Dolores Ramirez and sisters

The Hummingbird Sisters”, Santiago Atitlan


Dolores and her sisters are the primary beadworkers we purchased beaded hummingbirds from. The hummingbirds are superior in both artistry and craftsmanship compared to those of other beadworkers we have encountered. Dolores is one of eight siblings-four girls and four boys. They all live together in their home with their mother and father and brothers close to the central market in Santiago Atitlan. Their principle source of income is from beadwork which they sell out of a stall. The stall, like the dozens of others, consists of a table with their wares protected from rain and sun by a plastic tarp overhead.

They have been doing the beadwork and selling out of the stall for ten years and before that, sold on the street. Dolores and Elena, one of her sisters, tend the stall during the day from about 9:00 until 4:00 while the other two sisters do the beadwork and some textile work at the house, and Dolores and her sister also help with the beadwork later in the afternoon after they close down the stall. The other sisters work about five hours a day making the products to sell, and the rest of the time tending to other matters related to the household and caring for the children.

As is the case in so many other tourist towns, competition is fierce with many others selling similar product in stalls, on the street and in more established stores. Prices are controlled by the forces of supply and demand and the vagaries of a tourist dependant economy. There is an over abundance of supply and relatively dispersed demand, so the profit margin tends to be small. Their product tends to be of higher quality than others and so have somewhat of an edge over some of the other competitors. The men in the family grow some of the food staples for family consumption and contribute income by selling the surplus in the market, but they say that income is less reliable because of the variables of weather and other factors that impact the harvest. Nevertheless, the sisters say they are able to make a decent income from their bead and craft business and can meet the basic needs of their family including food, shelter, clothes, transportation, education costs and healthcare, and they say they enjoy the work and being able to work out of their home.


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