April 17, 2011

Where the Spider Went

Do you remember that old story about the vain Princess Arachne and  the Goddess Athena. Well the short story is Athena turned Arachne into a spider as she wove more beautifully than Athena and dared to brag about it. That wonderfully weaving spider travelled far and is alive and well today among Mayan women in Guatemala. When you go to  markets whether in  Chichiconstanango, Solola, or Antigua you will find masses of handmade textiles. These are not made in factories or somewhere in Asia, but right there in the small homes of Guatemalan Mayans.
They are woven for the most part on Back Strap Looms by women. Especially the fabric for blouses, called Huipils and the fabric for skirts which are called Cortes. The fabric is not cut and seamed as in some great couturier house in Paris. The fabric which is woven the width of the weavers hips, is sewn into panels and made into the garment. It is said the Mayan woman weaves to keep order. Each morning she places her head and her children and husband place their heads at the center of  fabric which she has made and represents the center of the world.

The colors and designs selected are those particular to the town in which the weaver originates.
the majority of the above huipils are from the Chichiconstanango region, the sun rays from the neckline identify them.
 Originally natural dyes were used but of course now one can find other threads than cotton and linen. Although particular cotton plants introduced by the Spanish are still used as are native ones. linen and silk and acrylic threads are used as well. Also a standing loom(which is reputed to have been introduced by the Spanish) can be used and is more frequently used by men for larger widths of fabric.  Material for a corte(skirt) can take approximately 8 hours to make.
Will this young girl grow to be the weaver her mother is? Or will she be wearing tee shirts and jeans and not know she was woven into the center of her mothers universe. The level of skill the material is woven among the indigenous people of Guatemala is consistently high but can it withstand the blunt hits of the modern world and the consistent beating of poverty. Will the goddess of weaving, Ixchel, still thrive among these people?   Can the women receive fair value for their work? Many fair trade orgainzations are trying to make this possible.  

For now, know that if you are a lover of exquisite craftsmanship and bold color Guatemala should be put on your bucket list.


Harry said...

Your photos and comments are educational. Continue to help us enjoy the wonders of our planet. Dad

Carole Buschmann said...

Yeah! I got your message. Thank you for your words.


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