Saturday, September 28, 2013

New World Crafts Trade Show in Antigua - I Love Pillows

Today I got my first glimpse of Antigua. My friend with a car who's been in Guatemala for a few months already joined me for an early breakfast of "platanitos and frijolitos" at our hotel. Then we hit the road in her darkly-tinted Subaru and drove over the mountain and into thickening jungle on a steep and winding but shockingly well maintained road. It's only about 45 minutes to an hour to get there with no traffic but it's a WORLD away from the gritty capital of Guatemala City.

The colonial town of Antigua feels quiet and safe, old and artsy, authentic and touristy all at once. A perfect mix. I had no idea but this town has some gorgeous ruin on every block, literally! There are days and days worth of ruins to see, which is good because I plan to spend every weekend there now that I've seen it.

My friend's husband works for USAID and had an invite to an annual artisan trade show called New World Crafts. After an hour-long inauguration ceremony where around 6 different VIPs gave speeches in Spanish we felt like we were witnessing something really special. Here were Guatemala's most talented artisans reaching out for world-wide support, ready to network with anyone and everyone with stacks of business cards, shiny new brochures, and hip little catalogs. This USAID-sponsored event has a goal of supporting artisans, families and villages, creating pride for local goods, bringing money into the country, creating a future for Guatemalan youth, and connecting Guatemalans with the international marketplace. With 80 tables of beautiful textiles, furniture, ceramics, glass, metal works, wood, jewelry, handbags, and clothing we thought we'd be there all day. But unfortunately we misinterpreted that the event was a trade show for networking and showcasing goods rather than buying and selling stuff. Even though we came with our pockets full of Quetzales, we left with only business cards and photos of precious treasures we would LOVE to bring home someday. We were there as lookers rather than buyers but all the artisans had their game faces on and talked to us with pride, passion and hope in their eyes. It was incredibly inspiring and I've been daydreaming all day about starting an export business.

We saw seas and seas of bracelets, textiles, worry dolls, and handbags, but what really impressed us were the younger designers who put a modern twist on the traditional patterns. There were benches, chairs and ottomans covered in bright fabrics, there were sun shades and floor mats made of woven palm fronds cut in geometric shapes, we loved the fun, sunny-colored handbags and the cutting boards made from sustainable coffee and teak wood. Most of all I think we were both in pillow ecstasy with all the adorable colors, fabrics, embroidery and tassels. New discovery: tassels make me so happy! And of course we learned how to say all of this in Spanish.

We stopped into an Indian joint for a lunch of mild curries, rice and
naan in a cute little interior courtyard. And we wandered into a few little shops but hit the road around 3 to make it back home before rush hour hit, or what we imagined could possibly be a horrible rush hour. Turns out there's just always traffic in the city.

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