Hiptipico is a company that not only empowers Mayan women in Guatemala through the creation and sale of their gorgeous items, but it also directly stimulates the local economy by initiating access to foreign markets. Today we met up with Alyssa McGarry, the founder of Hiptipico. A well-traveled woman who has spent years researching sustainable development and working to increase educational opportunities in Brazil, Ecuador and Guatemala, Alyssa combines her passion for artisan crafts and the Mayan people to do a whole lot of good.
Thanks for joining us, Alyssa! Where are you from?
I grew up in Montvale, NJ. But to answer properly I have to quote my favorite band SOJA: “I’m related to a place I’ve never been to or saw.”
Where is Hiptipico located?
Hiptipico operates out of Panajachel, Sololá, Guatemala. Panajechel (Pana) is a small village on Lake Atitlan, the heartland of Mayan cultures in Guatemala, 3 hours from Guatemala City.
It must be beautiful there, but If you could travel to another place tomorrow, where would you go and why?
Thailand. To meet the people and to get a traditional Thai tattoo by a Buddhist Monk.
Thailand is an absolutely amazing country, full of rich culture. Our co-founder Cammy traveled there and met many monks, though she neither confirms nor denies receiving a traditional tattoo. Did you collect anything weird as a kid?
Shoes! I used to have a ridiculous shoe collection that included red sparkly flats like Dorothy in The Wizard of Ozand silver sparkly boots that I called the Tin-Man’s.
Sounds like you enjoyed dressing up! We know you fell in love with Guatemala when you traveled there after completing your M.A. from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Have you developed many close relationships with the artisans and communities there?
Yes, everyday I am out meeting new artisans and checking in with Hiptipico’s current partners. Sometimes I just sit with them for hours chatting about life and Mayan Huipil patterns. A huipil (pronounced wee-peel) is the embroidered garment worn by indigenous Mayan women in Guatemala. Every region, town and village in Guatemala can be defined by their unique huipil. Each pattern is geographically specific and hand-woven on a back-strap loom. Huipiles are still widely worn by people in Guatemala; however, now you will find them recycled and used to create backpacks, hats, notebooks, etc. Many of Hiptipico’s items are full of vibrant colors and patterns, which can be traced back to a specific Mayan village, telling its story passed down generation to generation through symbolic designs and colors.
We love the designs of Hiptipico items created through cooperatives and street vendors. It’s obvious that you not only work with communities but they are your friends, almost as close as family in some circumstances.
Many of our artisans have other issues or difficulties that I try and do what I can to alleviate. For example, our artisan Thelma is having some health issues and her daughter Wendy is out of work. Thelma has introduced me to some of the most amazing products from the artisans of Zunil (an indigenous township west of Panajachel) and has worked with me to get their products to Panajachel. In order to give her a little more in return, I’ve been using my connections in the NGO sphere to try and help her daughter Wendy find a job.
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