Bags for a good cause: Alicia San Marcos
There are few things harder to find than the perfect travel bag. Sure, you can get a suitcase or a duffle bag, but where is the fun in that? And yeah, there are tons of totes on the market boasting of improved organization and ease of use. But do you ever buy a new bag and it just doesn’t end up being working the way you want? Well look no further, I have finally found the bag.
But before I rave about the bag itself, I must give credit where credit is due. Meet Alicia San Marcos, the brand behind the bag. Alicia San Marcos is an accessory company founded on the mission of providing Guatemalan children with access to education. Over 50% of the Guatemalan people live in poverty and lack resources to purchase school supplies and uniforms – both of which are required for education. Unfortunately, education is the only way to break the cycle of poverty for the people of Guatemala. Alicia San Marcos has set out to help break this poverty cycle by providing Guatemalan children with educational materials.
In order to achieve this goal, Alicia San Marcos has partnered with Niños de Guatemala (NDG), a nonprofit that works to improve the quality of education in Guatemala. To ensure that this partnership would be used for education, the founder of Alicia San Marcos spent a month in Guatemala volunteering for NDG to see firsthand how the money would be used.
NDG improves education through a few different initiatives. Over half of Guatemalan children are chronically malnourished, so NDG provides 2 nutritionally-balanced meals in school per day. NDG also has onsite sociologists and psychologists to identify students at risk of discontinuing their education, to educate parents on the long-term benefits of continued education, and to council children through highly prevalent issues like physical and sexual abuse. Basically, this non-profit organization is tackling lack of education and poverty through multiple initiatives to make the greatest possible impact.
So where does Alicia San Marcos fit in? To date, the company has donated over 26,000 school supplies. Furthermore, every single product is handmade in fair trade working environments employing the indigenous, or Mayan population, 90% of whom live in poverty. So as you can imagine, the bags cost a little bit more, but that extra cost is being used to ensure that the workers are paid fair living wages. Finally, the textile bags (like the one I got) takes 4-12 weeks to make because each bag is made from recycled blouses of indigenous workers that have been hand woven on back strap looms or foot looms, a Mayan tradition that has been passed on for centuries.
The best part? Since the tote is made from a blouse (called a huipil), no two bags are ever the same. Nearly every aspect has symbolic meaning and each unique design tells the mythology and history of the region it is from. The founder was kind enough to send me the history of my particular bag.
The huipil (blouse) on my bag comes from Nahualá, which means enchanted waters. Huipils from this region are known for the brightly colored geometric patterns that often feature squares and diamonds, which represent the four cardinal directions of East, West (where the sun sets and rises), North, South (magnetic poles). The spirals surrounding the diamonds represent the levels of reincarnation that the Mayans believe in and the two large animals in the center are the feathered serpent, or Quetzcoatl. Quetzcoatl is the Mayan god of intelligence and self-reflection. How cool is that? Needless to say, this bag is incredibly special to me. It fits SO much, and is super cute, so it has become my go-to travel bag. Plus, while it’s not always realistic, it’s so important to me that I purchase as much as I can from companies that give back in some way. Alicia San Marcos goes above and beyond in that regard, and I couldn’t be happier to support this company.
Make sure to stop by AliciaSanMarcos.com to get your very own tote, or any number of bags and accessories that they offer. Also, make sure to use the code NIKKI to get 10% off your purchase. With every purchase, you’ll be helping this company provide school supplies and nutritionally-balanced meals to Guatemalan children.