"We are the daughters of our ancient grandmothers who will never die..."

Posted on 04 July 2016

“We are the daughters of our ancient grandmothers who will never die because they live in the universe of our huipiles and our textiles”

These words were spoken by Angelina Aspuac, representative of AFEDES, a Mayan women’s organization, as she presented a petition to the Corte de Constitucionalidad (Constitutionality Court) in Guatemala:

“We Mayan people have our own forms of organization, our own system of health, and our own systems of justice. In the same way, we create our own clothes and our own foods. Even when weaving our own clothes and having our own way of doing things may be interpreted in the West as a sign of poverty and backwardness, to us it represents the path to the self determination of our people. 

“The main actors in the production of textiles and indigenous clothes that we wear to this day are Mayan women. Ours is a living culture, a culture that changes, that transforms itself, indeed, a living culture. And it’s we, the women, who sustain it…. [But our textiles, and their cultural significance, are being appropriated by others who profit from them at no benefit to the women who created them] 

“That is why we come here today, to demand the protection of our collective intellectual property over our textiles and Mayan clothes. We ask you, Justices of the Corte de Constitucionalidad, to present a request to the National Congress that a law be enacted to protect the valuable creations of our people and recognize Mayan women as the legitimate creators and owners of this cultural wealth… [This law would protect our heritage from exploitation]”

Mayan Hands applauds AFEDES and other Mayan groups for highlighting what is happening with Mayan textiles, especially huipiles, in Guatemala. While having great commercial success in national and international markets, the sale of these items does not reward the weavers who created them. In most cases, they have been pressured to sell thier huipil under duress (because of an urgent need) for pennies, often for $3 to $5, when the legitimate price should be much higher. See our previous blog posts for more information about huipiles and the too often exploitive practice of "recycling" them into other products.

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