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Covid-19’s Effects on Local Business Has Repercussions on the Guajira Peninsula

LOS ANGELES, AUGUST 4, 2020 Imagine a desert with scattered greenery bordering the Caribbean Sea. This mystical stretch of brown, blue and green is the historical land of the Wayuu people, the largest native group in both Colombia and Venezuela. Because of myriad of reasons, many Wayuus suffer from lack of safe drinking water, food, and education, and depend on the sale of their handcrafts for survival. Covid-19 brought a closure to all the markets where the Wayuu people used to sell their items. Also, tourists stopped going to the region, which meant less revenues for the people.
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Wuitusu is a local business that was born two years ago from the passion of immigrant Lisset Verde-Sungur, a Venezuelan who settled in Studio City. Lisset fell in love with a beautiful, hand-made Wayuu hat and bag online. However, they were too expensive, and she could not afford them. She started doing research and found out that Wayuu is the original name of the people she knew in her home country Venezuela, as Guajiros (the name of the tribe in Spanish). The Wayuus hand make gorgeous bags, hats, and other items in bright, eye-catching colors, and each piece is unique.
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Lisset was working as an ESL teacher and by chance a student told her she had friends living close to the Wayuu territory in Colombia, and they got in touch and started working together. The first shipment consisted of 13 hats and 13 bags (lucky number 13!). She started attending Melrose Trading Post on Sundays. After several months she decided to open a kart at a local
mall, and in April 2019 she opened her first store in Santa Monica. Six months later she opened a second store in Hollywood. Slowly she created a following of loyal customers, and then Covid- 19 hit.
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The business closures that came with Covid19 meant that Wuitusu lost 90% of their sales. Wuitusu received some governmental help, but not enough to pay their accumulated rent. At the moment, Wuitusu is facing a possible closure, and that would mean not only a loss of income to the Wuitusu team in Los Angeles, but to their Wayuu partners in La Guajira. Stores like Wuitusu represent a constant source of income for the Wayuu people. The more Wuitusu sells, the more the Wayuu people sell, as well. Making a purchase at Wuitusu is a win-win situation: the customer obtains a beautiful, meaningful, and lasting item, Wutitusu can keep their team working, and their Wayuu partners also benefit from the constant purchasing of merchandise.
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Visit their stores in Santa Monica Place and Hollywood and Highland to experience the beauty and tradition of a Wayuu bag. You can also follow them in Instagram @wuitusu or make online purchases at  ww.wuitusu.com.
 
Lisset Verde-Sungur

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