?I'm Maria Chama and I'm part of the Cotzal Artisan Cooperative. Our story begins in 1986 when five women formed a weaving group in San Juan Cotzal, Guatemala. The group was founded on a philosophy of cooperation and dedicated themselves to high quality weaving on back strap looms.<br><br>
?After the armed conflict, these women were faced with the problems of earning money. A lot of them had become widowed and had children to raise. Because of that, they decided to weave items on their backstrap looms to liberate themselves and recover from their precarious social, political and economic situation. They also wanted to offer other widows the opportunity to be part of their group so that they too could earn money.<br><br>
?After a few years, the group grew to 15 members. At this point, there were enough requests for each woman to work and receive a fair price for her work.<br><br>
?By 1998, the group members had grown to 30 weavers, including some much older women. They were constantly developing new weaves and designs.<br><br>
?Now we are 45 women. Each woman weaves at home, but the Cooperative has an office for group activities. We get together to organize the work, divide the yarn and plan activities.<br><br>
?The Cooperative's main objective is for all of us women to earn a fair price for our creations which are traditional in our villages. We have been able to organize to support ourselves in terms of health services, educational workshops and various other areas.<br><br>
?The cooperative has many goals for the future! We've always dreamed of strengthening our current activities and developing many new ones. We're like a tree that grows toward the sky. The women are like the roots and our textiles are the trunk. Our plans are our branches. We have many dreams and plans, and with the support from our clients and God's blessings, which are our sun and rain, we'll be able to go far and be more productive.?
In the Andes, the Land of the Four Corners, mountains are sacred. So is culture. The Nazca lines, the Wari glyphs, the Quipu knots and the complex multi-colored textiles of the Incas are all recorded and live on the work of contemporary Peruvian artisans.