Exquisite, one-of-a-kind, hand-woven, multi-colored bags, clutches and shoes – made for men and women – have become must-haves for every fashionista. Featured in Vogue and J Crew, the innumerable patterns and motifs satisfy the spectrum of modest, flashy and hippie fashion while offering everyday functionality.
“There’s authenticity in every Mochila bag,” said Salazar. “As a successful business, my aim is to become a game-changer of fashion trends while educating people of the plight of the Wayuu.”
According to Salazar, the vibrant cotton bags can take up to 160 hours to make. Crafted by generations of Wayuu women, the labor of art bestows higher credibility standards among its tribes. The crafting of each bag runs parallel to the lives of the art makers.
“While each bag tells a story, I hope to share the appreciation of the labor behind the bag,” she continued.
The Wayuu tribe is located in the La Guajira desert along the Colombian and Venezuelan border. The indigenous “people of the sun, sand and wind,” also occupy a small peninsula on the Caribbean Sea. The former nomads escaped the Amazon rainforest in 150 A.D.
Battling conquistadors and harsh elements to maintain their tradition of living in small isolated communities, individual Wayuu clans touted their own governments. Women, who reigned as tribal leaders, also owned their homes and directed households while men worked the animals and crops.
Once self-sustained by farming, craft-making and pearl diving, drought – which affected crops and livestock – and the creation of fake pearls forced the Wayuu tribe to reach out to the Venezuelan and Colombian governments for necessities inclusive of rice, sugar and coffee. For those unable to purchase these essentials, malnutrition wreaked havoc. Men, no longer able to work the fields, resorted to petty theft and alcohol abuse.
Searching for sustainability and improved living conditions, the tribes welcomed tourism to sell their colorful textiles and ceramics, including their popular Mochila bags, shoes, hammocks, and blankets, crafted by their expert weavers.
Salazar donates 10 percent of each sale back to the tribe.
“It’s my way of honoring the Wayuu,” she said. “I want the world to know what these women do with so little. Their economic conditions are not the best.”
Sporting a bachelor of arts in communication from San Diego State University, the budding entrepreneur shares photos and videos of the artisans crafting the bags via social media as a way to “reinforce the traditions of Colombia and show my roots.”
“I work to empower and advocate for the Wayuu because of their lack of resources to do so,” she said.
Salazar also sells her own handmade tassel earrings. Passionate about jewelry-making, the colorful, fabric motifs are described as “go-to pieces with great versatility.”
Salazar’s pineapple logo satiates her obsession with the “exotic” fruit that serves as a “tropical, colorful, and warm hospitality welcome sign.”
“What better way to showcase the Arawayuu brand than to do so by using a pineapple as the logo,” she said. “Pineapples are fun. I love Kat Gaskin’s Instagram quote, “Stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet.”
There’s no stopping this trailblazer who works by day as a public relations professional for Contour PR + Social.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done and I plan to do even more,” she concluded. “I will continue to reinforce my roots, represent my Colombian culture, and serve as an ambassador for the Wayuu tribes.”