Flora The leader of Sumak Muyu, Flora is a champion of hard work, community leadership, and generosity. She serves as Sumak Muyu’s main saleswoman, carrying many of the group’s products to downtown Cotacachi where she sells them out of her family’s stand at the local paseo artesanal, or artisanal corridor. A leading voice of the artisan cooperative of the paseo artesanal, Flora fights for the livelihood of not only Sumak Muyu’s members, but hundreds of other Cotacacheño artisans as well. Outside of work, she devotes much of her energy to leadership roles in community organizations for women’s rights, public health, and water protection, and has thus established herself as a notable figure in La Calera over the last few decades. She grows traditional crops such as maize and potatoes to supplement her family’s nutrition. She spends time with her six granddaughters, and takes them to La Calera’s many sacred sites so that they learn the significance of Pachamama, or Mother Earth.
“Artisanry is very important to me because my family and I live off of this work. Through artisanry we’ve acquired a house and been able to educate our children. It is also a beautiful thing to work with our own hands.” -Flora
Inés Sumak Muyu compañeras (partners), this work is certainly not Inés’ only creative outlet. At home, she and her husband have converted part of their house into a sort of bed and breakfast for visitors, where she serves fresh home-cooked meals using ingredients straight from the family’s sprawling backyard garden (we might even go as far as to call it a backyard farm – it’s that impressive!). Like Flora, Inés also devotes time to improving the community by working with a women’s cooperative in Cotacachi that provides resources and support to victims of gender-based violence. Along with spending time with her children, Inés’ favorite way to use her free time is to work on the crops in her backyard, an activity that she feels brings her in touch with the universe itself. As a member of Sumak Muyu, Inés
values the many skills she has picked up from working as an artisan – from designing, to crafting, to sales.
“My goal is for Sumak Muyu to be self-sustaining and successful enough to be able to carry out social work with vulnerable families in the community.” – Inés
Marisol, the matriarch. With four children and a nephew to look after, Marisol cooks for the family daily while the youngest of the kids (and the family’s two rambunctious dogs) play with their cousins and friends throughout the house. At the front of this house is Sumak Muyu’s headquarters – a spare room with a crafting table in the middle with handmade necklaces, bracelets, and earrings hanging on all the walls. Marisol, like her compañeras, cherishes the time they spend crafting jewelry together, as it offers her a chance to laugh, cry, and de-stress with her friends, all while making her own money to support her loved ones. When time allows, Marisol enjoys cultivating vegetables and looking after the flowers in her garden.
“It is a source of pride, of happiness, to make our own money and be able to help our families economically.” – Marisol
Alejandra Perhaps you’ve noticed a theme among Sumak Muyu’s artisans so far – they tend to be hard workers and mothers. Alejandra is no exception. A mother of two and one of the youngest members of the group, Alejandra’s favorite part of Sumak Muyu is the chance it gives her to learn new things so that she can continue creating ways to support her family. She also appreciates being able to express herself through the art that is their jewelry. When possible, she continues to express herself by hand-embroidering her own blouses, a traditional past-time for indigenous women in the Ecuadorian highlands.
“I would like to see our workshop expand some day and become more recognized so that we can generate more employment in the community.” – Alejandra
Elena, one of the more recent additions to the Sumak Muyu team, values the festive and creative energy of the group, and loves learning from the other members as well as teaching them what she knows. A mother herself, she especially appreciates the support that Sumak Muyu provides for local families in need by purchasing school supplies for their children. Elena draws much pride from being part of such a strong and entrepreneurial group of women, and hopes that one day they will be able to share their creations with more customers, which would in turn allow them to employ and empower even more women. She enjoys attending local fairs and festivals, making new friends, coming up with new ideas, and, of course, working the land to cultivate crops.
For me, artisanry represents passion and tradition. It is also a great help to me because through artisanry I have work and have thus been able to support my family.” – Alejandra
Yury, Flora’s daughter-in-law and the mother of Flora’s youngest granddaughter, is Sumak Muyu’s newest member. Her favorite parts of being in the group include creating new designs and learning new techniques, being able to grow as a person, and adopting the values of unity and friendship with her compañeras. She also cherishes the meaning behind their work, seeing artisanry as a way to respect customs and preserve local traditions. Yury’s goal is to one day earn a master’s degree in finance and use her knowledge to return and help grow Sumak Muyu even more. Along with her newfound affinity for making artisanry, Yury loves to spend time with her daughter (who just learned to walk!) and listen to music.
“Being a part of Sumak Muyu and working as a group has helped me to have a sense of responsibility, respect, care, and dedication to my work.” – Yury