Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mayan Hands Adventure Tour 2009 Tour Leader

Behind every great tour, a great tour leader.

This is Deborah Chandler (be patient, I am securing a photo from Mark), leader of our tour to visit Mayan Hands weavers in Guatemala. She is the Guatemalan Program Director of Mayan Hands and quite a famous weaver herself!

But first, let me tell you that Deb entertained us while she educated us. She was treated with love and respect wherever we went to visit Mayan Hands weavers. This was true even though she had very difficult news to deliver to the groups about lack of work in December. She regaled us with tales of her privileged sighting of a quetzal, the elegant symbol of the Mayans; she shared her concerns about violence in the country; she broke bread with us; she took care of us.

Deb authored the premier book on learning to weave published in the USA. Learning To Weave can be found in any bookstore or online.

Deborah also started Weave a Real Peace (WARP) a not for profit committed to connecting weavers in the developed world with weavers in need of support in the developing world. Find out more at:

Thanks Deb for your excellent planning and execution of the trip. At the end we all considered ourselves "a little family." What a gift for us this holiday season: new friends and connection to what matters most, human warmth and the dignity of the work of human, Mayan hands.

Deb, was it as much fun for you as it was for us?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Successful Home Sale. Thanks all!

Sunday we held our first home sale. The weather was iffy (snow and rain never keep upstate New Yorkers inside!) but friends and family came out and shopped for the holidays from Mayan Hands offerings.

Earlier in the week, I ordered items for the sale from Mayan Hands. Two large boxes of items arrived from the warehouse in Maryland after a short conversation with staff there. All arrived in lovely condition and so well organized!

I spread the word through email and this blog. I think next time I will ask for the cards that Mayan Hands provided in advance and leave some in strategic places, our food coop, the library, the neighborhood hangouts and coffee shops.

Thanks everyone for making our sale a success. It was great to visit with you and share my trip to Guatemala. We appreciate your generousity and hope the gifts you give come back to you many fold.

Happy holidays...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Retrospect: Dark Days

This article from the Latin American Herald Tribune will shed some light on the dark days Guatemala is facing and two murders and mob vigilante justice that happened near us on our Mayan Hands tour.

As I return home, I find it deeply unsettling the abundant, indiscriminate violence that occurs in this part of Central America. On top of that, there is no functioning justice system.

Ergo, vigilante justice and mob violence erupt as a response to violent crime.

As travelers, we were always within the fold of our native guides, protected and well advised on what was safe. We could have been closer to these mobs described in the article. We were lucky not to have been.

Even so, I think about the weavers, the fieldworkers, the average people who live with this threat on a daily basis. Public transport is dangerous in Guatemala and most people depend upon it. The murders occurred on a public bus on the road from Solola to Panajachel. The murderers were later killed (burned to death) by a mob.

Let us not take peace and law and order for granted. In many parts of the world, they are in short supply.

What do you think? Have I glossed over this topic? Where does it fit into Fair Trade?

One reader suggested I had ignored this issue during the trip and my enthusiasm for the products of Mayan Hands. I have to say I needed some perspective on it to be write anything. it is now that I am home, I realize how it runs through all I can say about the trip and the people I met.

The issue of violence, corruption and lack of rule of law goes to the very heart of the work of Mayan Hands which provides secure income and empowerment training for people in the Highlands of Guatemala. If they can establish a balance in their lives that enables them to take leadership roles in their communities, maybe that tide will begin to turn.


Please tell me what you think about this important issue.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Upcoming Mayan Hands Sales

We are having our first Home Sale on Sunday, December 13th from 12 noon until 3 pm. Please come by Laura and Ricardo's at 12 Providence Street Albany NY 12203 to see handmade weavings from Guatemala...and complete your holiday shopping!

