THE BASICS OF MAYAN WEAVING

Back-strap Loom

Origins - According to Maya Quiche mythology, Ixchel, the Moon Goddess and consort of Itzaman the Sun God, was the patron of weaving. She was depicted sitting in profile, with one end of her loom tied to a tree and the other around her waist. She is weaving with the shuttle in her left hand. Today, women in the highlands weave the finest textiles in exactly the same way.

Use - Women almost exclusively use the back-strap loom which can be used by women at home or while in the field tending sheep.

Output - All types of fabric are woven on a back-strap loom but, most specifically, the huipil or traditional blouse of the Mayan woman. The corte and the huipil are part of the traje or traditional dress of every Mayan woman. The design of the huipil is a testament of cultural identity and artistic expression as each weaver weaves her own history and philosophy of the universe into the garment. One huipil may take several months to weave depending on the complexity of the design.


Treadle Foot Loom

Origins - The treadle (or foot) loom was introduced to Mayan weavers by the Spanish shortly after the Conquest.

Use - As was the Spanish tradition, mostly men weave on the treadle loom although some women do as well.

Output - The most typical fabric produced on the foot loom is the corte, or skirt material worn by Mayan women. The corte fabric is village specific. It typically takes about 8 hours to weave one yard of corte fabric due to it's complex designs.

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I began Colores del Pueblo in 1997 from the ashes of Pueblo to People. Pueblo to People had started in 1979 as a non-profit organization to assist Latin American artisans to find a market for their finely made crafts. Due to a combination of factors, they ceased to exist in 1997. I had worked with them for 3 1/2 years and had come to know and love many of the artisans and their families and thus, decided to carry on the mission. We started small, working with some of the cooperatives that didn't have other outlets for sales.Since 1997 we have taken on a number of new cooperatives - mostly groups of Mayan women weavers. Since textiles are my passion, I feel very privileged to work with such fine artisans and I hope, that by allowing them to earn a fair wage for their work, that they will be encouraged to continue the ancient tradition of back-strap weaving and treadle-loom weaving. We are members of the Fair Trade Federation and seek to promote a more socially and economically just trading system. In all of the villages where I have worked, it is evident that many of the craft traditions and cultural traditions are slowly disappearing. Women may still wear their traditional huipiles and cortes, but the significance of the symbolism in the weaving is being lost. Poverty and illiteracy along with inadequate access to health care still plague the indigenous people. Yet their pride is intact in their rich cultural heritage. I hope that in a small but significant way, that we may continue to foster empowerment of the Mayan community.

Deborah Brown

COLORES DEL PUEBLO
coloresdelpueblo@yahoo.com
Phone: (713) 692-8423
The Truth About Guatemalan Crafts : http://www.coloresdelpueblo.org/Truth.htm  
Guatemalan and Mayan Huipiles and Latin American textiles : http://www.coloresdelpueblo.org/Huipiles.htm

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