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Design boutiques in Yucatán: Harvesting the power of community

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Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

As shops and public centers slowly become a safe place again, the opportunity to come across a unique piece of artisanal artwork excites us once more. 

Finding locally owned businesses creates the opportunity to purchase unique pieces, get to know the work of other artists, and be part of the community in which the shop thrives. 

The value of boutiques lies beyond the curation of art and decor available. When we buy from independent businesses, a significant portion of our money is then cycled back through our local economy.

Hammocks lined up.
Úumbah is a locally owned artisanal shop in Mérida, Yucatán. Photo: Úumbah

Yucatán is a particularly thriving environment for creating community-based businesses. Boutiques are a link between artist and client, and guarantee respect and value for both, according to Gabriela Carrera, the owner of Úumbah.

Gifts from the Peninsula

This local boutique in downtown Mérida specializes in hammocks, arts, and crafts from Yucatecan artists. They are in Plaza Carmesí, a meeting point where boutiques, a bookstore, and a coffee shop coexist.

Úumbah sells handcrafted products made and designed in the Yucatan Peninsula. For their hammocks, which they consider their star product, they work with artisans from different municipalities.

“We know the art and the artist, and from there we work out a plan that allows them to take advantage of their skills and the material they know best,” Gaby says. Some of the artisans they work with specialize in macramé, henequen, nylon, etc. “There are even people working with henequén” Gaby adds, “which has been very much neglected, as it requires each fiber to be handmade.

Hammock, natural fiber bags, baskets and accesories.
Hand-crafted products are made from natural materials. Photo: Úumbah

Gaby knows the importance of crafting unique pieces that connect to their owner.

“I’m an architect, and people can write to me personally and receive free consulting on color, material, and space. We want to make sure our customers take home a piece that they love, but that is also perfect for the space in which they’ll use it.”

Úumbah also works with architects and interior designers to design, craft, and even install their pieces. “We sell to designers, architects, and such for specific projects. We can even craft pieces designed by our clients.”

As for handicrafts, they offer products made of natural materials. Products made from jipijapa, a natural fiber, are a unique take on bags, baskets, and decor. They also offer Mexican ceramics, which they make themselves, designed by an artist from Mérida. Other than this, clothes, lamps and accessories can all be found in the store.

Ceramic cups. Photo: Úumbah

When the pandemic started, especially at the beginning with all the uncertainty it generated, they supported their artisans by donating two months of profits to food pantries. Gaby recognizes that in that support lies the real power of community. “We want this to be a relationship that truly benefits both parties.”

Asides from their efforts in strengthening their community, they hope to lead by example with their consumers. “We have a no-haggle policy. We value the work of the artists and try to maintain a good relationship of collaboration.”

When we understand artisans, entrepreneurs, and consumers as a community rather than a transaction, we can start to truly live the value behind each piece. To purchase from our friends’ businesses, aid our neighbors in need, and support our local producers helps strengthen the base of our whole community.

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