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Artisan Culture

There are very few cultures in the world like the indigenous Mayan communities in Guatemala. The artisan industries that flourish here in their homes and small workshops include : wax, leather, metal, woodwork and above all--weaving.

The beautiful hand-woven blouses that the women wear, called huipiles (wee-pee-lays) are unique in colour and design to each community. However, change is inevitable even in the most traditional societies. Young Mayan women today that still wear huipiles will often chose designs from other communities as their preference. Where they wore long wrap skirts before, they will wear them short and tightly cinched at the waist.


My great attraction to the weaving traditions of Guatemala has been for their beauty along with the cultural survival of the Mayan communities. Recently when I was in Guatemala I had a couple of experiences that really brought home how quickly traditions can be lost. I had already seen in recent years, street vendors that used to sell only hand-woven pieces from Guatemala, are now sadly selling Chinese scarves from factory textiles and bags with fake nubuck trim.

The good news is the market town of Todos Santos. This is one of the very few places in Guatemala where the Mayan men, as well as the women, still wear their traditional clothes. The people in this clean prosperous looking town were clearly proud of their culture and welcoming to visitors.

I am an advocate of discovering new markets and incorporating new designs and uses for these products which will assist in the preservation of this rich Mayan culture.

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