From mother to mother – teaching skills through generations

Learning to knead dough until it feels just right, combining spices that make a meal pop, and turning over a new garden bed to get the most robust growth are just some of the valuable skills that mothers pass on to their children. The warm childhood memories that fill our minds of working side-by-side, as we soak in the knowledge of our mothers and grandmothers are priceless.

We then build our own memories as we teach these same skills to our own children, which connects us all forever. Traditions passed down will live on. Sometimes, they can even be turned a profitable business that can help the family thrive, as is the case with Lourdes.

Lourdes’ mother was skilled in the art of sewing traditional Bolivian women’s clothing, a skill that she passed down to her daughter. For many years, Lourdes ran her own business out of her home, sewing traditional polleras (skirts) of her culture and other garments for women in her neighbourhood. Some clothing she sewed by hand, and others with a small domestic sewing machine. Her sewing machine was slow and overheated easily – it would take Lourdes about three days to make one pollera.

Two years ago, Lourdes completed the “Business for Life” entrepreneurship training program through our Guadalupe site. When she graduated, she invested her seed money into a larger, stronger sewing machine. Now, she can sew a pollera in two days!

Many Bolivian women choose to wear traditional garments known as cholitas, made of heavy linen and hand-sewn in layers with a special kind of elastic waist. These garments require a much more specialized technique to create and as a result are significantly more expensive to purchase – about $100 CAD each.

Lourdes has adopted a simpler technique to make less expensive polleras for women to wear as everyday attire, and creates more elaborate ones for special occasions. Lourdes’ business is going well with her receiving about 10 orders every 8-12 weeks, and more when there are big parties or festivals coming up.

Lourdes loves wearing traditional garments herself, and thinks they are beautiful and elegant. Each dress she sews connects her with her mother, and with her grandmother who taught her mother the technique when she was a girl. Connected to multiple generations of women in her family, Lourdes is looking forward to passing this skill to the next generation soon.

Lourdes lights up every time she spots one of her creations around town. Once the pandemic is over, she is looking forward to getting dressed up in her cholita to dance with her husband.

We’d like to wish a Happy Mothers Day to all of our mothers and mother figures in our lives. Thank you for your love, your sacrifice and for teaching us so many valuable skills. We hope you have a blessed weekend with your families.

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