The author describes the evolution of the garment-manufacturing sector in the district of Totonicapán in the Guatemalan highlands, an area long associated with weaving and related skills. Producers have been shrewd in finding ways to take advantage of changes in the global economy, for instance by importing cheaper fabrics from Asia to reduce the cost of the final products. Producers have thus been able to exploit the domestic and regional market niche for lower-cost garments than are available in the department stores, adapting their output to respond to fashions and trends. This adaptability has in turn generated more local employment and wealth among home-based workers and village workers, as well as among townspeople and traders, and a high level of self-employment. Paradoxically, a factor that has contributed to this situation – as opposed to becoming involved in maquila production – is that the failure of unions to organise the workers in the 1960s eventually brought about more equitable relations between the traditional elite and their former employees and a higher level of mutual dependence than exists in the maquila.
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