Mayan people, Santa Catarina, Guatemala

MayansMayan Clothing

Mayan people from Santa Catarina
     This woman and child are from Santa Catarina Palopo, on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The fabric the Mayans weave to carry their babies is the very finest they make.

     Mayan babies never cry for attention. They are constantly carried or held. They never touch the ground until they are 3 years old. At that age they are expected to wear traje (traditional Maya clothing). Children's clothes are identical to the adult version, only smaller. Many communities have their own unique style and colors. While in some cultures, such as the United States, it is customary to send out birth announcements when a baby is born, in some areas indigenous to Mayan people, babies are not named until their first birthday, probably because of the extremely high rate of infant mortality that was once common.

      These child-rearing customs propagate the unusual Maya view of the world. Elsewhere, children are taught to aspire to excellence, while the Maya aspire to be average. They see themselves not as individuals, but as part of a community. People come and go, only communities survive. This is reflected in Maya art, where portraits are often painted from the back or above, or without detail in the faces, while the clothing is carefully rendered. This emphasises the community aspects, rather than the personal.


     The handwoven garments worn by Mayan peoples of Mexico and Central America and the textiles used in ceremonial observances are tangible manifestations of a potent culture that has endured countless hardships. In this compelling book, four main sections offer varied insights into the history and ecology of the Maya; traditions of weaving in contemporary life; changes taking place in fabric and clothes; and ritualistic practices. Impressive photographs by Jeffrey Foxx offer a pictorial document that illustrates awesome landscapes where Mayan people live and work and, above all, the continuing relevance of embroidered and woven textiles in the everyday lives of Mayan families. In photographs showing children at play, encounters at the marketplace, colorful public ceremonies, and isolated rites, Foxx portrays with remarkable clarity and power the significance of the beautiful fabrics worn both for religious observances and as simple celebrations of cultural identity. Alice Joyce

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