Founded in the 1980s as an unofficial group of widows hoping to find some way of supporting themselves economically after the devastation of the internal armed conflict, the mission of Asociación Maya de Desarrollo K'amolon K'i K'onojel (Mayan Development Association) is tied to the brutality faced by Mayan villages in the Guatemalan highlands. Despite the Peace Accords of 1996, women of post-war communities are still struggling, due to extreme racism, misogyny, a failed state, and maldistribution of wealth. They not only play the role of mother, daughter, and sister, but many also have a responsibility to generate income for their family.
Asociación Maya de Desarrollo provides an opportunity for women to strengthen their economic and social well-being. Over 180 women in the Association make two to four times what they would in local markets through local sale of their products. At the same time, women in the Association play a pivotal role in preserving ancient Mayan traditions and culture through the use of the backstrap loom weaving, the traditional and labor-intensive weaving method used by women in Guatemala. This ancient method of weaving holds spiritual significance and is the method used to make traditional huipiles (blouses) and belts. The co-op produces scarves, shawls, handbags, jackets, wallets, coin purses, etc., using bamboo chenille, lightweight bamboo yarn, and cotton which are first hand-dyed in small batches by the co-op.
The objective of Asociación Maya is not to just provide an income for families in post-conflict communities. Asociación Maya also aims to provide an opportunity for women harmed by the war to become leaders in the cooperative, their homes, their communities, and of the Mayan tradition. The cooperative provides leadership and economic opportunities for the women. These opportunities include positions on the junta directiva (board of directos) of the co-op and full-time management options in the Association. Additionally, the cooperative is a conduit for other development funding such as latrines, schools, workshops, etc.
Through Asociación Maya de Desarrollo, women weavers have transformed the livelihoods of their families and communities, despite a brutal past. Weaving is not only a symbol of the past, but is also a means to find a peaceful and prosperous future.