Fair Trade Cultural Products

Sustaining Cultures offers a variety of Fair Trade Cultural Products primarily focussing on cultures from the western hemisphere. Fair Trade Products support living wages and healthy working conditions for the product producers. Sustaining Cultures works directly with cooperatives of artisans or in conjunction with Fair Trade wholesalers who are members of the Fair Trade Federation.
 The artisan cooperative Eco-Alibrijes and was formed in 2004. It now consists of 18 families from the community of Arrazola just out side of Oaxaca city in souterhn Mexico and near Monte Alban, a United Nations World Heritage archaeoligical site. The families number 117 people including children and adults. The cooperative is unique in that they use only sustainably harvested copal wood for their work. There has been much over exploitation of copal trees for firewood and carving. In order to obtain sustainably harvested copal the cooperative travels over 40 miles from there community 4 times per year and pays 20% more for their copal. In addition to the sustainability element, the cooperative also does copal reforestation work-particularly on the slopes of Monte Alban near their community.

The alibrije figures are carved from green copal, then carefully dried in the sun, and eventually sanded, before being painted with acrylics. Most carving is done by men and most painting is done by women. Each piece has the names of the artisans written on the bottom. This art form originated in Mexico city about 70 years ago using paper mache and has been perfected into copal carving in Oaxaca since then.


 VIDA NUEVA (Weavings)

Vida Nueva is a cooperative of Zapotecan women from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Zapotecans are one of the two largest groups of indigenous peoples in Oaxaca which has the largest indigenous population in Mexico. Sustaining Cultures works directly with this cooperative helping to support their efforts by marketing their weavings and promoting their endeavors in the U.S.

 LA YURATA (Huichol Art)

The Yw’rata, or Yurata, is a huichol community that is in the state of Nayarit. The name Yurata means: that which is growing little by little. Huichol art is a fascinating blend of modern history, rich cultural traditions, and beliefs of an indigenous people. Their artwork takes several forms and shapes; one uses brightly colored yarns to embedded in beeswax to create strikingly colorful, intricate and beautiful picture of their cultural and shamanic traditions. Another form is animal figures and masks carved from wood and covered with beeswax in which small glass beads are embedded to create colorful representations of Huichol culture. Colorful woven beaded jewelry presents the talent of the Huichol in a wearable form.


La Chamba Cookware is made from black micacious clay found only in central Colombia. Archeologists believe that this region in Colombia is home to the oldest pottery found in the Americas.


Pottery-making has been a part of the culture since pre-Columbian times. Traditionally, it was the role of women in a community to hand build utilitarian pottery pieces for storing water and use in cooking. Today several of the groups that we work with are small womens’ cooperatives that have modified these designs and incorporated modern techniques to reach a larger market.

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