The spirited women behind one of the world’s finest rums

Photographer Nicolee Drake meets the weavers of Guatemala

In the grasslands of Guatemala, a community of more than 700 women are using their traditional weaving skills for an international enterprise. The women hand-craft intricate ‘petate’ bands (woven palm leaves) that adorn bottles of Zacapa 23 Rum, and photographer Nicolee Drake travelled to Guatemala to capture their work. It’s a spirited story for International Women’s day, particularly as this is a rum that has been created under the auspices of a female master blender, Lorena Vásquez, who has been in the role for 30 years.

The weavers have adapted their craft, usually utilised to create hats and baskets, to make the bands that go around the bottles, and work from home to create them. After spending time with these women in Guatemala, Nicolee said: ‘These women have faced incredible hardships and many were widowed in the armed conflict in Guatemala (1960 – 1996). It was amazing to see the change brought about in their lives and the lives of their families. I loved meeting women like Ana, one of eight daughters of a widow, who has had to support herself financially. To do this, Ana weaves petate bands and with the income she earns, she has chosen to fund studies to become a teacher – she is currently in her final year of study.’

See below for a gallery of Nicolee’s photographs from her trip to Guatemala.

Master Blender Lorena Vásquez joins weavers Sandra Chacaj Garcia, Ana Emiliana Chavalán and Blanca Chacaj

The weavers at work

A bottle of the good stuff

Ana Emiliana Chavalán and Blanca Chacaj

A view of Guatemala