Tinkuy y Más – Lo que Vi en Cuzco

There are both English and Spanish versions of this blog. If this is not the language you want, look for the other one.   Hay versiones en los dos idiomas, inglés y español. Si esta no es lo que quiere, busca el otro.

Ir a Perú para asistir un encuentro de más que 750 tejedoras de 16 países, no podría faltar a ver todo desde una perspectiva de vivir en Guatemala, con nuestra media-millón de tejedoras. Por supuesto, había sorpresas, cosas interesantes que no aparecen en guías turísticas. Y la razón para ir.

La Plaza de las Armas, en Guate se llama Parque Central, y en México el Zócalo.

Primero fue la mezcla de las poblaciones. En Guatemala, mujeres mayas en traje tradicional aparecen en todos lados, en sus propias aldeas y pueblos, por supuesto, pero también en todos los otros, incluyendo la capital. En Cuzco, excepto en la conferencia, no vi ni una persona, hombre o mujer, en traje.

Se notaría alguien en ropa como esa.

Este no es 100% verdad. Mi último día allá vi tres mujeres en traje cargando chivos pequeños, ofreciendo la oportunidad de tomar su foto para S1 (equivalente a 30 centavos de dólar o Q. 2.26). Además de estas tres este día, no vi a nadie más. Yo sé que los artesanos usan su traje en sus comunidades, entonces no sé si no visitan la ciudad o si cambia su ropa cuando viene. Hay discriminación, me dijeron, pero mucho menos que en el pasado. Y el vocabulario es diferente. En Guatemala hay maya y ladino, (y Garifuna y Xinca), y los maya puede distinguir por su grupo lingüístico – K’iche’, Kaqchikel, Q’eqchi’, Achi, Mam, etc. En Perú hay Quechuas y _______, que puede llamar Criollo o Mestizo, pero más que todo dicen que son del campo o de la ciudad, no por identidad de raza. Por lo menos, es lo que me dijo varias personas a quien pregunté.

Sus sombreros blancos son hechos de mostacillas.

En Guatemala, hay pocas comunidades donde los hombres todavía usan traje. En Cuzco, en cada comunidad representada en la conferencia los hombres también están vestidos tan fabulosos como las mujeres.

 

 

Hay un hombre abajo de este sombrero. Y otro sombrero/gorra.

 

La conferencia tenia traducción simultánea en inglés, español, y quechua. Él quitó su sombrero para usar los audífonos.

 

 

Eran los sombreros que llamaron mi atención, por la variedad. Voy a insertar unas fotos, pero sabe que eran muchas más. (Espero que pueda hacerlas más grandes para ver detalles.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comida:  carne normal incluye cuyo y alpaca, puede comprar caldo de cabeza con la cabeza de una oveja entera (sin lana, pero con dientes – puede google caldo de cabeza Perú si quiere verlo), ninguna tortilla como nosotros las conocemos, pero un omelet que ellos llaman una tortilla,

Flor de Jamaica, flores secadas y endulzadas

una bebida morada deliciosa de maíz que se llama chicha morada (la que no tiene ningún sabor de maíz), papas en todo siempre (es su comida básica, como maíz en Guate, y hay muchas variedades),

El Mercado me encanta, y esto en Cuzco me entretenía por horas.

y por supuesto quinoa, un grano lleno de vitaminas que probablemente podría salvar a todos nosotros.

El 2 de noviembre es Día de los Santos para niños. Se hornean figuras cerámicas que les gustan a los niños entre pan, y los dejan sobre las tumbas de los niños difuntos. (Los tienen disponible todo el mes para la gente que viven lejos y vienen más tarde.)

 

Queso. Afortunadamente, la aduana en Guatemala me dejó traerlo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montañas. Es difícil imaginar cómo alguien ha sobrevivido en estos para miles de años. Para mí, el vuelo de Lima a Cuzco vale el precio del viaje, para todo lo que puedo ver por la ventana. 

