Things That Matter

A Photo Of This Sad, Sweet Old Lady Went Viral Because She Hadn’t Sold Any Of Her Handmade Napkins, Now They’re All Sold

The internet is a dark place —dark and full of terrors. But on a few rare occasions, it serves for good purposes. Last week, the pictures of a sweet indigenous woman, captured crying after she wasn’t able to sell her handmade napkins went viral. And in a deliciously gratifying turn of events, the next day her sales soared —and what’s more, people even asked to take pictures with her.

This sweet old lady was looking a little blue, so a stranger decided to ask what was wrong.

Doña Adela Vidales, a Purépecha woman from the town of Turícuaro, Michoacán, was sitting on the floor in downtown Uruapan looking sad, when Leopoldo Álvarez noticed her dispirited demeanor. Being a Purépecha himself, the man felt moved so he took a few sneaky pictures of her without being noticed, and approached the woman to ask what was wrong. “She looked sad. I took two photos of her back and I asked her why she was sad, and she told me that she hadn’t sold anything,” Álvarez told Mexican newspaper Milenio.

Leopoldo Álvarez took to Facebook to share the woman’s story.

Álvarez, who runs a catering business in Michoacán, posted the photos on Facebook, with the caption:  “Doña Adela was sad because she hadn’t sold her artisanal napkins, and I told her that I was going to promote her products on social media… I invite you all to buy from her, she works in downtown Uruapan…,” he wrote in Spanish.

The next day, Doña Adela’s napkins sold out.

Just a week after the photos went up on Facebook, Leopoldo’s post had garnered over 2,500 likes and 619 comments —the post had been shared more than 8,000 times! “I didn’t think it would have such reach,” he said.

After many followers asked him how they could reach Doña Adela, he went to Turícuaro to find her.

“I went back to see her and we spoke. She told me that the next day, on Sunday, she went to work and sold everything and even finished early… and it was curious,” he added, “because she doesn’t usually sell out so early. But she sold everything and there were even people who wanted to take pictures with her,” Álvarez said.

“I felt useful,” said Álvares, “I don’t care about becoming famous.”

Leopoldo explained that he feels happy about having helped Doña Adela, and when he saw her again, days later, she expressed how immensely grateful she was.  “I felt useful, and I think I did my part. People congratulate me, but I think anyone would do the same.”

Álvarez reiterated that when he posted the photos of her, that he only cared about helping Doña Adela sell the napkins she had  made by hand.

Despite the huge engagement his post had; now he sees that ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ aren’t enough —he wants this to become something that provides real support to Michoacán artisans. “A ‘like’ doesn’t symbolize a purchase, a ‘share’ doesn’t symbolize an order. People haven’t kept buying, and the intention is to help.” said Leopoldo. “I don’t care about becoming famous, I wanted to help her.”

Leopoldo shared Doña Adela’s grandson, Melitón’s phone number in his social media profiles, so that people who are interested in buying can reach them. The caterer says he wants to help artisans from his own hometown, Pamatácuaro, who make wooden spoons, molinillos, and woven baskets. “I’d like to benefit my community, the artisans, that was my intention with Doña Adela, because there are many more artisans like her who live off their sales.”

Don’t take away valuable business from indigenous artisans by buying imitations from big corporations.

Many stores like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie, are taking valuable business away from actual indigenous artists and small businesses by making cheap knockoffs of their hand-made work. Support indigenous creativity, history, and legacy, and help create a much-needed economic boost in rural areas by shopping from small, authentic indigenous businesses, everywhere.

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