Alicia San Marcos is an ethical fashion line founded on the promise of providing access to education for children in Guatemala. Proceeds from each handmade Mayan bag goes towards school supplies for children in underserved communities. More than 50 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty. Alicia San Marcos has donated over 32,000 supplies to Guatemalan orphanages and schools.
1. What is Alicia San Marcos? Alicia San Marcos is an ethically made accessories line founded on the promise of providing access to education for children in Guatemala, a country where over 50% of people live in poverty.
2. When/why did it start? Growing up we had a close family friend, Alicia Angel, who was from San Marcos, Guatemala and was like a second mother to us. Alicia was a strong, intelligent woman who discontinued her education at a young age because of her family's inability to pay for school. She wanted to give her children what she could not have, an education, so she made the incredibly dangerous journey through Mexico to the United States. With the money she earned in the States, she kept her kids in school through university and broke her family's cycle of poverty. After 25 years of working abroad, she became terminally ill and returned home to Guatemala to spend her final days with her family who she had not seen since she left. While we were fortunate to have such an incredible person become an integral part of our lives, we also wish she was able to spend more time with her biological family. This eye-opening experience motivated us to create a company that supplies underserved Guatemalan children with much needed educational materials so parents do not have to travel abroad to maintain their child’s education.
3. Are the bags made in Guatemala? Yes, the bags are handmade in Guatemala. The majority of our products are made by indigenous women, 90% of whom live in poverty, utilizing their strengths in fair trade, slow fashion working environments. Production of Alicia San Marcos products creates jobs and sustainable income for those who need it most empowering women and uplifting families from poverty.
4. How do you determine which orphanages and schools you donate to? We work with Niños de Guatemala, a nonprofit that breaks the cycle of poverty by providing quality education to impoverished children, and Casa Bernabé Orphanage, home to more than 135 orphans who belong to a loving family on site and attend school on campus. I volunteered at Niños de Guatemala for a month to understand the gaps in education in Guatemala and was very impressed by the way the organization was run. We found Casa Bernabé Orphanage through Alicia's daughter.
5. What is the biggest challenge for Alicia San Marcos? One of the biggest challenges is relaying the quality of our products through our site. All of our items are handmade, and the artisans put days of work into each piece so there's a lot of love that goes into the process.
6. What has the most inspiring part of Alicia San Marcos? The most inspiring part of Alicia San Marcos was when I hand delivered our first donation of hundreds of school supplies directly to Niños de Guatemala. In Guatemala, education is provided for free until 6th grade. However, the poorest children cannot afford school supplies, and, therefore, cannot attend school. Our mission is to provide access to education for Guatemalan children in underserved communities, and it was incredibly rewarding to see our goal come to fruition.
7. If someone wanted to help the children in Guatemala, what would you suggest they do? We have learned more about the many devastating and highly prevalent issues children in Guatemala face throughout this process, including malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse, and poor health. There are many great nonprofits that operate in Guatemala and it is a beautiful country to visit. We would recommend getting involved by donating to the amazing organizations we work with, Niños de Guatemala and Casa Bernabé Orphanage, or even going down to volunteer. You can also buy Alicia San Marcos products, which support both these causes.
8. What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to use their talents to give back, but doesn't know where to start? You'll never be 100% ready for anything before you do it. You have to take the plunge and follow your passions. You will never do anything more rewarding in your life.