 

 

 

Yo puse más fotos en facebook, en caso que quiere ver con quien yo fui y lo que ellas hicieron. (Gilberta, Amalia, y Carmen) Vi amigas buenas de varios países, y tejidos que me deslumbraron.

Puntaditas pequeñisimas. Muchas de ellas.

Este tejido viene desde Afganistán, de Tesoros de Kandahar, sobre que puede leer en uno de los libros nuevos de Thrums Books, Bordando Adentro Limites.

 

Thrums Books ha publicado varios libros escrito por Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, la fundadora y líder de CTTC. Tenía su gran presentación del libro nuevo, Secretos de Hilar, Tejer con telar, y Tejer con agujas en el Altiplano de Perú durante Tinkuy. Aunque estoy una autora y amiga de Thrums, siento totalmente objetiva en decir que leer los libros de ellas ha abierto mi mente en maneras que nunca anticipé. Para ver la lista de libros podría decir, “O, más libros de textiles, lugares diferentes, diseños diferentes, pero historias iguales.” Y estaría muy equivocada. Cada uno es tan diferente en su vista, su manera de contar historias, y habla de muchas cosas más que los textiles. Yo me siento mucho más educada sobre el mundo por leerlos. En caso que no es tan obvio, este es una recomendación. Y unas gracias tremendas, para Linda Ligon, quien ha apoyado la comunidad de tejedoras para medio siglo, y Nilda, quien ha creado algo en Cuzco que traiga gobernantes a su puerta en admiración. Gracias, a las dos.

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Tinkuy and More – What I saw in Cusco

Hay versiones en los dos idiomas, inglés y español. Si esta no es lo que quiere, busca el otro. There are both English and Spanish versions of this blog. If this is not the language you want, look for the other one.

Going to a large (more than 750 people) gathering of weavers from 16 countries, I could not help but see my surroundings relative to being in Guatemala and our half-million weavers here. Of course, there were surprises, interesting things that are probably not mentioned in guide books. And the reason to go.

Plaza de las Armas, Peruvian for Parque Central, or in Mexico called the Zocalo.

First was the mixing of populations. In Guatemala, Mayan women wear traditional clothing (traje) and are seen everywhere, in their own villages and towns, of course, but everywhere else too, including Guatemala City. In Cusco, except for the conference, I saw not one person, man or woman, in traditional dress.

You would notice someone walking around in clothing like this.

That is not 100% true. My last day there I saw three women carrying baby lambs and wearing traditional dress, offering to have their pictures taken for S 1 (one sol), about USD .30 (30 cents US). Other than those few that one day, no one. I know the artisans are using their traditional clothing in their own communities, so don’t know if they just don’t come to the city or if they change their clothes to do so. There is still discrimination, I was told, but far less than in the past.

In Guatemala, there are few communities where men still wear traditional dress. In Cusco, in every Peruvian community represented at the conference the men were dressed as spectacularly as the women.

Their white hats are beaded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a man under this hat. And another hat.
The conference had simultaneous translation in English, Spanish, and Quechua. He took off his outer hat to be able to use the headphones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the hats that really got to me, for sheer variety. I’ll insert some pictures. There were LOTS more. (I hope you can blow these up to see details.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food: standard meats include guinea pig and alpaca, you can easily buy soup with a sheep’s head in it (no fleece, but yes teeth – google caldo de cabeza Peru if you really want to see it), no tortillas as we know them but an omelette they call a tortilla, a delicious corn drink that is purple and sweet called chicha morada (and has no corn taste at all), potatoes in everything always (that is their staple, and there are many kinds), and of course quinoa, a vitamin-packed grain that could probably save all of us.

