About Us

Our Mission:

  • To promote a living wage for Guatemalan partner artisans through the purchase and resale of their products in accordance with Fair Trade principles.

  • To provide resources and collaborate with our producer partners to benefit their communities.

  • To educate North Americans about Guatemalan communities via craft sales and other activities.

Who we are: El Quetzal is a volunteer, non-profit organization in Seattle, Washington that imports fairly traded artisan products from indigenous cooperatives and communities of producers located in small villages near and around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Our Guatemalan partner groups are made up mostly of vulnerable indigenous women who produce weavings and beaded work. For the most part they speak only their village or regional languages and therefore are isolated and subject to abuse when it comes to earning fair prices for their work. Receiving a fair price for their colorful, traditional and creative products has proven to be a source of pride and empowerment for the women and has encouraged them to undertake additional lines of work to enhance their economic stability.

What we do: In Seattle, our organization consists of a volunteer Board of Directors and supporting volunteers. The Board meets monthly to plan, organize and arrange for the purchase, import, promotion and marketing of the products of our Guatemalan partners. The supporting volunteers work with the Board to sell the products at festivals and various sales events in the community.

How it works: The work of El Quetzal consists of several steps or operations:

Meeting the Artisan Communities: Two Board members go to Guatemala each year to meet with the artisan communities, see new products, purchase samples, place orders, and assess the health of the organizations and the current situation there. It’s also a time of collaborating with the members of the community to establish the fair value of their products consistent with Fair Trade principles.

Importing products: Orders are placed with the Guatemalan partners who ship their products to El Quetzal in Seattle. Upon receiving the shipment, the Board and volunteers gather to price the items in preparation for various sales events.

Sales Events: The products are sold at local fairs throughout the year; however, the primary sales take place at the Seattle Folklife Festival which is held on Memorial Day weekend. The various gift fairs held at churches and other organizations in the run up to Christmas also provide excellent opportunities for sales. Board members and El Quetzal volunteers staff all of these events.

Although El Quetzal no longer sells its products directly through this webpage, we encourage you to contact us by phone or email to purchase items from our product pages. Products are available for wholesale or retail.

Education: Through our sales events the Board and volunteers make a conscientious effort to inform our customers about the work of our artisan partners, the meaning of Fair Trade and the work of the Fair Trade Federation.

Additional Support to partner communities: The market for artisan products is very competitive and the margin for sales is very small. Nevertheless, whenever there is a net gain in the income from sales, that money is reinvested in some way with the producer communities. In the past El Quetzal has been able to purchase looms and sewing machine parts, and pay for literacy classes.

Why we do it: Quetzal began in 1997 as an effort to provide non-exploitative income and support to Guatemalan artisans who had little or no access to resources, markets or capital. Rural economies had been severely disrupted by a 36-year civil war. Moreover, national and international economic policies have had detrimental impacts which continue today. The civil war left many widows without a means to support themselves and their families. Economic policies such as CAFTA have made small-scale farming non-competitive with subsidized agricultural products from the U.S. By purchasing the products made by our partners at Fair Trade prices, El Quetzal works not only to provide needed income, but to encourage their self confidence and efforts to expand their economic horizons. It has been exciting to see successful co-ops purchase cows to start a dairy business, or coffee seeds to supplement their income through coffee sales. These are initiatives taken by the co-ops themselves and the pride associated with them is palpable.