Magic Hands

BY: MARLA O'BRIEN

Women can make magic with their hands. That’s the motto of the Todos Santos-based co-operative Manos Magicas, literally meaning “magic hands."

The organization was formed 12 years ago by a group of entrepreneurial women who knew they could share knowledge and talents to benefit locals in need of income. Members include Mexican nationals along with seasonal and permanent residents of Todos Santos from around the world.

Marla-Magic-Hands.jpg

Part of their goal is to preserve the natural environment and indigenous culture of the Baja. Collectively, their efforts have resulted in unique and magical handicrafts.

For example, each Christmas the women of Manos Magicas create unique holiday decorations by crafting trees out of the dried flower stalks of the blue agave, also known as the maguay cactus or century plant. They collect the stalks from local farmers who have large plants on their land. Then the “trees” are adorned with traditional handicrafts and ornaments using other natural products, and the resulting works of art are auctioned off at a fundraising event in support of the co-op.

In this way, women in need have the opportunity to earn income through their handiwork.

Another great example of Manos Magicas entrepreneurial spirit is their recent grocery bag project. After the plastic bag ban went into effect this summer, they came up with an idea to help the environment, provide vital income for local women, and educate children about recycling all at once.

They collected donations in order to buy fabric and pay women to construct 1,200 bags. Then these bags were taken to school children in Todos Santos and Pescadero. Each child received a bag to paint with their own designs while being taught the importance of not throwing away plastics. The children then took their own bag home for their families to use.

Manos Magicas has also been called upon to craft fabric bags for the Code Pink organization in California and create wedding decorations for local celebrations. The co-op is open for anyone to join and is coordinated entirely through volunteer effort.

“We have women from many other areas sharing their talents with local women. For example, one visitor from Hawaii taught Manos Magicas members how to weave palm fronds,” explains one of the founders, Cat Chambaret. “Then these are used in decorations for sale and other events.”

The co-operative runs a small store in the gardens behind Todos Santos’ Cultural Center, open on Tuesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Handicrafts such as pillows, potholders, home decor and clothing are on sale. Members of the public are also welcome to bring in personal items and clothing for repair or alterations.