One of the most important aspects of sustainable tourism is support of the community, and Isla Mujeres makes it easy for travelers to buy locally with all of its small shops and restaurants. Especially noteworthy on the island is the Isla Mujeres Women’s Beading Cooperative, run primarily by female artisans from the island.
This mid-island shop sells all kinds of beaded jewelry and accessories, each handcrafted by the nearly 60 women who make up the cooperative. You’ll find necklaces, earrings, and bracelets along with beaded purses, a fantastic option when you want unique and eye-catching souvenirs made right here on the island.
Many of the items are particularly intricate, requiring much time and dedication to create. Coop member Mildre tells us, “For a simpler piece, we take about two hours to make it. A more complicated piece can take a week, 15 days, maybe a month, depending on the design we choose for necklaces and purses. Wallets can also take us just as long to make.”
The pieces are typically made from materials like delica and glass seed beads, as well as shells, semi-precious stones, and sometimes even Swarovski crystals.
The Isla Mujeres Women’s Bead Cooperative began in 1993 when Dr. Greta Shorey (a Red Cross physician) helped eight local women to create it. Over the next few decades, the cooperative has grown to nearly 60 women and gotten its own small store location. Today, an Isla Mujeres women’s retreat group called Portals to the Self is helping the coop to increase their online presence with a website, Facebook page, and Trip Advisor page.
The Women’s Bead Coop allows local women to express themselves through an art form greatly inspired by their Maya roots, while also providing them with additional income.
“In my opinion, it helps us local women to relieve stress from housework, and to support our children who go to school, to buy school supplies, because normally those of us who work here are low-income people, mostly single women who are the main breadwinners at home,” says coop member Cecelia. Each woman earns 80% from the sale of their pieces, while 20% of the sale goes back to the coop to fund expenses like supplies and beads.
The coop’s store is located in the La Gloria neighborhood of Isla Mujeres, right by the Red Cross on Calle Paseo de los Peces, about a five-minute drive from the more touristy downtown area. It’s open Monday – Saturday from 9 am – 5 pm, and Sundays from 9 am – 3 pm.
The women of the coop also offer beading classes any day at 10 am. The cost is $250 pesos (or $200 pesos plus a donation of beads). You can request a class by contacting them on their Facebook page. If you’re planning a trip to Isla Mujeres, you can donate beads to the coop for them to use in their designs – glass seed beads size 11 (round or bugle) or other beads like crystals, pearls, stones, and gems.
We recently stayed at this little hotel and love it, great value and service. Perfect location, see for yourself.