Asociacion de Mujeres Iik Luna
Celebrating the dignity and value of women’s work, this large cooperative of 116 women artisans is located near Santiago Atitlan. Widows of the 36-year civil war decided on cooperative craft making to recover from the loss of family members and the memory of war atrocities and formed the Asociación Iik’-Luna.
Finding just the right name for their co-op was so important to the members that they spent two weeks in heated discussions before making their final decision. Iik means young and very bright in Tzutuhil, and Luna means moon. For these women, the moon symbolizes women, while the sun symbolizes men. Thus, the founding members of this cooperative chose the name Iik'Luna as a means of highlighting, or focusing on the work women do, which had often been in the shadows before the war, just as the moon is often overshadowed by the sun. From the onset, the mission of Iik Luna was, and continues to be, the development of women.
The establishment of the Iik’-Luna cooperative was not smooth due to randomly imposed governmental restrictions and to commonly accepted cultural and socioeconomic norms. For women, especially indigenous women, independently running their own artisan cooperative was virtually unheard of at the time. Yet, these women overcame one obstacle after another imposed by local and national government officials. Finally, after years of struggle, Iik’-Luna was born in 1998.
By making and selling distinctive hand-beaded jewelry, animal key chains, embroidered tapestries and, most recently, beaded Christmas tree decorations, the women have greatly improved the economic quality of life in their community as well as their own psychological well-being. With the earnings from the sales of their crafts the members support a school for their children, a cooperative coffee plantation, and individual home vegetable gardens. Currently they are starting a dairy farm with a brand new dairy cow and with the hope of twelve more cows to form a herd in the coming year. These resilient, enterprising, determined and courageous women are truly an inspiration to us all. 4/2011