Cojolya is a Fair Trade certified organization that aims to maintain and celebrate the art of the back-strap loom weaving technique, while supporting and empowering 35 local Mayan artisans and their families. Located on the shores of Lake Atitlán in a predominantly indigenous town called Santiago Atitlán, our distinctive yet versatile high-quality woven products are individually handmade by local Mayan artisans. Ultimately, here at Cojolya, we hope to keep the past alive, serve present financial need, and fortify the future of the Mayan community in Santiago Atitlán.
Cojolya first emerged in 1983 during the Guatemalan Civil War, by fusing three distinct visions. Candis Krummel dreamed of producing beautiful designs and empowering women with income security, Elena Sojuel brought her love of the backstrap loom tradition, and Santiago Atitlán native, Antonio Ramirez Sosof, envisioned improving his beloved hometown. During the recent civil war, Mayan men were considered guerillas. Wearing their hand-woven garments signalled their ethnic identity and placed them at risk of violence. Because indigenous people were suspected of conspiring against the government and joining the resistance, meetings were not allowed by the military, making working with Cojolya difficult at times, but also a peaceful yet powerful protest for the right to a sustainable way of living. Beyond economic stability, this history of persecution motivates the artisans to pass this Mayan tradition of cultural self-determination and resilience onto the next generation.
Since then, our in-office team has changed but we continue to pursue Fair Trade, respect, and celebration of culture, all the while strengthening our beloved Santiago Atitlán. Our trade philosophy transforms by building a path out of poverty and respecting the people behind our products. As Cojolya is dedicated to the conservation of the tradition of back-strap loom, not as a historical relic, but as an economically viable source of employment for our women weavers, we aim to develop long term solutions to assess problematic issues hindering the empowerment of our community. In 2017 we launched our own social program called Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo: Hand in Hand for Development, in order to support our weavers’ families in secondary schooling and entrepreneurship.