Shockoe Slip may be among the oldest areas of Richmond, but this Saturday it will transform into a modern, authentic taste of Latin America. Mercado Americas — the Market of the Americas — offers an amazing opportunity to savor the vibrancy and excitement of an authentic Latin American market right in the heart of the Shockoe Design District.
For three weekends — beginning this Saturday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and continuing Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Nov. 30 from 5 to 10 p.m. — Mercado Americas brings nearly a dozen vendors to the Turning Basin at historic Kanawha Canal with some of the finest gourmet foods, gifts and items for the home
A partnership between Latin-American arts education organization Vaclaa, GrowRVA and de Guate Crafts fair trade art jewelry, Mercado Americas is more than a market, it’s an event for the whole community where Latin American arts and culture, music and food all gathered to celebrate the best of Richmond’s Hispanic community. Also aiding to make the event possible are Venture Richmond, La Difference and the Shockoe Design District.
The event holds special meaning for Michelle Moore, founder of de Guate Crafts. Born in the United States, but raised in Guatemala, Moore founded her business with the goal of benefiting Guatemalan jewelry artists and artisans by providing them with a means of presenting their high-quality works to consumers in the United States on fair footing that guarantees the artists receive proper compensation for their works.
Part of what inspired de Guate, she says, was her family’s work with orphaned children in Guatemala. Over the years, she’s paid to educate dozens of orphans and to get them off the street of a country where police sometimes will kill orphans who they consider nuisances.
She tells the story of one such orphan, Juanito, who was about 6 when she found him sleeping on a sidewalk. In Guatemala, it’s illegal to take in vagrant children by the same authorities who are known to deal unforgivingly with them.
“Juanito became really special for me and my family,” says Moore, who sent the boy to school. “He started to learn to read and write. He was very excited. Because he was very smart.”
One night when he was nearly 10, Moore says she received a desperate phone call from Juanito: “Mom, help! I need your help!”
It was the last she ever heard from him. “I looked for him for about a year and a half — I never found him,” she says, tearing up at Juanito’s possible fate. “They sell kids, or they take their organs and sell the organs. Nobody misses those kids.”
It’s by bringing jewelry to the U.S. market for fair-trade prices and then paying the artisans who create that jewelry directly for their work that Moore says she hopes to create high-paying wages for women who then will be able to care for their children rather than being forced to abandon them to the streets like Juanito.
“I know the potential this jewelry has to create economic independence because of the quality of the work,” says Moore, who, rather than act as an importer reaping lopsided profits by undercutting the artists, instead treats her artists as partners whose artistry is valued. “It’s unique, it’s handmade, it’s fair trade — and it’s a beautiful wearable product.”
About the partnership:
Working to create economic independence and sustainability for Guatemalan artisans and artists, de Guate Crafts imports to Richmond fair-trade art jewelry, artisanal objects for the home and a variety of high-quality gifts all from Guatemala.
GrowRVA operates signature events like the South of the James Farmers Market, The Market at First Fridays, The Hardywood Farmers Market and the GrowRVA Food Truck Court. Connecting local farms, local food and local arts with Richmond communities, GrowRVA builds partnerships and creates opportunities while promoting sustainability and healthy food options for all Richmonders.
Vaclaa seeks to raise awareness of Latin America through access to significant contemporary art, the development of relevant programming, and the creation of a space for dynamic dialogue. Misión La misión de VACLAA es a crear conocimiento de Latino America a traves del acceso al arte contemporáneo…