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Lucuma Gift Given Three Times

For the New Year, I received as a gift the ornament you see here, a hand-decorated gourd in the design of an owl, with striking red and black colors that make it stand out on our Yule tree. This gift, however, wasn’t just given to me. The choice to purchase this gift also provided to others worthy of and in need of support.

lucuma owl gourdFirst of all, the ornament was purchased at a nature center operated by the National Audubon Society. The proceeds from that sale have gone to help support the operation of that particular center, and through it, the Audubon Society.

The ornament wasn’t made by the Audubon Society, however. It was made by local artisans in Peru who work with an operation called Lucuma. Lucuma is a fair trade business. That means that they engage in the right kind of globalization, connecting people around the world who are ready to buy with people who are ready to produce, but doing so in such a way that the workers who produce the items for sale are fairly compensated for their labor. Lucuma focuses in particular on selling items made by people in Peru.

The person who chose this gift accomplished a great deal with their selection. I got a unique ornament. The Audubon center got a bit of funding. Workers in Peru got fairly compensated for a bit of their labor.

This selection could have ended with a very different result. I could have received a mass-produced ornament from a store like Wal-Mart, which abuses its workers and takes money out of the local economy while providing few services to the community. Then, the proceeds would have gone, through Wal-Mart corporate headquarters, to a company running a sweatshop somewhere in China, which dumps toxic wastes into the local water supply and spews pollution into the air. The workers who gave their labor in the dangerous conditions at that sweatshop would have received, in return, far less than a living wage.

This owl ornament is a reminder to me that the decisions we make about what to buy and where to buy it have the potential to result in a series of gifts or a series of curses.

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