I love markets, and this one kept me entertained for hours.
Flor de Jamaica, dried and sweetened flowers
Nov. 2 is All Saints Day for children. They bake ceramic figures that children would like into bread, then leave them on the gravesites of their deceased children. (They have them available all month, for those who live far away and can only come later.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheese. Happily, the guy at Guatemalan customs let me bring it in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountains. It is hard to imagine how anyone has survived living in/on them for thousands of years. For my money, just the flight from Lima to Cusco is worth the price of the trip, for what you can see out the window. 

 

 

 

 

I put more pictures on facebook, for those who I traveled with and what they were doing. (Gilberta, Amalia, and Carmen of the previous passport-getting post.) I saw good friends from several countries, and textiles that dazzled. From Afghanistan, Kandahar Treasures, that you can read about in one of Thrums newest books, Embroidering Within Boundaries:

Tiny stitches. Lots of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Two of the many sponsors of Tinkuy 2017, hosted by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.

Thrums Books has published a number of books by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, the founder and leader of CTTC, and had the grand presentation of their latest, Secrets of Spinning, Weaving, and Knitting in the Peruvian Highlands, at Tinkuy. Even though I am a dedicated Thrums author (and friend), I feel totally objective in telling you that reading their books has opened my mind in ways I would never have anticipated. Looking at the list I could say “Oh, a bunch of textile books about different places, lots of repeats with different designs.” And I would be way wrong. Each one is so different in its approach, has such a different story to tell, talks about so many things besides just the textiles themselves, that I feel vastly more educated about the world for having read them. In case you can’t tell, this is a recommendation. And a thank you, to Linda Ligon, who has stood alongside and supported the weaving community for half a century!, as well as Nilda, who has created something in Cusco that brings government officials flocking to her door in admiration. Thank you, both.

Es Toda La Moda

Esta es mi amiga Amalia, mostrando su cartera nueva que recibió como regalo de un grupo de amigas, mujeres mayas. La encanta la bolsa.

Cuándo le pregunté a Amalia si a ella o sus amigas les ofendía que la bolsa está hecha por un huipil usado, ella me dijo no, para nada. Le pregunté si importaría si fue hecho con un huipil de su propia aldea, y me dijo no otra vez. Añadió que parte de la razón por la que sus amigas le dieron este regalo en particular es que pensaban que ellas podrían usar la idea también, con sus propios tejidos. Lo que ellas ven es una bolsa hermosa y una oportunidad. Nadie les ha dicho aun que deberían estar enojadas.

Los textiles de Guatemala, de telar de cintura y telar de pie, están muy de moda ahora. Las diseñadoras han adoptado tejidos mayas para usarlos en todos tipos de ropa y accesorios, de vestidos formales a sandalias, de bolsas a tapicería. Es muy emocionante (o un medio de explotación), tiene potencial económico tremendo (para algunas, pero no necesariamente las artistas no incluidas), y está creando un explosión de controversia actualizando diariamente en los medios sociales y las cámaras del gobierno.

El escenario principal que enfurece a muchos empieza con las “compradoras” quienes van de puerta-a-puerta en áreas rurales pobres, comprando huipiles viejos de mujeres desesperadas por necesidad de dinero por cantidades tan bajas como $3 – $5. Cuándo un huipil está comprado en esta manera, se va a un costal con muchos otros comprados en una manera igual. Luego están vendidos por peso o docena a personas que los cortan y los usan para hacer bolsas o zapatos u otros productos que venden por precios altos. Afrenta #1 – pagando a una mujer casi nada para un huipil que tiene valor, económico y/o cultural. Afrenta #2 – cortando un huipil, una pieza sagrada en los ojos de muchas. Afrenta #3 – usándolo para hacer algo tan bajo como zapatos o botas. Afrenta #4 – ganando mucho dinero cuando la tejedora original no lo hizo. Esto es aún más ofensivo si la persona ganando bien no es maya. Cada persona con quien he hablado tiene una reacción individual a cada “afrenta”, furiosa por unas e indiferente por otras. Cuáles están bien y cuáles no varía con cada persona.