Here is a list of other sales in the Capital Region:

December 10 & 11
Pastoral Center, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, 10 am to 4 pm

December 12 & 13
St. Thomas the Apostle, Delmar, after the masses
St. John’s/St. Ann’s, Albany, after the masses
Christ, Sun of Justice, Troy, after the masses

December 13
First Presbyterian Church, Albany, 10 am to 1 pm
Delmar Reformed Church, Delaware Ave, 10 am to 1 pm
Home sale, 12 Providence St. Albany NY 1220, 12pm to 3pm

December 19 & 20
St. Peter's Catholic Church, Saratoga Springs, after the masses

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weaving a Brighter Future, Part II

Mayan Hands: Weaving a Brighter Future, Part One on You Tube

In 2007, with the expert direction of Monica Aldana and the cooperation of many others, Mayan Hands produced a film which is posted on You Tube in four parts.

I think you will enjoy watching this first section of the film. It was created after Hurricane Stan devastated some villages throughout Guatemala and is a big thank you to those who helped during that time.

Watch this! You will see some familiar faces. It will bring Mayan Hands to life for you...

Thank you to Anne and Mark's son Dan for posting this to the web. Big shout out to the Kelly-Van Wormers.

Mayan Hands is a fair trade organization founded in 1989 that partners with talented Mayan weavers in their quest to bring their families out of extreme poverty. These women and their families are able to continue to live within the culture they cherish. In this video, weavers talk about their lives, their work, their hopes and dreams, and the difference that Fair Trade has made to them, their families, and their communities.

I am filled with gratitude after the trip...

Friday, December 4, 2009


Though it seems long ago, on Sunday 11/29, after visiting the market of Chichicastenango, we stopped on the way back to Guatemala City at the ancient Mayan site called Iximché.

The site was largely preserved by the Spanish due to their alliance with the Kaqchikel against the K'iche'. The Spanish under Pedro de Alvarado arrived on 12 April 1524 and were well received by the lords Belehé Qat and Cahi Imox. After continuing through Atitlán, Escuintla and Cuscatlán, the Spanish under Alvarado returned to Iximché in July 1524 and founded their first capital.

We walked amidst the former palaces, ball courts and temple sites. Thousands of years ago it was a thriving community. Within two years of the famous Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado's arrival there, all the Mayans in the area had either been killed or died of illness.

Sobering. The butchery of empire doesn't really change through the ages.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Home Again: Mayan Hands Holiday Sales

Re-entry is always so interesting. Travel is an exceptional experience where one can be immersed in a different culture, exposed to new places and people.

Wasn't it just yesterday that we were speaking with Juana in Chichi about the Mayan lifestyle?

And now: home to emails, search for freelance work, cold rain and updates from friends and family.

Mayan Hands USA coordinates holiday sales in churches through the Capital Region of New York State. Brenda Rosenbaum just provided me a list of upcoming December sales.

Please make your way to one of these locations and check out the wonderful offerings. What a way to do your holiday shopping and support Fair Trade. Your loved ones will be so happy with what they receive!


December 5 & 6
St Vincent de Paul, Albany, after the masses on Saturday and Sunday
St Matthews Catholic Church, Voorheesville, after the masses on Saturday and Sunday
St John the Baptist Catholic Church, Valatie, after the masses on Saturday and Sunday

December 5
Delmar Farmers Market, Delmar Presbyterian Church, 9am to 1pm, corner of Delaware and Cherry Ave in Delmar

December 6
First Reformed Church, Fair Trade Fair, at the Stockade in Schenectady. 11am to 4pm

December 10 & 11
Pastoral Center, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, 10am to 4 pm

December 12 & 13
St. Thomas the Apostle, Delmar, after the masses
St. John’s/St. Ann’s, Albany, after the masses
Christ, Sun of Justice, Troy, after the masses

December 13
First Presbyterian Church, Albany, 10 am to 1 pm
Delmar Reformed Church, Delaware Ave, 10 am to 1 pm

December 19 & 20
St. Peter's Catholic Church, Saratoga Springs, after the masses