Gilberta Gonzales Vasquez

Community: Aldea San Rafael, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala
Organization: Mujeres Artesanas Ajkem, y Mayan Hands
Position: Coordinator
Techniques: natural dyes in cotton on the backstrap loom in brocade and lace.
Gilberta is the Coordinator of the weaving group Mujeres Artesanas Ajkem which partners with the non-profit Mayan Hands. Gilberta began formal schooling when she was eight, studying until the third grade when she was ten years old. Gilberta is the third of eight children from a poor family. At ten she was forced to leave off her formal studies because she was female and her family didn’t have the resources to continue her education. On top of this, the violence of the civil war forced schools to close for two years. When they reopened, only boys returned to classes. At ten years old Gilberta began to learn to weave from her aunt, mastering brocade only after she had first learned plain weave. During these years, Gilberta wove huipiles (elaborate traditional blouses) and placemats to sell in the main square of her community San Rafael to support her family. When the organization Mayan Hands arrived in her community, Gilberta also learned how to weave lace. She began to teach other women of the weaving group Mujeres Artesanas Ajkem to make shawls and other textiles to sell to Mayan Hands. Gilberta has since married, and now has a grown daughter and two granddaughters all of whom weave. For twenty years she has taught women to weave in order to sell their textiles to Mayan Hands. Gilberta would like to thank Mayan Hands for the work they provide the weavers of Mujeres Artesanas Ajkem, enabling them to provide for their families and send their children to school.