Artisanship in Oaxaca

Empowerment of Artists

After a trip to Mexico, Nitya Ramlogan, a Regional and Comparative Studies major in the Class of 2013, became interested in entrepreneurship among indigenous artisans. As she perused local craft bazaars in Mexico, she saw an opportunity to improve the lives of these craft makers by giving them access to larger markets, namely the Georgetown community.

Her project promoted fair trade activities and built awareness of traditional artistic techniques and artisans. Taking into account time, labor, level of skill, and cost of materials, she paid fair prices to the producers for the handmade textiles and accessories by eliminating the bureaucracy and diverted profits of middlemen. This initiative addressed three common issues for impoverished Mexican artisans: the downward pressure on wages, limited access to a lucrative international market, and the devaluation of a rich cultural tradition.

To launch her project, she partnered with San Antonio Castillo Velasco, a town just south of Oaxaca, Mexico. In March, using a $1200 award from the SIPS Fund, she traveled to the town, purchased a large selection of merchandise, and established a relationship with the local community. These items were then brought back to campus and showcased in a student-organized fashion show, orchestrated in coordination with the Georgetown Latin American Student Association (LASA). This event served not only as a fundraiser and opportunity to sell the merchandise but also as a way to build awareness for her mission. At the end of the school year, all profits were invested in loans to Mexican micro-entrepreneurs through the Kiva microfinance organization.