Una tienda ecoamigable y de consumo justo y consciente nació hace ocho años en el casco urbano de Río Piedras. Desde el inicio, el espacio persiguió trabajar bajo un sistema comercial solidario, tomando en cuenta las condiciones laborales de las manos que fabrican cada producto que se vende en La Chiwinha. En la actualidad, a la tienda llegan productos de 40 países alrededor del mundo y sobre 20 de sus artículos son trabajados por artesanos y agricultores puertorriqueños.
En cada esquina de La Chiwinha, ubicada a pasos de la estación del tren, se desbordan los panes artesanales de El Checo, varias carteras de tela, ropa con estampados refrescantes y ungüentos artesanales para la piel. Entre las tablas de madera de un viejo curio, yacen figuras talladas a mano, monederos coloridos de bolsillo y mermeladas y condimentos naturales. Del otro lado, hay une espacio para comer, tomar té y café.
Para establecer esta red de comercio solidario en distintos sectores de Puerto Rico y a través del mundo, Joel Franqui, de 40 años, se movió hasta los recovecos más remotos para conocer y relacionarse con los productos y sus fabricadores. Entre los 30 países a los que ha viajado junto a su compañera Karen Durán, de 42 años, y también propietaria de La Chiwinha, han logrado adentrarse en las venas de cada país para traer productos responsables a la Isla.
Según explicó Joel a PRTQ, el consumo consciente consiste en ser crítico con los productos que se consumen. Esto se logra por medio de la compra y venta de productos ecológicos que no afecten al medio ambiente y a través del consumo de artículos donde se conozca de ante mano que se le paga un precio justo y adecuado al fabricante.
“Tienes que ser crítico con lo que consumes y no consumir de más. Hay que consumir productos locales y con justicia. Tenemos que hacer una economía solidaria donde todos tengamos vida digna, y el comercio justo es una forma de apoyar el desarrollo económico de sectores marginados de otros países”, reflexionó Joel.
Asimismo, existe una serie de procedimientos a la hora de comprar productos bajo el sistema de comercio justo. Para Joel, es medular asegurarse de que cada artículo que se venda en La Chiwinha esté certificado o forme parte de alguna asociación de comercio solidario. Del mismo modo, a los fabricantes de productos locales se les hace una evaluación de comercio justo donde tienen que cumplir cinco de los nueve puntos expuestos.
Mientras Joel se sumergía entre anécdotas e historias, recordó el día en el que conoció a un grupo de mujeres costureras, en su mayoría jóvenes que enviudaron durante la guerra civil de Guatemala, que se juntaron para producir carteras de tela y así poder sustentar a su familia y cubrir las necesidades de la comunidad.
Con el dinero que el grupo Unidas Para Vivir Mejor (UPAVIM) genera, se consiguió edificar una clínica dental, médica y un laboratorio abierto a la comunidad guatemalteca. Ante la calidad de sus productos y la calidez humana de este grupo, Joel no lo pensó dos veces en traer a Puerto Rico los artículos que fabrican estas decenas de mujeres luchadoras que viven en las zonas más desaventajadas de Guatemala.
Según resume el portal de UPAVIM, este es un grupo de aproximadamente 88 mujeres que viven en las comunidades marginadas de La Esperanza, El Mezquital y Villa Lobos I y II y en la zona 12 de la ciudad de Guatemala. Todas son madres y amas de casa. Algunas viudas, otras abandonadas por sus maridos o enfrentan problemas de alcoholismo.
Entre los planes futuros de la tienda La Chiwinha, destaca el desarrollo de una plataforma virtual para la venta de productos en línea y la apertura de comercios solidarios en otros pueblos del país.
Por su parte, Joel ha establecido acuerdos de colaboración con organizaciones que promueven los valores de la justicia social. Por cuatro años, el Comité de Género de Amnistía Internacional, Sección de Puerto Rico, presentó un cine foro mensual en La Chiwinha. Junto con el Sierra Club organizaron siete Ferias de Regalo con Consciencia, en donde vendían productos ecológicos de artesanos, artistas y agricultores locales. También se unieron a Iniciativa Comunitaria en su campaña de Café Pendiente.
No fue casualidad que Joel y Karen decidieran abrir una tienda de comercio justo en las históricas calles de Río Piedras. Como parte del concepto solidario y ecoamigable, la calle González, donde se sitúa La Chiwinha, es una zona urbana donde los ciudadanos pueden llegar a hacer sus compras utilizando medios de transporte como el tren, la bicicleta y patineta.
“Queríamos que la tienda se estableciera en un sitio urbano. Por eso Río Piedras. Es que Río Piedras tiene todo ese potencial que no se ha podido rescatar en otras partes de la Isla. Además que Río Piedras no tiene nada que envidiarla a Madrid ni a Buenos Aires. Aquí ahí de todo”, señaló Joel.
A pesar de que Joel estudió Arquitectura Paisajista y estuvo algunos años trabajando para el gobierno de Puerto Rico, le hizo caso a su voz interior y decidió seguirle los pasos a su estilo de vida junto a Karen. Con la corazonada puesta en el medio ambiente y la solidaridad, el camino los guió hacia el comercio consciente y el consumo de productos fabricados bajo el lema de economía solidaria.
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