The Culture of Guatemalan Textiles

A little piece of cotton in Antigua Guatemala
August 11, 2016

The Culture of Guatemalan Textiles

When I first started to discover the origins of Guatemalan textiles, I realized that I had before me an infinite world to show to people that it is still possible to cherish Mayan culture. The Mayan women of Guatemala start with that love of textiles and their culture from birth.

In the time that the Spanish conquistadors came to Guatemala, around the 16th century, the only technique that was used to create textiles was one called “backstrap weaving,” an ancestral contraption made from wooden sticks and threads that allowed the indigenous Mayan women artisans to create the symbols that their ancestors had been using for centuries.

The environment, religious ceremonies, gifts, family gatherings, and rites and passage and legends, all are captured in these ancient symbols, hidden in the fabric so as to not lose the knowledge of their culture and history, that of the Mayas.

Today there are communities, populated with people but far from the capital city and tourist hubs where the main source of income comes from the textiles women produce made 100% from cotton. This work in turn affects their families, and allows them to live while passing down the knowledge and culture of their Mayan heritage from one generation to the next.

Less than 100 year ago, Guatemala was one of largest producers in Central America of a natural fiber called cotton. However, today it is one of the largest importers of cotton that is then taken into these artisan communities to be turned into beautiful pieces of the Mayan culture, whose origins come from a thousand years ago.

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