Juana lives in Sololá, a mountainside village in Guatemala that overlooks Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes surrounding it. At thirty years old, she’s animated and quick, with a wavy ponytail trailing down her back and a huge smile.
By the time she was ten, Juana was on her own and working as a nanny in order to squeak by. Her father had been killed and the family’s home destroyed in the devastating civil war. Later, she would become involved with a women’s association, where she would learn to read and write. She continued to work for the organization and now works for Community Enterprise Solutions, which helps distribute eyewear to those whose livelihoods (weaving, sewing, carpentry) have been compromised by their insufficient access to affordable glasses.
In 2007, Juana was able to secure a loan that allowed her to build a house. She now lives there with her sister, Marcela, and her rambunctious two-year-old son, Jonathan. Juana is steadily paying off the loan with proceeds from her job with Community Enterprise Solutions.
Walk towards the noise of the market center. You’ll pass electronics stores, a music store, a thrum of people revolving around the city square. It is here, at the end of a little offshoot alley, that you’ll find Juana’s store — a tiny but well-organized space, freshly swept and painted white.
Up for sale: efficient wood stoves, water filters, and eyeglasses. Free eye exams are available to those who need them.