Meet the Artisans – America
UPAVIM is more than just a place to come and work, it is a giant family of women who constantly love and support each other. Like any family, this one can sometimes be noisy and quite entertaining. And, like any family, there are some who are quiet and content to listen to their louder members. At UPAVIM, one of these ladies is called America. America has been an UPAVIMa for the last fifteen years and is one of the longest serving sewers here. She is a quiet lady with an air of dignity, she wears a quiet smile everyday that shines in her kind eyes.
America came to La Esperanza in 1984, when she was just fifteen years old. She came with her boyfriend, leaving her family behind in another part of Guatemala City. When they first arrived here there was nothing. People were being forced to flee their homes due to the “invasion” that was happening all over Guatemala. Many people ended up running to land where there was nothing, and so began slum neighborhoods like La Esperanza. There were no roads, no lights and no water. The houses were made from whatever people could find. At this time there was one water source in La Esperanza, a dirty river that ran through the dirt roads.
America remembers this time as being very difficult. But things were going to get harder for the young teenager – at sixteen America had her first baby.
She had another child at eighteen years old, and another at twenty years old. After their third child her boyfriend left them, leaving America in a situation that is all too common in the lives of the UPAVIMas; raising three children alone with little opportunity and no money. America found work in the city at a clothes factory; she worked there sewing for ten years. America had a fourth child, but unfortunately the father also left them after two years leaving her once again to support herself and her four children.
America came to work at UPAVIM fifteen years ago. She brought with her sewing skills she had developed in the factory and has continued to expand her expertise throughout her time here. She told us that she is grateful for her work in UPAVIM because she enjoys sewing and working here allowed her to be close to home and her children. Working for UPAVIM means she doesn’t have to choose between providing economic support for her family or physically being there with them. She is glad she was able to stay close to her children.
Her hope for the future is that UPAVIM can continue to grow and to be able to provide more opportunities for the women and children of La Esperanza.