Is it possible to help lift a village out of poverty through commerce? The woman who started Manos Zapotecas believes so. It started with Shelley who, while volunteering with a group of indigenous women in the ancient rural village of Teotitlán del Valle near Oaxaca, Mexico, became aware of how the rich weaving traditions of this village were hampered by a lack of market and buyers. Poverty was forcing many weavers to abandon their craft. She decided the best way to help these people and preserve their weaving traditions was to create new markets in the U.S. Shelley began recruiting a group of women from all walks of life with one thing in common: a belief that the efforts of Manos Zapotecas would change the lives of the families in Teotitlán del Valle.
The artisans who weave for Manos Zapotecas are families who have brought Shelley into their homes and lives. She got to know them while volunteering for a marvelous microfinance program called EnVia where small loans are given to women entrepreneurs in the village in order to help them grow their businesses. The funding comes from tourists in Oaxaca who want to help and also see how microfinance works.
Each artist has grown up in a weaving family, learning the craft at a young age. The dyeing and weaving process has become a part of life’s rhythm, celebrating the ancestral heritage with each new design and color. The unhurried pace of life allows for unmatched attention to detail, and artists take pride in each finished piece.
Manos Zapotecas is committed to fair trade. It ensures the weavers receive a fair price for the many hours they put into each work of art. To do this, Manos Zapotecas uses the Fair Wage Guide developed by the fair trade organization World of Good. This allows each family to buy the basic necessities of life and use the profits to reinvest in the business.
Manos Zapotecas’s mission is to make high-quality, handwoven products available to socially conscious buyers across the country. Manos Zapotecas is committed to making sure the weavers receive a fair trade price for their intensive labors. Together, we can help perpetuate the superb artistry of the Zapotec people, and, at the same time, help to improve their lives and their community – one weaving at a time.