Last month, I shared details of my incredible weeklong trip in Tulum, Mexico – (Read the full blog post here). It was an absolutely incredible trip that I will never forget. Along with the beautiful memories and photos that I was able to capture, I was also able to bring home some beautiful hand-made items I purchased from the local artisan community. In this blog, I wanted to highlight some of these beautiful buys and share them with you.
One of my favorite parts about traveling is learning about cultures through art and artisans. Every culture and region has unique elements that are expressed through design, often time used to tell stories or to show ownership. Beauty through art is something that is constant in almost every culture around the world.
In today’s climate of fast-fashion and cultural appropriation, traditional design elements are constantly stolen, without regard to the original designers. I try to combat this practice by ensuring that I am supporting local makers whenever I travel, in order to show appreciation for artisans and contribute to local economies.
The streets of Tulum are lined with several small, independent boutiques, most of which sell goods made in Mexico. Seeing the way the entire community of Tulum highlighted their culture made me fall even deeper in love with the beautiful town. I took my time to shop around, compare price, quality and stories before I settled on what I would bring back with me.
The first item I purchased was one that’s necessary on a tropical vacation – a sunhat. Prior to departing on our vacation, I was looking around for a hat from various ethically made brands here in the US, but didn’t find anything that fit my style or my budget, however I am so glad I waited to make this purchase. There was a wide variety of sunhats lining the stores in Tulum.
The sunhat I settled on was purchased at one of the local boutiques in Tulum. The attendant at the store told me that it was made by a community of artisans in the Yucatan peninsula and made from locally sourced palm leaves. It was a perfect fit for me and the exact style I was looking for. I can’t wait to wear this hat more as a staple piece of my summer wardrobe and vacation wear.
The next item I purchased hooked me as soon as I laid my eyes on it. One of the many adventures my partner and I took while on this vacation was a day trip to Chichen Itza and Coba – two Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula. Our driver was very gracious and customized our trip to include all the activities we wanted. One of my top priorities was visiting an artisan communities to see if I could buy some beautiful handicrafts straight from the source.
On our way home from the ruins, we stopped in a small town just outside of Tulum, where there were many artisanal storefronts lined on the highway. I wandered into the first store, that was full of many different beautiful bags, and my eyes fell upon one that was on a shelf. This bag was beautiful, brightly colored and hand woven. I knew that I had to have it.
Weaving is an especially important form of artisanal crafts for the Mayans, and dates back centuries. Weaving, which is traditionally done by Mayan women, is a practice passed down generations, and is closely connected to cultural and religious beliefs. Many women throughout Southern Mexico and Central America continue to wear their traditional, woven Mayan attire as a symbol of their strong ties to their culture.
This bag has become one of my favorite pieces. It’s beautiful, well-made and will no doubt be a timeless staple in my closet.
The final purchase I made in Mexico was one I have been on the hunt for for quite some time – the perfect pair of Huaraches. While Huaraches – a traditional woven leather sandal found throughout Latin America – are pretty ubiquitous now days, it’s been hard for me to find a pair that I’ve been truly in love with. This style of footwear has now been commodified by big fashion brands, with stores such as Target carrying similar styles. I knew I wanted something a bit more authentic to fit my taste.
I found these huaraches on our very last day in Mexico, during a bus lay over from Tulum to the Cancun International Airport, we stoped in Playa Del Carmen and this cute little kiosk was set up right outside of the ADO terminal. The woman at the kiosk explained to me that their company, “Mar Y Agua” works with women from the Huichol ethnic group to make these beautiful sandals and earn livable wages. Learning about their social enterprise and mission made me eager to support their cause, and I was more than happy to walk away with a beautiful pair of huaraches I have been longing for.
While buying cheap, readily available souvenirs is always an easy option when traveling abroad, I encourage you to take a more intentional approach to well, all your purchases. Asking a few questions about makers and taking the time to visit artisans where they’re at can lead to some amazing buys. Not only will they be pieces you cherish for years to come, they will also contribute to the economic development of communities, ensuring that these art forms are around for generations to come.
Wishing you happy travels and better purchases.
Con Mucho Amor,
Photography: Vanessa Acosta
Location: Beverly Hills Cactus Garden
- Dress: The Reformation
- Palm Leave Hat – Purchased from boutique in Tulum, Mx
- Mayan Woven Bag – Purchased from artisans in Tulum, MX
- Beaded Huaraches – Purchased from social enterprise in Playa Del Carmen, MX
- Palm Leaf Earrings – Mexico En La Piel