The banana leaves are chopped up and soaked in water for a few days, then combined with cut up newspapers that have also been soaking in water. Here's the leaf pulp:
Once the two mixtures are combined in a big shallow sink, a screen is placed in the sink and the fiber settles on top.
The screen is then placed over a sink, another screen is placed on top, and the water is then squeezed out by hand. The intrepid Betsey demonstrates:
After the water has been squeezed out, a number of screens are stacked together and put into a hand press, to force out even more water. The paper -- still stuck to a thin piece of fabric -- is then hung up to dry.
The other way of making the paper involves just leaving it on the screen to dry, rather than putting it through the press. This creates a thicker, coarser paper, as shown here:
Here, Alvaro is showing me the differences between the pressed and unpressed papers.
The women of Amureci were incrediby nice, and so excited to have us there with them. They are justifiably proud of what they have created, and of the example they are setting for their daughters and other young Costa Rican women -- that women can work outside the home and have their own businesses. They've been successful enough that they were recently able to buy the building in which they work, and are now trying to increase the business in order to pay off the mortgage.
We spent the afternoon working with them on their building -- power-washing the outside walls, painting one of the rooms, scrubbing down the walls and shelves in the retail store, and creating a mural in the main workshop. Francine was the artist behind our design:
And here's a shot of us all together -- the women of Amureci and the Wonderful Women -- at the end of our day together.