If you’re looking for Maria, the Ecuadorian woman who sold colorful woven baskets over the summer on the corner of Starr and Wyckoff, you won’t find her. You can look for her during the Saturday Bushwick Farmers Market, but there too, she’ll be absent. And, if you ask around, like I did, one of the vendors may tell you to try Greene and Wyckoff, a 15 minute walk from Maria Hernandez Park, which will lead you to Ecuadorian restaurant, La Gualaceña.
But instead of trotting up to find her focused on weaving a new basket, or smiling tenderly as you approach her swath of crafted goods, in her place will be a stretch of sidewalk dressed with unfamiliar faces.
“She left a week ago,” Marcela Gomez, comadre to Maria’s daughter, informed me. The last time she was selling goods outside La Gualaceña was two weeks ago. “She only comes in seasons, but she might be back soon,” Gomez reassured. Maria would stay longer if she could, she loves it here and has been successful, Gomez shared, but she has time limitations due to her visa.
Maria’s work, alive with the colors of her country, is an heirloom skill passed down to her for generations, providing a distinct and direct connection to her ancestry. One that is in rapid decline due to modernization.
“Most people don’t learn that skill anymore,” said Gomez. “It’s very rare. For example, I wasn’t brought up learning how to weave like Maria, I was taught other things.”
Many people leave the country to find work elsewhere, or stay and work jobs like taxi-driving. Only a select few carry with them a history of craftsmanship that speaks to their lineage embedded in their fingertips. Like embroidered clothing, which Gomez said can run people as much as $600, “that’s a lot of money in my country.” But seeing those artesanias, or crafts, from home in the streets of New York have become a profound experience for her.
“Es algo bonito, reviven lo de nuestro Ecuador,” Gomez reflected, smiling warmly, spanish for, “it’s something beautiful that revives our Ecuador.”
Bushwick locals who missed their chance to shop directly from Maria, are still able to snag her one-of-a-kind creations, which take her as much as three days to complete, and as little as a couple hours, at GG’s Social Trade and Treasure Club.
All photos by Andrea Aliseda for Bushwick Daily.
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