Maria Elizabeth Alava-Mendoza, or “Ely,” is 36 and a seamstress and clothing designer living in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Alava has lived on San Cristóbal Island since she was 9 years old. She remembers when the roads were sand instead of asphalt and there were no cars.
Alava’s three children guide her work and day-to-day life. She once studied to be a teacher, but found that the profession caused her to be away from them too often. “My children are a treasure,” said Alava.
“It’s for them that I live,” she added.
When Alava began making clothes for women and girls, she worked out of her living room. That space grew too small to accommodate both family life and Alava’s sewing work, and she moved to a side apartment. In December 2021, Alava purchased and had a shipping container outfitted to be her new workshop. She works there almost every day, making clothing to support her family—her husband, German Puente, 69, is retired and works on part time projects. The space connects Alava’s work and her family together tangibly—the door to her family’s home is only steps from the sliding door to her workshop.