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NOVICA Artisan Belarmino Alvarez

Belarmino Alvarez

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As a child I developed a fascination for Central American cultures, and so my dream was to visit Latin America. I was born in Spain but grew up in Paris because of my father's work. I moved back to Spain when I was 20 years old to study drama.

In 1985 I made my dream come true and came to Guatemala, where I fell in love with the country's handicrafts and culture. In 1989 my sisters and I began exporting crafted goods and textile pieces; I was in charge of design and quality control. However, we found that not many people in Spain appreciated traditional apparel, and so I began looking for ways to transform them, and that's how I ended up creating my own designs.

"Little by little I gained access to the textile world of Guatemala, getting to know weavers and artisans, and so becoming a part of each others' life. Eventually I realized that rather than living in Spain, I felt more at home in Guatemala. My love for textiles grabbed me by the hand and took me places I had never before imagined.

"The first thing I designed was a colorful jaspeado (similar to ikat) shirt. I loved it so much that I wore it for several years… until I lost it on a trip. I was heartbroken, not so much for the shirt itself, but for the sentimental value it had for me: that shirt was my very first design.

"I began with traditional Guatemalan textiles, often recycling them, but eventually I saw the need to control every step of the process such as the spinning of the yarn, the dyes, etc., to ensure the procedures were environmentally friendly. I decided to work with organic cotton and natural dyes. I get the cotton from Peru at the moment, because so far it's not been possible to produce organic cotton in Guatemala. The rest of the process is under our care, and this was one of the decisive factors in my decision to stay in Guatemala.

"I'm proud to say I've been in this field since the early 1990's, however working with handicrafts isn't always easy. One particularly difficult time was when I sent a shipment of valuable items to Spain and it disappeared in the loading area of the airport. Someone stole it and the investigation led nowhere. And yet, a month later, the customers received it through regular post without a sender's address! We think the person who originally took it must have gotten scared and ended up paying for it to be sent to the original place. This had me worried sick since I had made a considerable investment to have the order ready, so when I heard from the people in Spain saying they had received it I gave a big sigh of relief!

"I believe arts and crafts must survive, not only because of their hand-crafted nature, their inherent soul, but because they are an expression of a particular worldview by different people. We must live in a united world without losing the richness of diversity.

"I dream of designing and creating beautiful apparel by preserving traditional methods. I hope that everyone involved in this dream – including weavers and customers – is happy either when weaving the garments or wearing them. They are made with love and respect.

"My inspiration comes from the sun and moon; from Guatemala's exuberant flora and landscapes. I love this culture!

"What makes our items unique is the fact that we link Mother Earth with the preservation of ancestral weaving techniques. Our apparel connects our customers with the beauty of ancestral purity and the preservation a legendary textile tradition, as well as with positive vibes for in this way, customers connect with the livelihood of many families."