You're having an impact, Royals.
When we first met Gabriel, all we knew was that this kind, quiet man had volunteered to help us paint our studio. It wasn’t until he pulled out a phone full of photos of what he did in his time off on weekends that we realized how secretly culture-changing this man is.
"El Salvador is very beautiful,"
he remarked, as we collapsed against the section of wall we hadn't quite reached yet. We were between coats and we'd been painting the House of Royals studio for five days straight...we were exhausted. "You have to go there someday." I pictured lush jungle and hidden beaches. I pictured Salvadoran friends I love and their strong faith. I guess I probably pictured unrest and instability...I have a friend who paid for her son to be brought into America via the coyotes almost 20 years ago, and everything she described about that horrifying experience. It soon became apparent that I was not getting all that he was trying to describe when he spoke about his country, and I strained hard to grasp everything he said with my rusty Spanish. Finally, he just said..."Here, can I show you on my phone?"
I checked the time. We had to get back to painting and I was nervous about delivering on work deadlines. However, I decided to be open hearted and let God lead. I'm not sure what I expected. Maybe pictures of his wife and children? A commitment to the secret beauty of the surroundings that ought to draw the international tourist?
To my surprise, Gabriel's vision of his country, his people, was photo after photo after photo of the most impoverished and in need peoples of El Salvador...and his own personal response.
I must have gone through thousands of photos, each one detailing another family, another child, another makeshift shack. Gabriel repeated over and over, "You have to come someday and meet them. We go every weekend and we try to put metal roofs on their homes, because they are so poor and have no jobs, and have no one to take care of them. So, we try to get the money to buy the steel roofs and then we carry them by truck - and most of the time for miles on foot, because there are no roads to reach them - to get roofs on the homes before the rains come."
In the jungle around his city, many people live in dire conditions, with sticks, trees, boards, tarps and scraps of whatever they can bind together as a home. Gabriel explained, so matter-of-factly that it was striking to me how obvious it seemed to him, how each and every weekend he gathers local business owners, family members and friends to cart steel roofs into the jungle to support these people. He smiled the whole time, completely excited
about the difference they are making.
We spent over an hour talking about the needs of these people and how much he longed to do more for them.
Finally, I asked, "Ok, so, if this is what you do each weekend, what do you do during the week? Do you and your wife have children? When do you see them? Is this also your work during the week?" I knew it was a barrage of questions, but I was struck with awe at this person's goodness. "I see my kids in evenings and we do some work together," He answered.
"And during the week, I run a leather goods company."
He took out his leather wallet, stamped in the corner with a logo. "I made this. I own 'Arte y Piel'."
HOUSE OF ROYALS BEAUTY LIES WITHIN YOU TOTE, HANDCRAFTED BY GABRIEL AT ARTE Y PIEL
It became very apparent that this moment had been destined by God.
We talked then for a long time about what a collaboration or a manufacturing relationship could look like, and I shared a vision I had for a minimalist handbag that would carry a special message inside. He shared more about the leather process and his employees, and how he had just prayed for growth opportunities and ways to expand his employee base at home and bring more employment to the people there. We spoke at length about his role as liaison to the Helping Hands Medical Missions
that come twice annually to El Salvador to assist in medical care for the locals. We spoke about all the ways we could work toward a better future for his people and a hope-filled future for the customers of House of Royals. He promised to return with his team and some work samples so we could move the relationship forward.
By the time we went back to painting, I was messaging my husband and team that God had not only sent us a "vendor", but that He had also instigated the possibility of helping raise up so many worthy people through each and every product. Through tears, I thanked Gabriel for sharing his life with me, and God for bringing this moment together.
GABRIEL MET US AT OUR STUDIO TO STUDY DESIGNS AND PRESENT OPTIONS. SOON AFTER, WORK BEGAN!
The fruit of this conversation and a year of design and perfecting, is our first work together, the Beauty Lies Within You leather tote, laser engraved by Gabriel with the pattern of Our Lady of Guadalupe's dress. It comes in cognac and the black (to be released this week), is a numbered limited edition piece, and can be found here: Beauty Lies Within You Tote
Every purchase of a Beauty Lies Within You tote and all further collaborations will go directly to supporting the living wage of Arte y Piel employees and to further development of artisanal projects with Gabriel and his team. If you are a medical professional and are interested in joining a medical mission, click here.