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.
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,
When you grow up
Only with these will you work
With your hand
With your foot
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.
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).
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.