Westside Wuitusu Stores Subsidize Native Craftsmen in Venezuela and Columbia
Covid-19's Effects on Local Business Has Repercussions on the Guajira Peninsula
August 12, 2020
The Wayuu are an Indigenous American ethnic group of the Guajira Peninsula in northernmost part of Colombia and northwest Venezuela. - Wikipedia.
Wuitusu is a local business that was born two years ago from the passion of immigrant Lisset Verde-Sungur. About 2 years ago, Lisset fell in love with a Wayuu hat and bag online. However, they were too expensive, and she could not afford them.
She started doing research and found out that Wayuu is the original name of the people she knew in her home country Venezuela, as Guajiros (the name of the tribe in Spanish). The Wayuus handmake gorgeous bags, hats, and other items in bright, eye-catching colors, and each piece is unique.
Lisset was working as an ESL teacher and by chance a student told her she had friends living close to the Wayuu territory in Colombia, and they got in touch and started working together. The first shipment consisted of 13 hats and 13 bags (lucky number 13!). She started attending Melrose Trading Post on Sundays.
After several months she decided to open a kart at a local mall, and in April 2019 she opened their first store in Santa Monica. Six months later she opened a second store in Hollywood. Slowly she created a following of loyal customers, and then Covid-19 hit.
The business closures that came with Covid-19 meant that Wuitusu lost 90% of their sales. Wuitusu received some governmental help, but not enough to pay their accumulated rent. At the moment, Wuitusu is facing a possible closure, and that would mean not only a loss of income to the Wuitusu team in Los Angeles, but to their Wayuu partners in La Guajira.
Now, imagine a desert with scattered green bordering with the Caribbean Sea. This brown, blue and green place has been the historical land of the Wayuu people. Their territory extends between Colombia and Venezuela.
The Wayuus are the largest native group of people both in Colombia and in Venezuela. Some of them are well off, but many of them suffer from lack of drinking water, food, and education. Many of them depend on the sale of their handcrafts for their well-being. Covid-19 brought a closure to all the markets where the Wayuu people used to sell their items. Also, tourists stopped going to the region, which meant less revenues for the people.
My name is Lisset Verde and I'm the owner of a local store, Wuitusu. Stores like Wuitusu represent a constant source of income for the Wayuu people. The more Wuitusu sells, the more the Wayuu people sell, as well. Making a purchase at Wuitusu is a win-win situation: the customer obtains a beautiful, meaningful, and lasting item, Wutitusu can keep their team working, and their Wayuu partners also benefit from the constant purchasing of merchandise.
Visit their stores in Santa Monica Place and Hollywood and Highland to experience the beauty and tradition of a Wayuu bag. You can also follow them in Instagram @wuitusu or make online purchases at http://www.wuitusu.com.