Meet Isabel (Isa) Coxaj Boj: Yabal’s newest yet highly experienced director. As a weaver herself, her perspicacity has helped to bridge the gap between orders placed and orders delivered. You might say that a lot of sweat and tears goes into what Isabel makes possible but, she does it because it is her passion. In just the short time that I, Hannah Whalen Fuentes, have known Isabel, I have learned just that. It is why I feel the need to share more about Isabel. She deserves to be highlighted.
Isa worked as the production assistant before making her way as the director. In total, she has been with Yabal for five years and as director, she completed a year this month. Hear from her about this experience: “I was invited to give chats about weaving and its meaning in the Mayan culture. In the moment, I wasn’t working. I have a son, in which in that time, I had to take care of (primarily). After (a while), Allison (antecessor of Isa) had called me asking if I wanted to work in Yabal, which for me was a great surprise, since it had been a dream, since I really liked the art of weaving on a backstrap loom. The delivery and commitment (in my part) from the beginning was what helped me climb little by little. Later I was the production coordinator.” Isabel found this area of work to be the most important. Not only did she love weaving but she now had direct contact with the women weavers in the cooperative. She really enjoyed the experience, receiving the finish products, and admiring the beautiful textiles.
Weaving did not always come easy for Isabel. She learned through participation in a course offered by Museo Ixkik in Quetzaltenango. Isa shared her frustrations in the beginning, “It was very complicated because I kept getting the threads tangled up. But I practiced at home, since I really liked to, and I was able to finish an napkin with some designs that I had copied from a ‘traje’ that my grandpa gifted me. He was a Foot loom weaver and he would weave our clothes, which he kept (doing) to the date.” It can be inferred that this napkin was the beginning of great work ahead for Isabel and gave her the hope and motivation to continue weaving her way to success.
Through her work in Yabal, Isabel feels proud to be a part of continuing the production of this ancient art and feels a deep connection to her culture when doing so. She shows utmost admiration and gratefulness to be a part of a line of people with “great hearts” (who initiated Yabal). “(They) didn’t see obstacles or dangers in order to help our Mayan brothers and sisters that were in difficult times, and to see now how they have grown, how the community has changed since then, it is something that I love and to know that now, I am a part of that, that I can continue supporting, so that women can have an income and can contribute in their homes/families, it is very satisfying.” Isa also advocates cultural preservation and says that it makes her happy to promote the art of weaving through her work, something “from our own culture that the invasion couldn’t erase.”
In conversation with Isabel, she shared with me something many reading this may not know; the term Yabal comes from the K’iche word I’yabal, meaning hope. While Isabel may have not been with Yabal from its inception, she has witnessed a lot of positive, hope-filled moments. “Knowing that Yabal has helped many families that have been marginalized and discriminated towards throughout history, it makes me happy and gives me hope that we can contribute a grain of sand in the search for the well-being of these communities.”
When I asked what Isabel wants to continue doing in her work at Yabal, she notes that high-quality standards are a priority for her, and these standards motivate her to continue working towards these outcomes. Her goal is to expand the work Yabal and woman weavers are doing so that more will come to learn of Yabal and its work.
If you would like to get involved in the work Yabal is doing, as a client or donor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.