It was one trip to the tiny Central American country of Belize that altered the course of my life. As we entered our hotel room I was drawn to the brilliant quilt that lay across my bed. I gazed at the vibrant colors and patterns in awe. Never had I seen beauty in such a simple form.
My search then began, I had to find the makers of these beautiful fabrics. After asking everyone in the small town we visited, and many Google searches later I found that the quilt was made in Guatemala. Despite countless warnings of the perils I could face in a country so corrupt, I returned to Belize and crossed the border to Guatemala.
I continued to walk through jungles and villages that no one knew of until I found the magnificent fabrics and their makers. These people were beautiful and kind, artisans with a craft that was special to them, and now me. No one knew of these women who sat in stone made huts on the ground weaving hours a day, day after day to feed their families. It was evident they were talented and deserved more than what they had. They deserved to be shared with the rest of the world.
It has been 9 years since that date and I look back on them with star struck love of how the people and colors of Guatemala have embraced me. At first it was a commodity I could sell, but as I looked into the chocolate brown eyes of the Mayans and the love they had for me helping them and their children grow it became so much more. Every item sold not only keeps their art alive, but allows these artisans to feed their families and educate their children. I now live in this beautiful country, and wonder how people who have been through mass genocide and exploitation by other countries could love and trust an American woman so much. I have made lifelong friendships here from people that have helped me in ways I could have never imagined. The constant appreciation and support I received from people who I hardly knew amazed me
Their artisan crafts are from techniques that have been passed down and perfected over the centuries, hand dying with berries and fruits, hand looms on dirt floors, intricate designs in beading and embroidery with one single needle. It is an honor and a privilege for me to carry this tradition on and give it back to the world. Each bag produced is made from hand dyed fabrics that have been loomed or carefully stitched, carrying the motifs of their heritage and their village tribe. The most surprising thing is that the Mayans still wear all the fabrics they make, it is their heritage, and the fashion even changes. This is to my benefit as I am able to buy these beautiful remnants of their tribes and make them into bags. Their ceremonial garment that represents their village is called a “guipil”, most of our bags are made from these. It can take a Mayan woman 2 months to make one.
I walk through the streets of Antigua and smile as I know so many of the Mayan families, have fed them, and held their children. So when you buy a Soul Shine product you are buying a piece of history. I go through the markets and the villages to find resources of the most beautiful artisans and put them all together in a new bag or saddle pad for the world to enjoy. Friends and family fly over to help feed families across Guatemala, and we now have 52 orphans that we regularly donate to (see Soul Shine Village) – We also are actively involved in horse rescue and play a large role in the Safety and care of the horses involved in the tourism industry.