Shopping

A Slice of Guatemala on Broadway

Style meets substance on the West Side

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When I first approached La Tiendita Boutique and Piñata Center from the street, I was greeted by a wall of large, familiar and friendly children’s characters in piñata form smiling at me from the window. I stepped inside to find much more – a breathtaking world of beautiful and vibrant fabrics, cloths and carved leatherwork. Sussy DeLeon, the store’s founder and owner, greeted me with a huge smile before giving me an extensive tour of the space.

La Tiendita is an absolute joy to explore. The boutique features a wide variety of products, with something for someone of just about any taste. There were home goods, children’s toys and decorative masks and fashion products, like handbags, scarves, jewelry, hats and cozy sweaters, with some wild and lively colors for an adventurous shopper, and others more muted for the slightly reserved client. But everything was gorgeous, unique and handmade.

My eyes were instantly drawn to the shelves of gorgeous handbags, made from leather and a variety of colorful fabrics. The fabrics on the handbags, as well as some of the pillows in the store, are made from recycled Mayan fabrics, particularly, huipil. Huipil is a traditional woven blouse, made completely by hand with intricate and colorful designs, that can take anywhere from two months to a year to complete. “In the Mayan culture, women use a lot of colors,” Sussy explained, “They live in the mountains near volcanoes, so when they are designing the clothes, they are inspired by nature. In Guatemala, we have 20 different Mayan groups and every group has their own designs and colors, so you will see a lot of different styles.” The artisans Sussy works with take these blouses and recycle them to make into handbags or pillows. Each one is incredibly beautiful and fun  and not to mention totally one of a kind.

Sussy goes back and forth from Guatemala multiple times a year to work directly with the artisans and cooperatives and to give back to the women who work so hard to make these stunning products. Sussy explains that 90% of the proceeds will benefit these women, and she likes to buy from these organizations because besides giving these women jobs and fair pay, they are teaching them new and useful skills. Most of the products in the store feature a tag that tells you exactly how your purchase is benefitting the women and families back in Guatemala.

Sussy opened the Piñata Center after she could not find any genuine Guatemalan piñatas in Rhode Island when she was preparing for her son’s birthday. Her mother brought authentic piñatas over from Guatemala, and they were such a hit among the parents and kids alike that Sussy decided to bring them to Rhode Island through the Piñata Center, which features handmade custom piñatas. Deciding that piñatas alone were not enough, little by little, she began introducing other Guatemalan products to the store.

“I thought I needed to add more to it. Since I am from Guatemala, I thought, we have so much art and so many beautiful things that we could add to the store,” explains Sussy.

You can find something in just about any price range. Whether you want high-end fashion products like hand carved leather clutches, artisanal jewelry made with precious stones from all over the world (like rare Guatemalan jade) or if you just want something fun and inexpensive, like kitchen decorations, backpacks, beaded jewelry, organic cotton children’s dolls or delicious Guatemalan coffee in vivaciously colored packages, they have that as well. There’s also always something on sale. And not only that, every purchase helps hardworking women in Guatemala and their families.

La Tiendita Boutique and Piñata Center. 300 Broadway 888-974-6282