Industry City Manufacturer Mercado Global Empowers Indigenous Entrepreneurs

A Mercado Global Artisan Maker. Contributed photo.

A Brooklyn-based group, working with Indigenous female weavers in rural Guatemala since 2004, provided free artisanal masks to organizations in COVID-19 epicenters throughout the U.S and Latin America.

Mercado Global is an online accessory brand and non-profit based in Sunset Park’s Industry City that empowers these women to become entrepreneurs and creates community-based businesses to support themselves and their families. 

“As people were hearing on the radio in Guatemala what was happening in New York City, our artisans started reaching, saying, ‘What could we do to help?’,” said Mercado Global Executive Director Ruth DeGolia, “They work from home. Women could safely produce masks while isolating and we were able to quickly get masks to New York during the shortage.”

Mercado Global – Mask Making. Photo provided by Marcado Global

They have created more than 70,000 masks since mid-March, which 55,000 have been donated to organizations in need, including the Black Lives Matter movement in Brooklyn, hospitals, migrant farmworkers in California, and indigenous communities throughout Mexico and Guatemala that face severe racism and economic exclusion.

Guatemala had initiated a lockdown prior to New York’s because of coronavirus concerns, said DeGolia, sparking a food shortage as well as an economic crisis in what was already an impoverished nation.

At the beginning of this turbulent year, reported CBS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “deported more than 4,000 migrants to Guatemala each month,” and because of the fear surrounding the growing pandemic, started packing hundreds onto deportation flights into March and April, before these vuelo maldito or damned flights were suspended. 

“At one point they caught, like 75 percent of people on a freight of deported migrants, were COVID positive when they got to Guatemala,” said DeGolia, about the rampant spread of the coronavirus in these last few months.  

President Alejandro Giammattei has been on record blaming the U.S for deporting undocumented people from detention centers without properly testing them.

Mercado Global has donated 15,000 pounds of food, and in some areas, the organization provides the only source of income as entire communities are on complete quarantine lockdown.

Through their Masks Where They Are Needed campaign, they also donate a mask to an essential worker for every mask bought online. 

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