Guatemalan Co-Ops: The Spirit of San Pedro de Sacatepéquez

At Piece & Co., we’re always eager to discover new artisan groups to employ and empower—and our travels to San Pedro de Sacatepéquez, Guatemala, were no exception. San Pedro de Sacatepéquez is a market center with an economy based heavily in manufacturing and agriculture. The area is recognized as a major textile region with local weavers making garments distinctive to the location. Today's weavers descend from ancient Mayan civilizations, which began to emerge in Guatemala as early as 2000 BC. 

But over the last few decades, the maquilas, or apparel manufacturing facilities, have begun shutting down due to a decline in demand. Additionally, some of the facilities operate unethically, and therefore have purposely moved to more remote locations to hide their practices from international auditors. The closing factories have left thousands of highly skilled workers unemployed. 

Many Guatemalans have been sewing and weaving for as long as they can remember, following the example of their parents and grandparents. Our travels there introduced us to Max who, at 12 years old, learned basic sewing skills from his father. Over the years, Max sharpened his artistry and gathered a small team of skilled workers to create and sell impressive knock offs of popular retail shirts to his community. 

With the arrival of large FEED orders coming through, Piece & Co. decided to give his sewing team a try, noting that their skills were impressive. Max and his team members passed the trial with flying colors due, in part, to their wide variety of expertise including the ability to make patterns and implement designs into production.

Since that success, we’ve been happy to send Max a steady stream of large orders that have allowed him to establish and grow a legitimate business. Our FEED pouch project provided cut and sew work as well as jobs to artisan weavers who produced woven ikat fabrics. 

FEED projects' mission is to create good products that help feed the world. They do this by building a set donation into the cost of each product. FEED takes great pride in using environmentally friendly and artisan made materials, along with fair labor production, in all of their goods. The Piece & Co. FEED Guatemala pouches come in an array of beautiful colors that reflect the vibrant Guatemalan culture. They can be used on their own or as a stylish storage compartment for a purse or bag.  The sale of each pouch provides micronutrient packets to people in need.

Max invested the money from the FEED orders into growing his own workshop and establishing a network of more than 30 local cooperatives of sewers and artisans. This growth now helps provide a steady income for many in the local community. Max’s partnership with Piece & Co. has ultimately provided him the opportunity to hire even more skilled workers to complete orders. Today, Max is now purchasing equipment and training his team to work with leather, ensuring that they can create even more sustainable employment for years to come.