When the pandemic hit, it took all of us by surprise, forcing us to shift the way in which we do everything. This was also the situation for all artisans that we work with. From selling blouses, sarapes, and other handcrafts, artisans shifted their business by using the knowledge they have had for generations in order to create something they have never done before: embroidered face masks.
Today, months later and in our spirit of fair trade practices and transparency (which you can read all about here), we wanted to share the way in which artisans in Oaxaca have been able to help provide for their community.
During a casual conversation with La Maestra, who leads a women’s co-op, or cooperativa (autonomous association who set their own prices willingly and democratically), in Oaxaca, she expressed how they are happy because the face masks have sold well and are excited to be exporting their products to Texas with us. She also made sure to mention how the sale of face masks has given them the opportunity to have a stable economy in these hard times between all “compañeras”, or partners.
Picture of La Maestra embroidering with other women in their cooperativa.
The real story begins here, after understanding the obvious ways in which face masks have helped other communities, we learned deeper ways in which we—this cooperativa, Lolo, and you, who have chosen us as your go-to shop for your Face masks—have been able to help provide for other communities. Humble in her personality, La Maestra never told us the incredible work she and her cooperativa were doing in her community. By talking to other people in this same community, we learned that during the mandated stay-at-home order months, where all businesses were closed and there it was difficult to provide, some families lacked basic income to feed their families. La Maestra and her compañeras created a community kitchen with the income from their masks to give free food for those who needed it most every day. Today, since sales have slowed down and people have been gradually returning to work, this community kitchen is still open during Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. We wanted to also share some pictures of this community work and the people there:
With this, we feel encouraged to continue our duty to fair trade practices. We always wish to do more, but we know from conversations with most artisans that what they need most is to be able to work and sell their products with fair prices, which gives them the autonomy to help in ways only they know. That is why Lolo is committed to ensure this and all cooperativas we work with will still have the income to keep up their solidarity efforts after the pandemic. As well as to continue our efforts of providing artisans flexibility, fair prices, and our long-term relationship of mutual respect. We will continue to work with La Maestra and her compañeras with face masks and will begin introducing more and more products from them and other communities who are also doing an outstanding and admirable job.
We are beyond honored to share these stories and want to thank you for being a part of this journey! We know that although everyone is still grappling with COVID-19, nothing gives more hope than knowing that efforts are being made to improve living situations around the world.
You can continue to support this cooperativa by ordering the Oaxaca style masks.