High in the Guatemalan mountains surrounding Lake Atitlan, more than 5,000 feet above sea level, a group of Mayan women are busy practicing their art. They ponder the design and color of each original piece, carefully hand-placing each bead. The local crafts guild contact notes, “The beading on many is so exacting one wonders how human hands . . . could have produced them.” Their quality of craftsmanship seems incongruous with their surroundings: dirt floors, walls lashed together with sugarcane, and tin roofs. Their very livelihood is a miracle in an area where as few as two out of five children reach preschool age due to malnutrition. The sale of one ornament will feed an artisan’s family for a week.
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