Puerto Rico’s La Chiwinha: An Ethical, Global Gathering Place in San Juan

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Nestled on Calle González near the University of Puerto Rico in Santa Rita < Rio Piedras < San Juan, sits an airy, open market that calls itself a tea room, but is so much more.

La Chiwinha is an Aymara word meaning ‘gathering place.’ Co-founders Karla (from Bolivia) and Joel (from Puerto Rico) met while he was serving in the Peace Corps in Bolivia. They opened the shop seven years ago, after moving to San Juan. It’s name references the wooden umbrellas female vendors construct in the markets of Bolivia to sell their wares.

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In addition to serving organic teas, coffees, baked treats and small bites, La Chiwinha is Puerto Rico’s first Fair Trade global market, complimented by eco-friendly household products and locally sourced crafts, beauty products, textiles, books, coffee and more.

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Co-owner Joel hosts a series of talks, screenings and community events in the shop (always free for the public), working hard to build the sense of community and consumer awareness necessary to make Fair Trade values more ingrained in Puerto Rican imports and business practices.

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 The prices of goods in the shop are extremely reasonable- the owners strive to strike a balance between quality items at a prince point that’s accessible to a large and diverse customer base.

Go for a coffee, or a bite, or a browse. Sit for a while and chat with the locals who wander in. More than a tea shop, La Chiwinha has established itself as a ‘gathering place’ for individuals seeking ethically sourced, Fair Trade goods from across the world or right in their own back yard.

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‘Abre…

Escoge…

Devuelve…

…y sé felíz.’

Open…

Choose…

Return…

and be happy.

About Keelie Sheridan
Keelie's creative mind was forged in the camp fires of a nomadic troupe that eventually settled in New York's Adirondack mountains. She spent her childhood hunting and gathering with her sisters and learning to Irish step dance. Keelie grew up to be a NYC-based performer, director, writer, photographer and arts educator. She's a 2016 Mitchell Scholar and is looking forward to serving as an ambassador in the field of theatre while studying at Trinity College, Dublin, sponsored by the US Ireland Alliance. Keelie holds a MFA in Acting from Brooklyn College and a BA in Theatre/ English from SUNY Empire State College. Her interests include anything edible, making her muscles grow, not looking like a tourist when she travels and keeping the earth healthy. Follow along at: http://sweatequalssuccess.blogspot.com/ .

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