A long way from El Salvador: Kent Farmers Market vendor keeps her handicraft alive

Maria Lopez, of Kent, learned to make nylon purses by hand from her mother as a child in El Salvador. Now Lopez, 43, sells the purses as one of the many vendors at the Kent Farmers Market downtown along Second Avenue between Smith and Gowe streets. The market opened June 5 and runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday through Sept. 25.

Vendor Maria Lopez sells her handmade purses at the Kent Farmers Market each Saturday.

Vendor Maria Lopez sells her handmade purses at the Kent Farmers Market each Saturday.

Maria Lopez, of Kent, learned to make nylon purses by hand from her mother as a child in El Salvador.

Now Lopez, 43, sells the purses as one of the many vendors at the Kent Farmers Market downtown along Second Avenue between Smith and Gowe streets. The market opened June 5 and runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday through Sept. 25.

The popular venue features fresh produce, baked goods, arts and crafts.

“It’s fun to go for a walk and see what everyone brought whether it’s flowers or veggies or other items,” said Lopez, in her fourth year at the market.

Each summer Lopez brings purses made by herself, her daughter and sister. Small and large purses are available in a variety of colors. Prices range from $5 to $60.

“They are 100 percent handmade,” Lopez said. “They are washable and you will have them for many years. They don’t rip and are very durable.”

Lopez moved to Kent 20 years ago to flee the civil war in El Salvador that lasted from 1980 to 1992. She already had a sister who lived in the United States.

“There was a lot of fighting in our town between the guerrillas and the army,” said Lopez, who fled at the age of 21. “It was very difficult. I’m blessed and happy to be here.”

Lopez’s father worked as a farmer in El Salvador but the family remained poor. Her mother made the purses to sell to bring in some extra money.

“In my hometown, everyone knew how to make purses,” Lopez said.

That background is the reason Lopez calls her business Expreso Ni Cultura, which is Spanish for “expressing my culture.”

Lopez didn’t make the purses for many years after moving to Kent. Then she started to create them as gifts for friends and relatives. Several years ago, she decided to sell her handicrafts at the market.

“They know me,” Lopez said about customers at the market. “They came a couple of years before and they come see me again. They bought from me two years ago and they come again to buy a purse for their mom or niece.”

It takes Lopez about two hours to make a small purse. The larger purses can take two to three weeks to make. Lopez makes purses throughout the year, so that she has a supply of more than 100, ready for the market.

The small purses, especially, have proven quite popular for young girls.

“The little purses sell better because they have a long handle that you can put over your neck and it comes down to your waist,” Lopez said.

Customers can select from a variety of colors of purses.

“The young people see the green, white and purple and like the bright colors,” Lopez said. “Others want gray, black or military green. We have colors that go with any kind of clothes.”

Lopez also makes hammocks that sell from $80 to $150. She has hammocks designed for one person as well as for a couple.

“But the hammocks don’t sell well,” she said. “The weather around here doesn’t permit use of them.”

No matter what the weather, people can enjoy the farmers market.

“The (King County) library is right there so families can walk the market and then go to the library,” Lopez said. “And the kids can play in the fountains (at the park).”

The Kent Farmers Market is organized by the Kent Lions Club, in conjunction with the Kent Downtown Partnership.

For more information, go to www.kentfarmersmarket.com.

If you go

What: Kent Farmers Market

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday through Sept. 25

Where: Town Square Plaza Park, Second Avenue and Smith Street

Cost: Free, except for what you buy


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