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Getting A Shipment from Haiti


People that know Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus might know us from retail and wholesale trade shows with our colorful booth full of sculpture displays and fresh flowers.  Or they might know us from our retail shop off of Highway 68 in Toro Park just outside of Salinas, CA. But a HUGE part of the work that goes on for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus takes place at our warehouse.  It too is just outside of Salinas, and though it is known to few, it is there that the receiving, storing, and shipping takes place.

A shipment arrives at the warehouse.

A shipment arrives at the warehouse.

Every month, the process is repeated:  An order is sent to Haiti, along with an average  amount of $30,000 in prepayment, which is distributed among the artists of the village.  About that same time, the completed products ordered the previous month are sent to California from Haiti. Just this past Tuesday, a shipment arrived at the warehouse – almost THREE TONS of folk art metal sculptures to be unpacked, sorted, inspected, and stored until they are sold and shipped to our customers here in the States and beyond.

Bags of butterflies

Bags of butterflies

Swarms of bees - the good kind!

Swarms of bees – the good kind!

Among our “warehouse warriors” there is excited anticipation as the delivery truck arrives.  Everyone falls into rhythm as crates are off-loaded and pried open. Pieces come wrapped, but things being what they are in Haiti, wrapping materials simply consist of whatever is available at the time. Sculptures are variously bundled in bits of wire – even barbed wire! – cording, electrical tape, masking tape, surgical tape, plastic strips, fabric strips, or some combination thereof.  In between sculptures, we’ve found newspapers, tissue, plastic sheeting and children’s homework. A surprise in every package – in more ways than one!


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

Ring those wedding bells!


Evenson in Carmel, CA November 2011

Evenson in Carmel, CA November 2011

Last week, we received the following text message from Evenson Thenor, who visited us in California a little over a year ago.  He said,  “I would like to marrying 24 September 2013. Please send me big orders for my celebration.”

How exciting! We’ve been having all kinds of fun speculating about what his bride-to-be looks like, the favorite guess being that she was the original model for his sculpture called, “Angel Dance.”

She'd be a beautiful bride!  REC281

She’d be a beautiful bride! REC281




Haitian wedding traditions are colorful and festive, with an emphasis on music, dance, and community.  As you might expect, invitations are spread by word of mouth throughout the church and community of the bridal couple.  The bride and groom process together in the company of her bridesmaids to the church, which is festooned with colorful sheets and curtains.  The couple takes their place in front of the altar, where they are seated, facing each other throughout the ceremony. Lasting for up to 3 hours, the service typically includes several choral selections performed by the choir as well as bible readings by the pastor or priest, and sometimes poetry readings by a friend or family member. The marriage license is also signed at this time. The end of the ceremony is signaled by the wedding party performing an elaborate dance as they exit the church.

The reception, which lasts most of the rest of the day, includes a great deal of feasting and merry-making.  Gifts are often given, but cash gifts are considered to be in poor taste.  The bridal couple eats their wedding cake in their home a few days after the wedding. Of course, Evenson and his bride will put their own signature on their wedding; observing some traditions and perhaps creating one or two of their own.   However they choose to celebrate, it will be a special day, indeed.

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus


Erzulie Dantor – The Fierce Mother


The Black Madonna of Czestochowa

Thinking about Mother’s Day just around the corner, it seems fitting to recall the Haitian spirit of the “Fierce Mother,” Erzulie Dantor.  She is characterized as hard-working, independent, aggressive, wild and strong.  She is recognized as the great protector of children, and will go to any lengths to keep them from harm. Like any mother, she bears the pain of her children’s sorrow but  also radiates the joy of their successes. Erzulie Dantor is often depicted by the image of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, an icon reportedly painted by St. Luke on a cedar table thought to have belonged to the Holy Family that somehow ended up in a monastary in Poland. Curiously, it was Polish Catholic soldiers fighting on both sides of the Haitian Revolution that brought the image to the nacient island nation, where it was quickly embraced and absorbed into voodoo culture.

Erzulie Dantor’s symbol, the veve, is drawn onto temple floors during religious ceremonies to summon her presence.  Meda Ulyssee has recreated that symbol in recycled metal.  Of course, he had all of the cultural background to communicate its meaning with hammer and chisel, but we  had to learn the story before we could fully appreciate the significance he struck into every detail. What we called simply “Meda’s Heart”  is actually much more.  On a pure and elemental level, it is a beautiful representation of the strength of a mother’s love.

Meda Ulyssee in his studio

Meda Ulyssee in his studio



Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

Fair Trade – Good for Everyone

IMG_1318 (640x486)Since 2007, Beyond Borders has been a member of the Fair Trade Federation, at that time becoming an officially recognized participant in the global fair trade movement. We have always been committed to building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty. Membership has put a stamp on those efforts. In keeping with fair trade practices, our purchasing and production choices are made with concern for the well-being of people and the environment. We work to create opportunity for so that our craftsmen and artisans may have viable economic options to meet their own needs. We engage in trading practices that honor the value of labor and dignity of all people.

Fair Trade Federation members are required to demonstrate compliance with the Nine Principles of Membership.  We are evaluated on these principles not just once to get in the door, but every single year.  The Nine Principles are as follows:

*Creating Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized ProducersCaleb Belony with Casey and clan (480x640)

*Developing Transparent and Accountable Relationships

*Build Capacity

*Promote Fair Trade

*Pay promptly and fairly

*Support safe and empowering working conditions

*Ensure the rights of children

*Cultivate environmentally stewardship

*Respect cultural identity


YThere is actually a 34 page down-loadable pdf.document on the Fair Trade Federation website  which outlines very specifically The Fair Trade Federation Code of Practice. (View it here: http://www.fairtradefederation.org/fair-trade-federation-code-of-practice/ ) This is a REALLY BIG DEAL and we take our responsibilities of membership very seriously, going above and beyond the minimums required.  For example, we pay  100% for every order up front – not  simply for the cost  of materials with the rest payable on delivery. Beyond Borders sends an average of $30,000 for orders to our artists in Haiti with completed goods shipped to us in return on a monthly basis. The impact of this type of trade in the lives of the artists is enormous.   Yinder Decembre, a talented sculptor  of  beautiful sun-faced children puts it this way, “These children represent the sun shining on the future.  If I can sell my work, I can  build my house and take care of my brothers and sisters.  I have faith that everything will be okay.”

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus



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