Most of you have heard of the famous Mayan calendar which some believed it signalized the end the world in 2012. Well, the world not only did not end, but moreover we see the local Mayan descendants naturally moving into entrepreneurship. Here is a story about Cultural Intelligence, innovation and product adaptation. A story about the way the nowadays Mayans create meaning in a globalized world.
Meet Teresa Ixmatul, a Kaqchikel-Maya woman living near Lake Atitlan's community of San Antonio de Palopo. She wears her hair in one of many traditional Mayan up-dos: a delicate weaving of lace and hair beautifully tied up around her head. This is the story she shared in a broken Spanish (her first language is Maya-Kakchiquel):
"A fear years ago I noticed that my female clients, tourists from all over the world, were very curious about my hair-do. They wanted me to teach them to do their hair like that. I realized that it was a great opportunity to sell them hair silk ribbons. But after showing them how to do their hair, many did not want to buy the ribbons, motivating invariably that their hair is too short and it won't look good. So I sat down and I began thinking of ways in which I could adapt this hair thing so that all female tourists would want to buy from me.”
Here is a video of Teresa’s improved product, specifically created for women with shorter hair:
She now invites her customers to chose from a colorful array of soft, thin silk scarves woven in the black strap loom, to act as a long mane, as well as a matching lace ribbon around it. After weaving it and wrapping it around the head, the bright mix gets securely tied at the nape of the neck. Teresa’s customers are always happy: she offers them free demonstrations and consultations. She patiently explores with them new ways to weave their hair.
Through innovation and adaptation of a native custom Teresa Ixmatul re-developed a product to appeal to women of all cultures visiting Guatemala. It is the live, genuine proof that Cultural Intelligence is crucial to innovation, opening up new markets anywhere in the world.
From Panajachel, Guatemala, Patricia Rojas-Zambrano