Diego was a baby when his dad was kidnapped during Guatemala’s thirty-year-long civil war.
They never heard from him again.
Little Diego had to do his part to help the family survive without the income and protection of a father. His work was to collect firewood from the forested slopes of the Atitlan volcano bordering their village.
What kind of a future can a young boy imagine for himself in such traumatic and desperate circumstances?
(Put on his sandals for a moment: what are your chances of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps"?)
Diego’s new destiny was set in motion when he found a job at an American jewelry workshop down the street from his house. Still just a teenager, he learned the craft of turning seed beads into stunning fashion accessories. After working there for eight years, he ventured out on his own, making jewelry at home. He’d walk down to the docks and peddle his creations to tourists as they stepped off the boats.
That was his first bold move on the path upwards.
His integrity and talent were soon recognized by foreign buyers. Unique Batik made his acquaintance almost a decade ago and has happily kept him busy ever since. Today he employs 35 of his people, the Tjutujil of Santiago Atitlan, as well as a few family members.
He says his art is his passion...
and his happiness is beads!
These days orders arrive from as far away as Canada. Quite often he is commissioned by interest groups to set their logos in a brooch or pin. This requires time and effort to get the colors just right, but the results are strikingly satisfying.
What Diego likes best about his job is the moment an order is shipped and he receives his payment. Ka-ching! (Don’t we all?) It’s not just he and his 75-year-old mother who is thriving. The blessing extends to all 35 households involved in filling orders.
Yes, he pulled himself up, one strand of beads at a time. His current goal is to open a boutique studio on the main street of his town, where his creations will be on elegant display.
We salute you, Diego!
Check out samples of Diego’s popular creations below: