Mayan women on their traditional clothes - Mayan Hands

Weaving and Culture

Symbolic Associations

Myth has it that Our Grandmother the Moon, the goddess Ixchel, taught the first woman how to weave at the beginning of time. Since then, Maya mothers have taught their daughters, from generation to generation uninterruptedly for three thousand years, how to wrap themselves around the loom and produce exquisite cloth. In addition to its important religious and social aspects, historically weaving has been central to indigenous women’s economic contribution to their households.

In Maya tradition, when a girl is born the midwife presents her with the different weaving tools one by one, and she says: 

Well then, little girl,
This will be your hand 
This will be your foot
Here is your work 
With this, you’ll look for your food, 
Don’t take the evil path, 
Don’t steal 
When you grow up 
Only with these will you work 
With your hand 
With your foot  

A Living Tradition

For five centuries, Maya women have transmitted through weaving esoteric designs that encoded the Maya vision of the world. In this manner, the work of weavers was essential for the survival of important elements of ancient culture. Hidden between the warp and weft, these escaped the fate of indigenous books that were burnt by Spanish priests and authorities.

Weaving expresses the Maya identity of the weaver and her commitment to her specific community

Women continue to weave their own and their family’s clothes. A woman shows her respect for her community by following its esthetic rules, selecting designs, colors and styles, in addition to following its more general cultural and social norms. Paula Nicho Comez, a painter from San Juan Comalapa, expresses dramatically the profound identity of a Mayan woman with her “huipil” (native blouse, specific to the village where the woman comes from). In one of her paintings, she shows a woman bearing the designs of her town’s huipil directly on her skin. The huipil is for us, she says, like a second skin (documentary Between Light and Shadow: Mayan Women in Transition). 

Artisan Partners women weavers - Mayan Hands

Weaving connects Maya women to their ancestors and the sacred Maya cosmovision

Currently Maya women continue to weave, in addition to their own and their family’s clothes, to obtain a much needed income. Through fair trade, Mayan Hands supports them in their quest to provide for their families, at the same time that they keep their cherished Maya culture alive and develop their communities.