Maya Traditions: Weaving Empowers Women Across Generations, Preserves Culture

guatemalan textiles

When you traverse the streets of Guatemala markets, you won’t be able to avoid the vibrant colors of textiles crafted by local artisans. Rich reds, exquisite yellows, all spun and dyed by those in the community.

What many of us in Western cultures do not understand, however, is that when you see a female artisan selling handmade bags, clothing, wall hangings, etc., she is preserving a history that many have forgotten.

Traditional Guatemalan weaving began over 1,500 years ago with the ancient Maya civilization. It is told that the Mayans were taught to weave by moon goddess and cosmic weaver, Ix Chel. Not only were these goods practical at face value, but they also symbolized wealth and social status.

Despite socioeconomic status, all women learned the art of weaving. In fact, it was such a large part of a female’s upbringing and education that, upon the birth of a little girl, she would be blessed in a weaving ceremony, where a midwife would bathe the child with miniature weaving tools passed through the babies hand, asking the gods to give her the skills her ancestors have possessed.

While the demand for textiles has shifted as fast fashion and unethical production standards have taken over the industry, groups within Guatemala have realized that without helping those artisans survive these trying times, those stories will one day be lost.

Consider this: A women’s earned income in Guatemala is 51 percent less than what a male counterpart would earn. This has proven not only problematic to a woman’s chance at financially thriving on her own but has also further damaged the equality efforts across Central America.

Luckily, advocates of women’s rights, healthcare equality, and those who simply wish to preserve Mayan culture have banned together to raise up these local artisans as they try to combat the changes in time.

Buena Onda partner, Maya Traditions Foundations, is a nonprofit organization that aims to empower women artisans, their families, and their communities through Fair Trade and social programs that work to rescue, preserve, and promote their ancestral culture with a focus on backstrap weaving, thereby taking part in a larger positive social change for indigenous communities.

Right now, as the world continues to grapple with unforeseen challenges, organizations like this have continued to support these talented women as they continue to share the legacy and labor of love their ancestors have passed on to them.

And we can help, too.

Though many are still unable to visit the beautiful streets of Guatemala, our partners need our help from afar.

You can support Maya weavers by purchasing masks today and provide an income for our artisan partners. In addition, you can learn about ethical travel opportunities to ensure your time in Guatemala only leaves positivity behind when the time is right as well as find out about volunteering with Buena Onda in the future, by visiting us online.

Posted in Guatemala.