On 29, Sep 2017 | In Artisans | By Jenny
Fair trade is about developing transparent and accountable relationships with artisan producers. This means that, if problems arise, fair trade companies work with their artisans and other organizations when necessary to find suitable solutions. Manos Zapotecas is an excellent example of a company that was built on the sentiment that commerce can and should change artisans lives for the better. Manos Zapotecas has demonstrated that they not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk, too. Here is the story of one of their long-time weavers, Lupita Lazo.
Lupita has been a part of Manos Zapotecas from the very beginning. She is a talented weaver and one of the few artisans in Teotitlan del Valle who still works with natural dyes. A single mother to three boys, her life has known adversity but she has never let it defeat her cheerful nature or inner strength. She began to learn to weave at the age of 8 when her mother passed away, preparing the yarn for her father to weave. He would take her out into the hills surrounding the town of Teotitlan del Valle when collecting the plants and bugs he used to dye the yarn and in this way she learned the ancient knowledge of natural dyes.
Lupita later married and had three boys, who are her pride and joy. They are polite, kind and hard-working boys, who have grown up learning the knowledge of dying and weaving, as well as how to use computers. One is even helping his mother write a book about her life, which speaks as much to his dedication to her as it does to her ambition. Lupita is a very forthright woman and will tell you that her husband drank himself to death. She doesn’t delve into that part of her life though, and focuses largely on her growth since his passing when she regained control of her household and returned to weaving, a craft that she had long put aside.
Lupita became involved in a microfinance program, Fundacion En Via, in order to grow her weaving business. Through that organization she met Shelley, the founder of Manos Zapotecas, who was teaching business classes and when Shelley began MZ she invited Lupita to be a part of it. Her clutch-sized bags became very popular, and thus the Lupita Clutch was named for her.
In the fall of 2014, Lupita was diagnosed with breast cancer. She then underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. While the public healthcare system covered the bulk of the medical costs, there were huge expenses, such as transportation, food and education for her sons, made more difficult by that fact that she was unable to work.
In an effort to help Lupita in her time of need, Manos Zapotecas launched a “Campaign for Lupita” in which they donated the profits from all sales of the “Lupita clutch” for one month directly to Lupita to help cover some of these basic living expenses until she could regain her health enough to continue working, which they say she looked forward to very much. “Her eyes twinkle as she animatedly discusses a new, finer wool that she wants to use to make laptop cases,” they said.
One year after the campaign, Lupita had been through chemotherapy and multiple radiation treatments, but was returning to health and gaining back her strength! She has been declared cancer-free!
She is full of gratitude for her family, friends, and those who supported her from afar during this trying time. However, it was undoubtedly her positive attitude that made the biggest impact in her overcoming this illness.
“Believing in myself … is what gave me the strength to overcome,” Lupita said.
(story from Manos Zapotecas blog)