Just one of many styles of boots and shoes now available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Para ver más, google “zapatos con tejidos guatemaltecos” y “tejidos guatemaltecos en fashion”

Si los que hacen los productos, sea empresas grandes o pequeñas, contrataran la elaboración de tela nueva, dando más trabajo a las tejedoras y una porción del pie más grande, muchos de las afrentas contra la sensibilidad se evaporarían. Pero otra vez, depende con quien está hablando. Algunas dicen que para usar cualquier tela guatemalteca hecha a mano para hacer zapatos es terrible. Para otras está bien si la tela estaba tejida con este destino desde el principio. Va a subir el costo de producción, entonces la pregunta de siempre: ¿el precio final es factible?

Además de aquellos buscando el mercado de alto precio, existe el mercado verde masivo para cosas “recicladas” o “re-dirigidas”. Cualquier cosa hecha con un huipil viejo cuadra con esta idea, ¿sí? ¿Qué pasa cuando este termino está usado para esconder o confundir la práctica de comprar huipiles por centavos de mujeres tan desesperadas por dinero que venden ropa que de verdad no quieren vender? ¿Cómo se llama esto?

Yo compré este huipil, talla de niña, hace muchos años porque me gustó el diseño y pensé que las orillas azules eran muy curiosas. (Están tejidas como todo, no adjunto después.) Para mí, el hecho que el cuello está roto no importa. ¿Cuánto debería estar el precio de este huipil? ¿Importa quién lo compra?

Hay piezas compradas por precios más razonables en situaciones no desesperadas, de gente que quieren vender su “ropa vieja”. Muchas de ellas. Y ahora muchas piezas están hechas con tela nueva, tejida particularmente para este mercado y uso. Pero como consumidor final, no hay ninguna manera que usted puede saber cuál es cuál. Tal vez puede determinar si una tela es nueva, y algunas son obviamente viejas. Pero si puede recibir una respuesta de verdad o no, es bueno preguntar de donde viene la tela para el producto. Es bueno que los vendedores de estas piezas sepan que importa a alguien, que alguien está poniendo atención. Y a veces las respuestas son buenas.

Estas direcciones son de una mezcla de empresas y artículos de la Prensa, para darle una idea pequeña de lo que existe ahora.

www.yabalhandicrafts.com (Su newsletter más recién está titulada “No es solamente sobre la moda”.) sólo en inglés

www.mariasbag.com (una de las empresas más controversial, y más exitosa) English y español

https://issuu.com/aurorachaj/docs/q__ventana-_dossier0_hd (este es espectacular)

www.nenaandco.com/pages/sustainable-vs-vintage sólo inglés

http://www.prensalibre.com/economia/voz-comercial/descubre-los-colores-de-nicteel

http://www.prensalibre.com/vida/escenario/la-guatemalteca-isabella-springmuhl-sorprende-en-mexico-con-sus-diseos-y-una-pasarela-inclusiva

http://www.prensalibre.com/guatemala/solola/presentan-diseos-con-telas-tipicas

google search para muchas fotos (la dirección completa no cabe en este espacio)

Un aspecto interesante del grupo de diseñadoras es que muchas de ellas son guatemaltecas con un sentido muy fuerte de celebrar los textiles y la cultura maya. Ellas aman su país, y sus websites están llenas de su historia, arte, diseño, simbolismo, y otros aspectos de la cultura, diseñadas para educar a cualquier persona que las lee. Pero otra vez, la perspectiva es todo. En la lucha contra la Apropiación Cultural, que es como unos ven esta, este tipo de publicidad es considerado una máscara para esconder el motivo actual, el cual es aprovecharse de mujeres que no saben. Tal vez parece como una batalla económica, pero su raíz es racista, dicen. Para los que quieren promover los tejidos mayas, mostrar al mundo su belleza y expandir el mercado, esto es parte del proceso de educación, alcanzando el mundo.

