MEET ESTELITA - CREATIVE ARTISAN, LEADER, MOM AND BODEGA OWNER Meet Estelita Loayza Ihuma. I met her first as one of the artisans from the village of Chino on the Tahuayo River that makes the beautiful chambira palm fiber baskets. In recent years, though, I have gotten to know her better as the President of the artisan association from her community. Many artisan groups elect presidents, but I have never met anyone in this role who has done so much and earned so much trust from her fellow artisans as Estelita. When she joined our Artisan Leadership Program workshops last year, it was a marvel to watch how quickly she also earned the respect of artisans from all of the communities. She articulately discussed how the Chino artisans were in a similar position to other artisan groups ten years ago and how they have progressed since then. They were working primarily as individuals until an opportunity came along to sell more crafts to visitors from an eco-tourism lodge. Estelita helped her fellow artisans improve their craft making, brought them together as a cooperative group, helped figure out how to shift husbands from being adversaries to advocates for the women artisans, took on quality control for the group, and become a pioneer in improving management of chambira palm trees. As Estelita remains a positive force in her community, I hope that CACE can work with Estelita to strengthen artisan groups in other places. Oh yes, in addition to making crafts and guiding the artisan association, she is a mom to a cool grade-school boy and runs a little bodega (general store) on the ground floor of her house with her husband.
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