La Cooperativa Ruth y Nohemi
La Cooperativa Ruth and Nohemi was started in the 1980s to generate income for widows who had lost their husbands in the civil war in Guatemala and was named for two biblical widows found in the Book of Ruth.* It started as a project of the Methodist Church, whose church in the village of Chontolá near Chichicastenango in the central highlands, was bombed, killing 40 people inside, all Mayan Quiché people. The widows were left to do all of the farming and take care of their children as well as those of relatives who had been killed. They turned to the church for help.
The Ruth and Nohemi crafts project was started to provide them with alternatives. The widows developed products from the traditional Mayan back strap weavings and were able to work at home and earn an income. They use traditional Mayan huipiles (hand woven, embroidered blouses) from the area to create designs for contemporary bags, wallets and pillows. When you visit their spacious showroom, you’ll see bolts of brightly colored material in traditional patterns displayed along with beautiful, skirts, blouses, purses, book covers, children’s backpacks, table runners and more.
Today, the program continues to provide a source of income for women, and also benefits their sons and daughters. The cooperative holds literacy classes at night and includes a training center for young men, where they learn income-generating skills while receiving a basic education thereby playing a critical role in reducing delinquency among the young people in the community.
In recognition of their gorgeous handicrafts, Ruth and Nohemi was one of two Guatemalan Artisan groups that were invited to Israel in August of 2010 to exhibit their works in a show presented by The Arts Council of Israel.
* The women who started this cooperative were widows, as were Nohemi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Nohemi ‘s two sons also died, one of whom was Ruth’s husband. Although Nohemi told Ruth to return to her mother and to remarry, Ruth remained loyal to Nohemi and both women returned to Bethlehem. Ruth began working for Boaz to support herself and Nohemi. By the end of the Book of Ruth, Boaz married Ruth, Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of King David. This story shows God’s providential care for Nohemi and for Ruth. Similarly, the Methodist Church cared for the widows of the 36 year war in Guatemala, providing them with weaving projects to give them a sense that together they could survive. 4/13/2011