Mirna Paiz, a local massage therapist, had dreamed for years about opening her own business selling handmade items made from artisans in Oaxaca, Guatemala, and other areas in the Mesoamerica cultural area. It wasn’t until the pandemic that Paiz began to take steps to start her business.
As she quarantined at home, unable to see clients, Paiz began embroidering on her jeans and jackets. She replicates the designs that she was drawn to from different cultures. Soon she began to receive compliments on her clothing and took that as a sign. She decided to invest in 50 embroidered masks that she bought in Tijuana. After posting them on social media to show her family and friends, she sold out in 15 minutes. She then began traveling to Oaxaca and Guatemala, where she was born, and bought items that she personally selected.
Paiz purchased products in person, mostly from women supporting their families by selling their handmade wares like jewelry, clothing, shoes, and table runners. Paiz brought the goods back to San Pedro and sold them at pop-ups and at private parties in homes where she would always sell out. Her approach is to pay the artisan a fair price and then sell the products so her customers could appreciate such special items at a reasonable price. If products sold well, she would bring the extra commission to the artisans when she returned to buy more. She would encourage the artisans to charge more for what they were selling, as she knew the money was providing food and more for struggling families. Paiz wanted to share what she learned about business with the artisans she supported by buying their goods.
Paiz applied to be a vendor at Crafted in San Pedro, and Mesoamerica Textile was born. Her colorful booth attracts many visitors looking for handmade items that benefit people who are experiencing poverty. Paiz understands the culture and needs of the areas where she purchases her products. She carries suitcases to fill with products to bring back home when she travels. Instead of bringing empty suitcases, she fills them with donations of school supplies for the schools in the villages of Mexico and Guatemala. The children who receive the donations often do not have computers or television and are very happy to receive the gifts. New pencils, books, crayons, markers, and other presents that Paiz provides are a way of giving back further through her business and a way she can reinvest in the schools in the villages.
“I opened my store thinking I could keep ancient customs alive,” explains Paiz. “I am so proud of my culture. My dad is Maya, and I was born in Guatemala. I love to educate people about the cultures of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guatemala that belong to Mesoamerica. I share my knowledge of traditional clothing from the Maya, Zapotec, and Toltec cultures in my business.”
Paiz will contact the artisans in advance and request popular items. Recently, she asked for products that resemble the movies Encanto or Coco. She likes to work with the artisans in the villages versus big sellers. Many of the items are made from natural ingredients. The white powder from the cactus can be scratched to create purple coloring that is used to create little worry dolls.
Paiz asked an 89-year-old artisan how she creates such happy, bright work. The woman told her that she never embroiders when she is mad, angry, or in mourning. She shared that she and other local artisans only work when they are happy, which shows in their work.
Paiz hopes to grow her business so she can open a foundation that will support domestic violence shelters and programs one day. Mesoamerica Textile is located in Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, open Friday–Sunday from 12 p.m.–6 p.m. To learn more about Paiz, visit her Instagram @mirnapaiz11. spt