Embroidery, Jose Sicay Tzina

Jose Sicay Tzina


Jose is a Tzutu'jil Maya who lives in Santiago, Guatemala, with his wife and 5 children. He attended school through the 4th grade; his wife did not have an opportunity to attend any school. When work was available, Jose was a day laborer on a large coffee farm. He also has a small vegetable garden a couple of hours away from his home, and he also has a small business as a machine embroiderer, which he operates from one of the three small rooms of his home. These multiple opportunities to earn money still left the family impoverished.

When we first met Jose in 2006 we were struck by the beautiful detailing of his small embroidered coin purses. Working together with Jose we came up with products to apply his exquisite embroidery for the export market- fabric-by-the-yard and also fabric for overnight bags.

As Cultural Cloth’s business expanded, Jose’s production increased. Consequently he has been able to keep his daughters in high school- his oldest daughter graduated in 2012. Jose has plans for his second daughter to learn his craft; Cultural Cloth supplies the learning materials. (Only 1 in 10 children ever graduate High School in Guatemala.)

In December 2012, we received an email from Delores, his oldest daughter. The family had a long talk one weekend just before Christmas. They concluded their finances have improved tremendously through their association with Cultural Cloth. They gave Delores permission to attend college and she began her college career in January, 2013.

While that in itself would make a great ending for this story, there's more...

Interior designer, Wendy Coggins, saw Jose's Flying Bird fabric at our shop and knew it would be perfect for a design project she was working on. Her client, Kathy Brekken, agreed. So stunning was the completed project, that it caught the eye of the New York Times, who featured the home. The piece ran in the Thursday, May 29, 2014 Home & Garden section. You can read more about Jose and the New York Times article on our Blog.

We could not be more proud of Jose, and we could not be more grateful to Wendy & Kathy for integrating his work into their project.