Cristina Cumes: Apparel Designer & Coordinator Quetzalli Women's Cooperative
The Quetzalli Women's Cooperative is a backstrap weaving collective of 14 women located on the shores of Lake Atitlán in the small town of San Juan la laguna, Guatemala. The word Quetzalli means precious one or beautiful feather from the Quetzal bird, the national bird of Guatemala.
In 2012 Cristina founded Cooperativa de Mujeres Quetzalli when the weaving association she was working for became defunct. Many of the women in San Juan neither read nor write and speak only their native Tz' utujil language making it difficult for them to sell directly to tourists. Cristina realized the pressing need for weavers to have an outlet to sell their work and so decided to form a new association inviting the best and most reliable weavers to join her.
Each of the 12 weavers in the cooperative has chosen a specific type and style of weaving. María Florinda makes the rebozos from heavy cotton; Antonia the scarves from silk and cotton; Natalia the shawls from silk and cotton, etc. In this way the weavers within the cooperative are not competing amongst themselves. Most of the items on display are consignment, but if a woman has a pressing financial need, Cristina will often buy their weavings outright to help ease a difficult time.Cristina is both the brainchild and the backbone of the cooperative, the mother of two young children and an artisan in her own right. Though not a weaver, she designs, sews, and embroiders merchandise such as aprons, hats, tablet covers, huipiles and handbags from newly woven and vintage weavings.
Most days at the tienda Cristina is accompanied by Amelia Victoria Vásquez Mendoza, a young woman who volunteers at the cooperative and whose mother, Natalia is a founding member. Amelia always has her hands busy helping to set up the warp threads on the urdidor, leg rolling the fringe on a completed weaving, or assisting customers. However, she's never too busy to dish out a few good-natured barbs!