The cooperative La Semilla de Dios, meaning “The Seed of God,” is located in the town of La Palma in the department of Chalatenango, 54 miles north of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. La Semilla de Dios consists of 40 people of limited economic resources who make a variety of wooden items painted in the famous La Palma folk art style. Men do the carpentry, and women the hand-painting and finishing. The cooperative owns a piece of land in the mountains outside town, where they plant and sustainably harvest trees to supply about 40 percent of their wood needs. The traditional cooperative structure of La Semilla de Dios puts power and profits in the hands of the group’s employees. Cooperative income provides better nutrition and educational opportunities for artisans’ children. La Semilla de Dios also runs a savings plan from which members can borrow, and has instituted a retirement fund. Income from product sales is important, as life in the countryside is difficult, especially for women. Many of the women are single mothers who must take care of the house, feed their families and plant subsistence crops of corn and beans.
La Semilla de Dios was founded in 1977, in the midst of El Salvador’s brutal civil war. La Palma was in a principal area of conflict during the war, and its residents suffered great hardship. La Palma is sometimes called “the cradle of peace,” because it was here in 1984 that the government and guerrillas first held talks during the civil war. Founded by internationally known Salvadoran artist Fernando Llort, the cooperative paints in the simple, joyful, colorful folk art style for which Llort’s work is known, celebrating this community’s culture and uniqueness. Today the village of La Palma is famous for its school of art. In addition to export, La Semilla de Dios sells its products through Llort’s store El Arbol de Dios, “The Tree of God,” in San Salvador.
Ten Thousand Villages purchases painted wall plaques, frames, ornaments, stools and crosses from La Semilla de Dios. Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from La Semilla de Dios since 1994.
- Artisan Products