"In Guatemala some 30,000 people speak our language, but our culture as about to die out. Yet we are an ethnicity full of life with the desire to get ahead...."
"The story of our association begins in a valley of pre-Hispanic legacy, originally inhabited by the Chorti. The Chorti have a millenary culture – we are direct descendants of the Maya and inherited their culture. In Guatemala some 30,000 people speak our language, but our culture is about to die out. Yet we are an ethnicity full of life with the desire to get ahead, even though throughout our history we have experienced invasions, wars, poverty and famine.
"Our story begins in the 1980s, when Catholic priests organized groups of women to receive training in trades. The parish priest was Don Fernando Gamalero. There were many difficulties, as the civil war had been going on for several years and there was much oppression and fear. But we received support from the Dirección General de Servicios Agrícolas (DIFESA) and from the Ministry of Agriculture, who followed up on the project and strengthened the organization and its training programs. All this helped maintain the women's interest, as they continued to seek options and opportunities for themselves and their families.
In 2001, many women's groups were abandoned without projects or support. No one took them into consideration because they were small committees of women. Sonia Paz, our founder and president, says, 'We invited the committees and their presidents to a reunion where we explained the importance of uniting and organizing as an association of women, and they accepted.
"Throughout that year we had reunions and training workshops with technicians from the municipality. We established our statutes and legal status, and began working on November 29, 2002. Then, with the participation of 28 different community group, we elected a board of directors and started having meetings. But we had nothing, so we borrowed chairs, computers and even paper.
"Our name is Asociación de Mujeres Olopenses – AMO ('I love' in Spanish) – and this is why we chose the name 'Amor Chorti.' The mayor at that time provided us with a place of our own, a computer and a salary for an office worker, and helped us develop projects with financial support.
"We began to become self-sustaining and looked for more projects. Thanks to this, today we have a place of our own and a fully equipped office. We feel very proud because we have everything we need today and have achieved it through our own efforts. It has been difficult, but we achieved it.
"Each group has its potential, for example, a group that weaves maguey fibers, a plant that has flourished in Mesoamerica for thousands of years. They harvest and dye the fiber, then weave it with their own hands. In the past, they had only a few designs and the quality left much to be desired. So they sold their handicrafts at a very low price. But now they have increased their quality and created new designs. This has led to a better income in an area where poverty abounds.
"We believe the Chorti women deserve many opportunities. They are important and are capable of achieving their goals so that they and their families can have a better life. Thank you for choosing our designs!"