Hala’s journey to La Peñita de Jaltemba began in 1989 when she worked for Canadian Holidays in Destination Services. At the time, Canadian Holidays was looking for new “off the beaten path” vacation destinations, which were located close to major tourist centers, and Rincon de Guayabitos fit the bill perfectly.
Hala was stationed at the Hotel Decameron Los Cocos on the south end of Guayabitos beach where she enjoyed working for three years. As a Destination Representative, part of her responsibilities included escorting guests on day tours to Los Ayala and La Peñita and on shopping trips to Puerto Vallarta.
When Hala first visited La Peñita she knew right off the bat she would love to live there and open a shop featuring the best arts and crafts available in Mexico. Why La Peñita? She immediately felt at home there. Why the best arts and crafts? Because at that time, the selection of artisan crafts was very limited in Jaltemba Bay.
Hala believed that it was her destiny to live and work in La Peñita.
She saw the need for a quality shopping experience in Jaltemba Bay
and that fate was handing her a unique opportunity.
Hala fancied La Peñita because it was kind of funky and refreshing after the touristic experience of Guayabitos. Even though La Peñita was a little unkempt and considered the ugly duckling of the three towns in Jaltemba Bay, she thought it was cool and enjoyed its somewhat geeky ambiance. Being somewhat eclectic herself, she knew that La Peñita was the ideal place for her to live and operate a business.
The townspeople offered the perfect mix of nationals and foreigners, and everyone was warm, welcoming and extremely friendly. The town was compact and it was a breeze to walk anywhere. Hala believed that it was her destiny to live and work in La Peñita.
She saw the need for a quality shopping experience in Jaltemba Bay and that fate was handing her a unique opportunity. Hala loves to shop and she was quite taken with the idea of opening a business that involved a great deal of shopping!
As Hala had worked at the Decameron for three years, she knew lots of people in the area and had developed plenty of business contacts. She found the ideal space for her shop in La Peñita, which at the time consisted of four small, barren shops with cement walls and floors. As soon as she saw the space she envisioned her shop as it is today. Truly, exactly as it is today!
At the time though, Hala hesitated to gamble on renting all four shops at once, so she asked the proprietor to swing a deal with her, where she could start with one small shop, and expand her business into the shops beside it as her business grew. The owner graciously agreed. Many locals thought her choice of locale was crazy, because at the time, this was a red light district in La Peñita and the street was populated with several cantinas. Cantinas are a type of bar typically found in rural Mexico that cater to males serving alcoholic beverages and botanas (appetizers) where the male species gather to play cards and billiards, and sometimes indulge in female companionship.
Undaunted and with blind faith Hala continued to pursue her vision. On opening day, she was surprised to find four customers lined up to get into the shop, and delighted, because she knew she was on the right track!
A couple of years after she opened Hamaca Maya, Xaltemba Restaurant & Galeria opened and a little later Hinde & Jaimes. Today, there are several other restaurants in the area, as well as a bakery, a coffee shop and candy store. The area is now a respectable commercial zone and a magnet for tourists who are drawn to the market in La Peñita.
Hala Hazzi is as exotic as her name implies. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt where she lived as a young child. At the age of 11 years she moved to Toronto, Canada where she lived most of her adult life. Prior to working for Canadian Holidays, Hala lived in Puerto Vallarta. Enchanted by the food, music, people, deserts, beaches and culture, she began exploring both coasts of Mexico, delighting in each new discovery. She has also traveled extensively throughout Latin America, and has lived in Costa Rica, Cuba and Brazil, yet every time she returned to Canada she would play mariachi music, and without fail it made her feel nostalgic and indeed homesick. Her life calling has always gravitated towards Mexico, again and again. Mexico was in her heart, and every other place in the world seemed to somehow pale next to Mexico. Mexico had captured her soul!
The History of Hamaca Maya
The story of Hala’s shop, now referred to as Hamaca Maya began while she was on her last destination assignment in Cozumel on the Caribbean side of Mexico. She went on a day trip to the colonial city of Merida which is located in the state of Yucatan, and while visiting she hooked up with some local women who formed a Mayan Women’s Cooperative for weaving hammocks.
She was captivated by the passion of the women and the intricacy of the hammocks they weaved using wooden looms and a needle, much in the same way as their ancestors did a thousand years before. She purchased her very first hammock that day.
Hala knew she would somehow become involved with this women’s cooperative, someday soon, and after spending that first night sleeping in her new hammock, she was convinced! At the time she thought she would be exporting these hammocks to Canada, not to La Peñita!
Today Hamaca Maya has grown to be the biggest hammock specialty shop on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Hala is very proud of the service provided, the quality and the variety of merchandise and the value-added pricing she offers her customers. She is also proud of the fact that this is her ninth year working with the Mayan women’s cooperatives. The women who weave the hammocks live in rural villages on the outskirts of Merida. The cooperatives produce consistent quality work which they produce in a timely fashion and Hala pays a good price for the product. She places the first order of the season in May for a September delivery.
To learn more, visit Hamaca Maya.