Union Progresista Artesanal

Most of the workers of fair trade cooperative UPA live in rural areas and work in their homes. They produce alpaca metal jewelry (an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc), some of it adorned with abalone or resin, and silver-plated jewelry. Producing and marketing their products collectively, cooperative members are able to provide fair wages and raise family incomes. In response to needs, they have instituted a health care and disability fund for members.


Taxco el Viejo is a small village in the silver-rich mountains of Guerrero state. In the 20th century, silversmithing became the region’s major industry and small family businesses sold their work through middlemen who controlled prices. In 1986, 26 jewelry makers formed the cooperative Union Progresista Artesanal to market their products independently.


Ten Thousand Villages purchases abalone and alpaca jewelry from UPA. Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from UPA since 1988.

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Crafting a Future

Using alpaca metal and abalone, the blue-green interior of the mollusk shell, Teofilo Alvira crafts stunning jewelry with unique appeal. Two new pieces, a necklace and set of earrings, are part of this month's accessories collection.



Alvira, 33, learned his jewelry-making skills from his father, who was an associate with Union Progreso Artesanal (UPA), an artisan group based in Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico. After helping his father, Alvira joined UPA himself, where he has worked for the past eight years.



"I am well paid here, and I have steady work," says Alvira, who is gradually building a house for himself and his family. He and his wife have two children, 2 and 5 years old. Alvira wants his children to "live better" and to have more opportunities in the future. Asked to describe a satisfying life, he says, "You have what you need—food, shelter, money for school. And steady work."



Most of the artisans working with UPA live in rural areas and work in their homes. They produce alpaca jewelry, some of it adorned with abalone or resin. The goals of the group are fair wages for its members and community development. Ten Thousand Villages has purchased abalone and alpaca jewelry from UPA since 1988.

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