What markets the women have been able to conquer are the result of their own effort. They have created their own cooperative, known as Manos Mágicas de Tekax (Magic Hands of Tekax), but claim that no government has offered them any kind of support, much less helped them reach international markets.
“We get together and travel to Cancún, Tabasco or Veracruz. That’s as far as we’ve gone,” said artisan Zenaida González.
Unfazed, the artisans continue embroidering traditional three-piece women’s suits known as ternos yucatecos, as well as blouses, huipiles and handbags. Sometimes they produce so much they have more pieces than they can store, and must lower their prices just to make space for new garments.
“We’ve got to sell,” said a couple of the artisans. “A needlework terno costs between 5,000 and 6,000 pesos (about US $270 to $320), but we sell them at 4,000 ($215).” Huipiles that go for 2,000-pesos are sold at half that price.
“We have to eat, we’ve got to make a sale any way we can,” said the artisans.
The women are aware that their work is bought at low prices and then resold for more.
“We sell embroideries at 150 pesos which are then sold at 500. Others are bought at 800 and sold at 2,000. We know this, but we don’t have the means of transportation or the financing to take our work there by ourselves,” said Patricia Yolanda Sandoval Arciniega.
Sandoval is originally from Michoacán but has lived in Tekax for over a quarter of a century, and has learned to create and love the traditional artisanal methods of the region.
The director of the state Casa de las Artesanías, or House of Handcrafts, acknowledged that the embroidered garments lack a domestic and international market, a sentiment shared by the director of the the Institute for the Development of the Maya Culture of Yucatán State (Indemaya).
What the women of Manos Mágicas de Tekax would like is help finding buyers abroad, customers who will pay the right price for the effort and time invested in their work, and recognize its quality.