Alternative Black Friday sale promotes fair trade products

alternative black friday sale

Shoppers dove into the fair trade gift items offered for sale at the Alternative Black Friday sale last year in El Paso. Border Partners will sell Palomas Oilcloth Designs products at the sale again this year.

[El Paso, TX] Come shop!   But not in a mindless way–support cooperatives and grass-roots organizations this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, at the annual Alternative Black Friday event at the Columban Mission Center, 10 a.m. through to 3 p.m.!  This is the fourth year that we have hosted this event, which counts on the participation of organizations like Pax Christi, Fair Trade, Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza, and Catholic Relief Services. The Columban Mission Center is located at 816 Magoffin.

It’s “an alternative to shopping at a large chain stores and an opportunity for consumers to support local nonprofits,” in the words of journalist Patrick Manning, who reported on the event last year on the local Fox News station in El Paso.

“Your gift gives twice here,” said Polly Edmunds who works with Border Partners, a nonprofit organization empowering people in the impoverished community of Palomas, Mexico.  Last year, Edmunds was selling waterproof bags, tablecloths, and aprons made from Mexican oilcloth sold by Palomas Oilcloth Designs. The items were designed and manufactured by Mexican women.

“They don’t have many options for selling their products in Mexico, so it’s really necessary that we sell them here in the United States,” said Edmunds.

Families in Palomas live off of less than $75 a week, reported Edmunds.

“We promote this as an opportunity to not buy into the excessive consumerism of the holidays, but to really make a difference in someone’s life,” said organizer Sister Janet Gildea, director of young adult ministry for the Catholic Diocese of El Paso.  “There’s no middle man,” she added.  Gildea reported the programs benefiting from the program help projects promoting education, healthcare, and economic development in local communities.

“I think people come to buy (at) this sale because they’ve become more conscious of consumerism and if they are going to give gifts at Christmas, they really want to make them very conscious choices of who benefits,” said Gildea.

In 2011’s edition of the event, Andrea Tirres sold framed photos of statues from St. Pius X Catholic Church in El Paso, captured by local artist Martín Benecomo. The sales benefited people of Lomas del Poleo, Mexico, a small community outside of Juárez.  “It’s easy to purchase goods and to not have any reflection on how that purchase impacts people and so I think this really draws attention to how your money can make a difference,” said Tirres.

Shoppers said Alternative Black Friday isn’t their only community-shopping stop this holiday season, but many said they would avoid the big box stores in favor a smaller shops.  “I’m going to try and stay as local as I can,” said El Paso native Rosalva Rodríguez.

A big hat tip to Fox News Latino’s Patrick Manning for the report on the 2011 sale that formed the basis of this blog post:

Fair trade sale featuring Palomas Oilcloth Designs products highlights an Alternative Black Friday

customers admire Palomas Oilcloth Designs products

Customers like Palomas Oilcloth Designs gifts at the Alternative Black Friday sale in El Paso.

Border Partners presented the Fair Trade products of Palomas Oilcloth Designs at an Alternative Black Friday Sale in El Paso on the day after Thanksgiving. Our table participated with many local and international nonprofit organizations that sold artwork, jewelry, household goods, clothing and fashion accessories, and photography crafted by–and directly benefiting–economically challenged peoples.

“When you give a Fair Trade gift, your gift gives twice,” Border Partners founder Polly Edmunds reminded shoppers. The customers, appreciating the quality of the products, didn’t need urging to purchase aprons, cosmetic bags, place mats, tablecloths and bags for gifts.

Why an Alternative Black Friday Sale? Volunteer Billie Greenwood explained that the effort offered shoppers, who traditionally purchase holiday gifts on the day after Thanksgiving, with a more personal and constructive alternative to the commercialization that can creep into holiday gift-giving.

“By supporting local enterprise in developing countries and challenged communities right here on the U.S.-Mexico border we can make a positive difference. By encouraging employment we’re supporting dignity and human rights. People are able to provide for themselves and their families.”

The Palomas Oilcloth Design products are crafted by a group of seven women who design and sew on Mexican oilcloth to earn a stable income. Because Palomas is plagued with an astronomical rate of unemployment, the women’s initiative has made a significant difference for their families. They hope to attain full ownership of the business in the future; currently, the coop relies on Border Partners for support.

Palomas Oilcloth Design products are available for sale online at the group’s Etsy site: MXwomen’sHope.