A while ago, I visited William’s family and watched while he was thinning leather to make a pair of sandals for his son.
Few men know how to make the sandals that the people wear here. Many buy sandals for $15 US a pair. When there are many feet to shod, like William’s 11 kids, that adds up to a lot of money! Sandals only last about 6 months until the leather is so beat up that the sandals are worthless. Since the peoples’ main income is from the sale of crops, money gets pretty tight between harvests.
Except for planting their crops, there is no work in the mountains. Sometimes, during bean harvest and mango harvest at the coast, the mountain people flock to the lowlands to work the fields. While they are there, they buy new shoes, some cloth to make new clothes, a new pot or two and corn and beans. Our village has two little stores that carry staples and the ubiquitous Coca-Cola, cookies, chips, and candy, but at double the price from stores in town.
Most of the women are wonderful artists. Their clothes are a testimony to their love of color and intricate detail. When women gather, they look at the flowers on each other’s skirts and exchange patterns and ideas. They also are creative in making beaded jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. They embroider cloths to keep their hot-off-the-skillet tortillas warm. They painstakingly embroider colorful bags that take months to finish. They weave beautiful bags on simple looms.
About two years ago, we began buying some of the people’s handicrafts as people needed money. They were able to get more materials to make more items, and so we bought more. We found a store on the coast that was interested in selling the Nahuatl crafts to North American tourists and we became middle-men. It gives us pleasure to help the people in providing another source of income. We regularly see women sell a handful of bracelets that they made over time, then head straight to the store to buy oil ($4.00 US a quart), sugar, flour, coffee, blankets, or sandals. Our closest neighbor, a widow with five kids still at home told us, “Thank you for providing another way for us to get money. If you didn’t buy the things I make, my kids and I wouldn’t have any food. Now I can work to buy clothes and shoes for my kids and have food to eat.”
We’ve created a site online to introduce the artists who regularly sell bags, bracelets, and other handcrafted items. Check out www.facebook.com/LasMorasDesigns.
If you would like to give your church, women’s ministry, or Sunday School a chance to help support the Nahuatl people, we would love to send you $50, $100, $150, or $250 worth of jewelry or bags or whatever you specify for people to buy. Your purchases would bring vital help to the people of Las Moras and the surrounding areas. You can contact us on Facebook for more information.