- our story
Altiplano is a small company based in southern Vermont and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Working with many cooperative groups, small family businesses, and our own fair trade workshop, we are committed to creating innovative products that support indigenous communities and the environment.
We are most grateful for our ability to make a difference, and to you, for supporting us in our ongoing effort to bring fair trade and employment to the Guatemalan Highlands.
Twenty-five years ago John von Wodtke and Shari Zarin, both experienced travelers, foot loose and fancy free, set out on a 6-month journey through Central and South America. They began their trip in Guatemala, where they were thoroughly enchanted by the beautiful Mayan people, their rich traditions and rugged land. Their travels took them to many countries on that trip, but it was clearly Guatemala that stole their hearts.
Upon their return to the US, they almost immediately planned their next trip back, and hit the road once again, this time, to sell the crafts that they had bought on their journey. It took them less than a year to raise the funds to return to Guatemala. They did this a few times casually, before they fully realized the path that they were on.
Shari and John eventually began to design their own products and to live part of the year in Guatemala. They raised three children who call both the Green Mountains of Vermont and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala home. In their two diverse, small town homes, all three children have grown up with a strong sense of community and their responsibility to it.
Over the years, much has changed, but Shari and John’s appreciation for Guatemala and its people still shines strong. Altiplano has grown to support not only Shari and John's family, but also hundreds of families in both Guatemala and Vermont. The cornerstone of the business has always been the strong relationships that have been forged through time.
These days, the Altiplano collections are meticulously designed by Shari twice a year, responding to her own artistic direction and fashion trends. She finds passion in her creative expression, and in creating opportunity in Guatemala.
Shari is forever inspired by the wonderful people that she works with, and the many people across the globe working for peace. She is awed by the magnificence of nature and the power of love. Altiplano strives to reflect this universal expression of beauty.