MayaBags was founded in 1999 by Judy Bergsma, Jovita Sho and, five Maya artisans from different villages in the Maya Mountains of Belize. Today, our talented team of shareholder/artisans has grown to over ninety.
Why we do what we do
foster ancient skills
embroidery; back-strap looming; basket-coiling from rainforest plant fiber; slate, coconut, and gourd carving; hand-processing fiber and hand-making rope from agave; leather processing using a fully-natural and ancient method of curing the hides with eggs, water and bark; leather cutting and stitching
Maya artisan sketching the embroidery she plans to do on the fabric.
teach financial literacy
familiarizing women with the local banking system, which many have never used before; including all the women in the shareholders’ annual meetings, using visual analogies and translators to take them through the balance sheets; counseling women individually on how to balance their budgets so that they can send their children to school, keep food on the table, and pay their bills
Back-strap Looming by a Maya Female Artisan
Close-up of a Maya Female Artisan Working on a back-strap loom..
Back-strap looming by a Maya female artisan working with MayaBags.
inspire personal achievement
developing quality employment skills; raising Maya women’s self-esteem and giving them an independent voice in their families and communities and in MayaBags as a shareholder; rotating the team leader’s position in each village MayaBags’ team so each team member can experience the role as a leader
build a village economy
creating jobs where there were none; empowering Maya women; providing a stable source of income; creating a role model for other entrepreneurial ventures, outside of the norm of slash and burn farming; with a larger number of people in the village employed, more cash gets circulated inside the village, helping small stores and vendors with their businesses
reinvigorating Maya pride in their traditions and environment; combining designer and artisanal product concepts; balancing vivid and traditional Maya colors with Pantone seasonal colors; executing beautifully detailed construction; employing hand-made craftsmanship to create luxury quality
The MayaBags Mission
We seek to foster ancient skills, inspire personal achievement, build a village economy, teach financial literacy, and celebrate creativity to empower indigenous female artisans of Belize.
Maya woman back-strap looming the textile in the background.