One of my favourite experiences in Guatemala – and there were many – was visiting San Juan la Laguna. This tiny town on Lake Atitlan is well off the tourist path. But it’s known locally for beautiful textiles, and the use of traditional methods to achieve vibrant colours.
The elders in these tribes were dying off, and younger members realized their knowledge would be lost forever if nothing was done. And so a group of women formed a collective to master the skills and keep the local traditions alive.
We travelled across Lake Atitlan by boat, the only way to reach San Juan La Laguna that doesn’t involved serious climbing. The main street slopes steeply uphill from the dock, and all the stores are located along this short street. We wandered in and out of the shops, each of them tiny but pulsing with colour. We were interested in learning about their methods, but found the locals don’t even speak Spanish (they speak Tz’utijil, one of the dozens of languages and dialects spoken in Guatemala). We were grateful to be travelling with a guide who helped translate.