Just back from an incredible April school vacation down in Placencia, Belize. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend it! The snorkeling and marine life in the barrier reef was truly spectacular. As always, I also picked up a few local crafts that caught my eye. Southern Belize is home to Mayan villages and there are many traditional handicrafts made by locals. In particular, I took to the baskets woven by local women.
The baskets are appealing for many reasons. Most importantly, a purchase supports the local economy - in particular this is a business that allows women to contribute financially to their household. Initially woven just as practical household items, baskets are proving to be a legitimate income source.
Producing a basket is a time consuming process. Baskets are primarily made from the jipijapa – a palm-like plant that grows wild in the region. Women pick young green jipijapa fronds and boil them for about thirty minutes. Boiling does two things – softens the leaves and lightens their color. (Darker details on the baskets are from fronds that have not been boiled.) The fronds are then left in the sun for a few days and their color transforms from green to brown. Actual weaving then takes anywhere from a few days for a small basket and to a couple weeks for a large one. Women typically work on a basket throughout their regular day, often while running their household. Once completed baskets once again spend some time in the sun before they’re ready for use.
I love these baskets because each one is uniquely handcrafted. They are organic looking and their natural color and simple shapes look great in most decors. They are also light and easy to transport – so an ideal souvenir or gift to take home to family. If you aren’t headed to Belize any time soon, Art Box Belize is an online resource for the baskets and many other forms of Mayan crafts including wooden items, pottery and dolls.
While I’m happy to gaze at my three baskets and remember our wonderful trip, I also can’t get images of that reef out of my head. Just have to share this aerial view with you. Such incredible shades of blue! Hoping it inspires you to explore Belize one day on your own!