticing for tourists.

Aguacatàn, Huehuetenango is located at 1,670 meters (5,480 feet) above sea level in a mountainous area in the northwest of our country. Aguacatán has mainly dirt roads running through the mountains. Our purchasing staff needs to spend 6 hours on the way from Antigua Guatemala to visit the artisans. Paving the roads to Huehuetenango in 2006 and since then the government has done little to keep the road in good repair. Until today the road suffers erosion, potholes and landslides. The poor economic conditions have led some residents to travel for work to other parts of Guatemala, and also to Mexico and the United States.

If you want Worry Dolls made from their country of origin for its essence of authenticity, or if you want to share a worry-free life with the use of tiny friends, it is best to import them from Guatemala, the country that is well-known for the production of worry dolls.

The Solution: Exporting Mayan Handicrafts

The solution to bring Mayan handicrafts to the forefront of the Guatemalan economy is to export them.

Exporting Mayan handicrafts from Guatemala results to a number of advantages to the general economy of the country and to the quality of life of the locals.

One advantage is the potential demand of Mayan handicrafts. By adding the exportation of Mayan handicrafts to the already strong and consistent exports of the country, Guatemala may see a high demand in these handicrafts. As a result, more local artisans will be hired to create these handicrafts to supply the demand.

With the increase in employment comes the economic growth of the country. Since there will be a high demand in Mayan handicrafts as a result in the exportation of these products, more local artisans will also be in high demand, making their livelihood more consistent which in turn helps them earn consistently. The fact that the locals will consistently earn from their crafts will mean that, sooner or later, they will have enough funds to buy their necessities; in other words, they now have the potential to rise above the poverty line.

Consistent income through exporting Mayan handicrafts will also mean that the economy of Guatemala will be more stimulated in a sense that there will be more official transactions within the country. In other words, the flow of economic transactions will help stimulate the growth of the Guatemalan economy.

There have been efforts to create partnerships between local artisans and companies or corporations to ease the challenges that the Mayans are facing in the Highlands.

FromTheMayan exports Mayan handicrafts in support of the Mayan artisans in the Highlands of Guatemala. Their move to export the handmade products of the Mayans to other countries does not only alleviate the Guatemalan economy; it also alleviates the Mayan artisans in the Highlands from poverty. It also promotes the prominence of the rich history and culture of Guatemala which deserve to be known around the globe.

Thank you for reading about the Mayan handicrafts and the effect of their exportation from Guatemala to other countries. We hope that this article helped you in understanding how exporting Mayan handicrafts can help the Guatemalan economy and the life of locals in the Highlands. For inquiries on how to export handicrafts, kindly contact us.

Handicraft Products La Selva, S.A. (From The Mayan People to You) was founded in

1986 By Jostein Haugum after he for several years had exported Mayan handicraft

from the area around Antigua in Guatemala. As such he chooses to move to Guatemala

and spend the next two years building the organization and relations with artisans

that created the company.

Mayan handicrafts are now exported worldwide by From The Mayan People To You

and products include everything from classic Mayan products such as Worry Dolls

to modern interior designs in a Mayan setting.

The production is carried out across hundreds of Mayan native villages in the highlands

of Guatemala and everything is handmade in accordance with Mayan tradition.

423 views0 comments


bottom of page