To celebrate International Women’s Day (9 March) Zacapa rum has partnered with acclaimed lifestyle photographer and Instagrammer Nicolee Drake to capture the stories of the women behind Zacapa 23.

Drake travelled to Guatemala to photograph the community of 700 women who create the hand-crafted ‘petate’ (woven palm leaves) bands which decorate Zacapa 23 rum.


The community of over 700 women are weaving their way to independence and empowerment (All photos credited to Nicolee Drake for Zacapa)

With the help of Diageo-owned Zacapa, these women have discarded the societal norms that saw them stay at home while their husbands worked. They have adapted their craft to create an employment opportunity which guarantees a fixed income to support their families. As a result, their social standing is elevated and younger generations are finding they have greater access to education than before.

Weaving petates provides them with work they can do in their homes so they have the luxury of time to raise their families (a vital part of Mayan culture).

Petate weaving is a tradition passed from mother to daughter. Mayans believe the petate represents the unity between heaven and earth, the sun and the moon, the spiritual and the physical because the band has no beginning or end. It is a hand-crafted process, like the creation of Zacapa, that cannot be rushed.

The spiritual and the physical: Mayans believe the petate represents the unity between heaven and earth, the sun and the moon

Ana Emiliana Chavalán (left) and Blanca Chacaj share their stories of progress thanks to the income they earn through weaving the petate bands that adorn every bottle of Zacapa 23

Drake said: “These women have faced incredible hardships and many were widowed in the armed conflict in Guatemala (1960-1996). It was amazing to see the change brought about in their lives and the lives of their families. I loved meeting women like Ana, one of eight daughters of a widow, who has had to support herself financially.

“To do this, Ana weaves petate bands and with the income she earns, she has chosen to fund studies to become a teacher – she is currently in her final year of study.

“On International Women’s Day, and every day, women around the world are pressing for progress and I saw first-hand the part Zacapa is playing by providing a platform for these women to empower themselves.”

Drake also met Zacapa Master Blender of 30 years Lorena Vásquez, one of PEOPLE en Español’s 25 Most Influential Women 2015. Vásquez is one of only a few female leaders in a traditionally male-dominated industry and leads the work to support the petate weavers.

Zacapa Master Blender Lorena Vásquez (second from left) who leads the work to support the petate weavers joins Sandra Chacaj Garcia, Ana Emiliana Chavalán and Blanca Chacaj as they share their stories of progress

Vásquez said: “As women, we must stand up and support one another – build each other up and press for progress. If we don’t, who will? Personally, I would love to see more women progressing to the top. I am proud to be in a position to make a difference not only among women but among the community I live in – to give back in recognition of everything it gives to us.”

Drake’s photography of the petate weaving women can be viewed on Instagram @ZacapaRum.

Original source - The Moodie Davitt Report

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