Colombia is an equatorial country of South America bordering Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Brazil. It is one of the most ecologically and ethnically diverse countries in the world and is comprised of 32 departments that all vary drastically. Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America with its people descending from original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, immigrants from Europe and the Middle East, and Africans originally brought to the country as slaves. Some of the largest remaining indigenous groups include the Wayuu in La Guajira, the Paez in Cauca, and the Zenú in Sucre.
Historically, Colombia has been underrepresented when it comes to ethically-sourced goods. Political unrest, civil war, and cartel violence have greatly impacted tourism and there’s been less of a global market for goods produced by Colombian artisans. That’s shifted within the past few years as Colombia has seen an end to the 50-year-long armed conflict with the FARC guerrilla group and a new reputation on the world stage. Many zones, previously inaccessible, are now being visited by Colombians and international travelers alike discovering traditional art forms that vary by region and reflect the country’s unique past.
As with most conflicts, rural and indigenous women and girls suffered some of the greatest injustices throughout the half decade civil war in Colombia. Already a marginalized group, the conflict further limited rural women’s political and economic participation and access to land ownership. Conflict-based sexual violence and the further denigration of women, particularly indigenous and Afro-Colombian, led to increased poverty rates and threatened cultural survival among those targeted. Despite their vulnerability, women were often considered one of the driving forces in conflict resolution and remain some of the most prevalent activists despite the ongoing threat of assassination and attack.
Women make up approximately 70% of Colombia’s artisan population and while we do not work exclusively with female artisans, we believe in the power that women’s economic participation has in development efforts. We hope to provide an outlet for artisans throughout the country to access this emerging market and benefit from a growing interest in Colombian art and culture. In doing so, we hope to contribute in a small way to cultural preservation and economic empowerment of Colombia’s artisan communities whose work represents the country’s rich and diverse history.