Poverty-stricken women handcrafting trendy bags don’t get paid what the bags are worth

Americas Now

Trendy Wayuu bags handcrafted by women in poverty

While Wayuu bags may be very trendy for upscale shoppers, the life of the Wayuu community is far from glamorous. CCTV America correspondent Toby Muse reports.

La Guajira is one of Colombia’s poorest regions. It’s home to crime, smuggling, and poverty. Corruption is rampant across the area — a former governor is in jail on charges of murder and drug-trafficking. But the region has become known for something more beautiful: the mochila — handcrafted bags made by Wayuu women Indians.

The bags, used by both men and women, are the visual expression of a culture that has thrived for centuries in the northernmost tip of South America. Even though the bags are popular in the world’s cosmopolitans, from Paris to New York, where the famous Wayuu bags come from is brutal.

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Trendy Wayuu bags handcrafted by women in poverty

CCTV Correspondent Toby Muse tells us while the Wayuu bags are very trendy for upscale shoppers; the “life” of the Wayuu community is far from glamorous.

Only making enough money for food, the Wayuu people are upset with how much more money their hand-crafted bags are selling for around the world.

“This is bad. They take these bags from here,” said one of the Wayuu women. “We feel frustrated that here the bags sell for $10 and sell a lot more abroad. This is what we live off of, this is how we survive.”

The settlement’s only well doesn’t have clean water. It’s been contaminated and has an odd taste. Locals say that animals have died in the well, but with no other supply of water, they fish out the bodies and keep drinking. Doctors rarely make it out towards their region, and many go hungry.

The local government says that 3,000 children have died over the past six months from a mix of malnutrition and lack of medical services. The tribal chief for the Wayuu people says he has yet to hear a response.

“We have gone many times to ask for the well to be cleaned or for them to help us find and build a new well, but we never hear anything back,” one said.

With such hardships, the bags have become even more important in maintaining a culture in the desert. Long after the bag has stopped being the latest fashion accessory, in the desert, the women will continue to sew.

OnTwitter: @wayuutribe, @KikoGomezKG, @Fashion2Empower, @abrgnLArtsLLC, @ArtesanosDeCol, @jcrew