September 24, 2013

0815 GUATEMALA - Mayan weavers

As also in the south of Mexico, in Guatemala the tapestry of traditional textiles is even today a prominent feature in the indigenous Mayan communities. Since pre-Colombian times, women have hand-spun and hand-woven their families' traje (clothing) using the age-old back-strap loom. According to the Ancient Mayan Quiche (Kee-Chay) tradition, Ixchel, the female moon goddess has been weaving in this method since the beginning of time. In the back-strap loom, the tejedoras (weaver) physically creates the necessary tension to weave strands of dyed-cotton through the suspended threads. Using this loom, women throughout the Western highlands of Guatemala create the fabric panels that compose their intricate traditional clothing, including huipiles (blouses), tzutes (head wraps) and fajas (fabric belts).

Huipil (from the Nahuatl word huīpīlli) is the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America. It is a loose-fitting tunic, generally made from two or three rectangular pieces of fabric which are then joined together with stitching, ribbons or fabric strips, which an opening for the head and if the sides are sewn, opening for the arms. Lengths of the huipil can vary from a short blouse-like garment or long enough to reach the floor.

Each region in the Western Highlands of Guatemala exhibits a distinct weaving pattern, color palette, and material composition. Much like a national flag, women wear their traditional traje as a proud representation of their hometown roots despite the fabric’s historical connection to the Spanish conquest. It is widely explained that colonial officials forced each community to wear a certain color and pattern to help in tax collection practices. Furthermore, these community-specific fabrics were used by the central government during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) to target specific indigenous communities. Rebel-sympathizing villagers throughout the Quiche region were targeted by the Ríos Montt regime. As a result, many women were forced to hide their traditional traje or exchange their huipiles for those of a neighboring region. However the Mayan women survived and  their weaving continued.

"Many of our male comrades recognize this wealth of knowledge that we women have", said Rigoberta Menchú in 1983. "Our women have known how to struggle for our culture. It's women who preserve the art of weaving; we are the weavers. Our knowledge concerning weaving, our art, is very advanced. That's why many people everywhere consider the Guatemalan woman to be an artist. And weaving is an art." In the first postcard are tejedoras from Todos Santos (All Saints in English), a municipality in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes situated at an elevation of 2,500 m, inhabited predominantly by indigenous, of Mayan descent, who still speak the Mayan language of Mam, and still wear their traditional clothing. In the second postcard are tejedoras from San Antonio Aguas Calientes, a little town well known for its weavers.

About the stamps

The first stamp on both postcards is part of the wonderful definitive series Textile Art of Guatemala, issued on December 15, 2010, and consists of ten stamps:
• 0.20 GTQ
• 0.50 GTQ
• 1.00 GTQ - it's on this postcard
• 2.00 GTQ
• 3.00 GTQ - it's on this postcard
• 4.00 GTQ
• 5.00 GTQ
• 6.50 GTQ
• 8.00 GTQ
• 10.00 GTQ

Other three gorgeous stamps are part of the series Baktun Mayan Calendar, issued on September 24, 2012, and composed of nine stamps:
• Rueda Calendarica (1.00 GTQ)
• Placa de Leiden (2.00 GTQ) - it's on this postcard
• Zoomorfo P, Quirigua (3.00 GTQ) - it's on this postcard
• Jugador de Pelota (4.00 GTQ)
• Estela D, Quirigua (5.00 GTQ)
• Jugador de Pelota (5.00 GTQ) - it's on this postcard
• Estela D, Quirigua (8.00 GTQ)
• Calendario Maya ab (10.00 GTQ)
• Mixco Viejo (10.00 GTQ)

The last one was issued on October 3, 2011, with the occasion of the anniversary of the Centenary of the Foundation of the Republic of China in Taiwan (2.00 GTQ).

Weaving, Women, and Justice in Guatemala - Kiva Fellows Blog, Stories from the field
Weaving The Heavens - Women in World History, Curriculum Showcase
Huipil - Wikipedia

Sender 1, 2: Alejandra Herrarte (direct swap)
Sent from Guatemala City (Guatemala), on 22.08.2013

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