Alida Boer on Her MARIAS Handbag Line and Her Work With City Harvest
The former Miss Guatemala explains the inspiration behind her business and discusses her work with NYC's largest food-rescue organization.
After winning Miss Guatemala in 2007, Alida Boer took a trip to a London for another pageant and worked with a group that helped local schools. As a thank you for her work, she received a huipil, a traditional blouse worn by Mayan women in central America. That blouse inspired her to create a line of handbags and accessories called MARIAS, which she founded in 2011. "It was interesting that so many women from around the world liked this piece," she tells People CHICA. "I was thinking [about it] for a while, and then maybe a year and a half later, I thought that the best way to portray and to showcase this beautiful art was through handbags, because every woman uses one."
At the time, she didn't even know how to use a sewing machine, but Boer had a goal in mind and nothing was going to stop her. MARIAS started out small, working with only two artisans, but has since expanded into a brand that employs over 500 artisans who create its textiles. "The main thing that we want to do with MARIAS is showcase the art that is in Guatemala, showing that we are from Latin America, that we can compete with any international brand, and to create a fair income for all the women that create the beautiful textiles," says Boer.
Boer is also a Latinx representative of City Harvest, New York City's largest food-rescue organization. When she first moved to NYC, she took the time to look for an organization that was the best "fit with what she believes in," leading her to City Harvest, where she became part of the board. City Harvest has been out on the road for over 35 years rescuing food from going to waste. They then deliver the food free of charge to hundreds of families across the five boroughs who really need it. "That doesn't mean people that are living in the streets," explains Boer. "That means people that have families, jobs, but sometimes the cost of living in New York is so high that they don't know where the next meal is coming from."
One study found that "nearly 1.2 million residents, including 1 in 5 children, struggle to put food on their tables, while 40 percent of all households in the city do not earn enough to cover basic expenses." As a result, many New Yorkers must make tough choices between feeding themselves or covering other expenses. Boer appreciates and supports the work that City Harvest does for all New Yorkers, especially because many of the people that benefit from this organization are Latinx.
For more information on City Harvest's work and how to help, visit cityharvest.org.