Utz means good in Maya Quiché (pronounced key-ch-a) which is the most spoken Maya language in Guatemala. It is a region, a language and a unique way of life that has played a role in everything we are at Utz Threads. We are a socially conscious brand that partners with weavers from a mountainous region of Guatemala called Chichicastenango. We work to promote their ancestral knowledge through handmade products that tell a story about who the women are and what everyday life is like for them. We promote Fair Trade values by watching every aspect of the supply chain to ensure fair pay, safe working conditions and a mutually respectful relationship with the women. We believe that this work is about reciprocity meaning we’re all part of a bigger community where we share cultural knowledge and skills between groups of people from different parts of the world to help each other grow. Utz Threads promotes conversation and sharing in a respectful and mutual way that allows for a dignified relationship for all involved.
The ladies and I after one of our first meetings, March 2017
My name is Cinthya Flores and I began working with the women late 2016, right after finishing graduate school for entrepreneurship. I went from Redwood City, California to spend a year in the small town of Chichicastenango and learn about what fair trade practices looked like in action. I didn’t have much of an idea about the culture I was going to live with, but I knew that my anthropological heart would be so content. Most of my predictions proved to be correct! I was insanely excited to observe quietly as the women began our group meetings in Quiché leaving me to appreciate the tones and distinguish the few Spanish words that were thrown in. I would try to piece together the conversation in my mind until they would later translate into Spanish. I loved walking aimlessly through the market trying to take note of what fruits and veggies were at which stalls and who would give me the best prices. The lively colors and iconographies on people’s clothes were a seriously entertaining part of my day, especially when I began to distinguish which designs came from what regions. It was magical to say the least and that is why when it came time to say goodbye I realized that I wasn’t ready to stop learning.
Looking up on a random side street to this view, March 2017
Chichicastenango is a small town in the highlands of Guatemala caught between gorgeous mountain ranges in the region of Quiché. It holds a market that dates back to prehispanic times and still holds on proudly to its Maya roots. On any given day you can be walking down the cobblestone streets and run across spiritual leaders dressed in traditional garb on their way to a ceremony. Other times you can be caught off guard by a loud pack of dogs barking at you from the rooftop of a neighbors house. Whatever it may be, it's almost impossible not to be overwhelmed with emotion at everything there is to learn, see and experience in this remarkable small town. And that is just a tiny bit of the overall wondrous Maya culture, which really is divided into many subsets that vary in aspects like dress, language and lifestyle depending on what part of the country it is.
The sun rays around Candelaria's neck represent Chichicastenango. "When I travel outside of Chichi(castenango) I walk into an unfamiliar place proudly knowing that people can identify where I'm from." Photo: Kevin Tzoc, 2017
Through Utz Threads we want to show you the beauty and strength that is Chichicastenango and the weavers we work with. From the ancestral weaving techniques to the very much alive Maya Quiché culture, the products hold a piece of all of its power. Through our products we'd like to offer you a daily connection to the women's ancestral beliefs and allow you to share it with the world. We truly hope this page and this brand can inspire you to learn more about weaving traditions and the people they comes from. I can assure you that you'll always find something to help you understand the fire that this community was born out of. Sign up for our newsletter to read more interesting stories and follow us on Instagram to learn about our next moves!