¿Hay un correcto y un equivocado acá? ¿Hay tipos buenos y tipos malos? Probablemente la respuesta es sí, a las cuatro preguntas. Desde mi punto de vista, la necesidad ahora es que aprendamos a hablar con – no a – cada uno, para escuchar en serio el punto de vista del otro. Yo creo que algo bueno puede surgir de todo de esto, pero va a requerir una voluntad que ahora parece muy elusiva.

 

It’s All the Rage

This is my friend Amalia, showing off her new bag, given to her as a gift by a group of Mayan women friends. She loves it.

When I asked Amalia if she or her friends were offended by the bag being made from a used huipil, she said no, not at all. I asked her if it would matter if it were made from a huipil from her village, and she still said no, and added that part of why her friends gave her that particular gift was they thought they could use the idea also, with their own textiles. What they see is a beautiful bag and an opportunity. No one has told them [yet] that they should be angry.

Guatemalan fabrics, foot and backstrap woven, are very in vogue right now. The fashion world has adopted Mayan textiles for use in all kinds of clothing and accessories, from formal wear to sandals, bags to upholstery. It is very exciting (or exploitive), has tremendous economic potential (for some, but not necessarily the un-included artists), and is creating a firestorm of controversy, being played out in social media and government chambers.

The primary scenario that is angering so many begins with “buyers”, women who go door-to-door in poor rural areas buying old huipils from women who are desperate for cash for as low as $3 – $5. When a huipil is bought in that way, it then goes into a stack with many others acquired in the same manner. Those are then sold in bulk (by weight or dozens) to someone who cuts them up and makes them into bags or shoes or other products that are then sold for big bucks. Affront #1 – paying a woman almost nothing for a garment that still has value, economic and/or cultural. Affront #2 – cutting up a garment seen as sacred by many. Affront #3 – making it into something as lowly as shoes or boots. Affront #4 – making big bucks when the original weaver did not. This last is especially offensive if the person making the big bucks is not Mayan. Each person with whom I have spoken about this scenario has an individual reaction to each “affront”, being incensed by some but not even ruffled by others. Which are okay and which are not varies from person to person.

Just two of many styles of boots and shoes now available.

Google “Guatemalan fabric shoes” to see lots more, and then google “Guatemalan fabrics in fashion.”

 

 

 

If those re-makers, be they large or small companies, would contract to buy new cloth, thus giving weavers more work and a larger slice of the pie, many of those assaults on the sensibilities would evaporate. But again, it depends on who you ask. Some say that using any Guatemalan cloth to make shoes is terrible; others say it’s fine if it was woven for that purpose. For sure it would increase the cost of production, so the question, as it always is in business, arises: would the increase in final price be viable?

In addition to those going for the high end market, there is that now massive green world asking for anything “recycled” or “repurposed”. And anything made with an old huipil fits that description, right? What about when the term is used to mask that practice of buying huipils for pennies from women so strapped for cash that they are willing to sell? What is that called?

I bought this child-sized huipil many years ago because I liked the designs and found the change to blue edging curious. (It’s woven in, not added on top.) For me, the fact that there is a big rip in the neck didn’t matter. How much should this huipil sell for? Does it matter who buys it?

There are pieces being bought for more reasonable prices in non-desperate situations, from people who want to sell their “old clothes”. Lots of them. And by now many products are made with new cloth, woven for this market and use. But as a final retail customer, there is no way for you to know which is which. You might be able to determine which cloth is new, and some are clearly old. But whether or not you can get a real answer, it is good to ask how the cloth was sourced. It is good for the sellers of these pieces to know that someone cares, someone is watching. And sometimes the answers are the right ones.

Below are websites from a variety of companies (with English) or newspaper articles (in Spanish) to give you a tiny idea of what is out there now.

www.yabalhandicrafts.com (Their latest newsletter is titled, “It’s not just about Fashion.”)

www.mariasbag.com (one of the most controversial companies in all this)

https://issuu.com/aurorachaj/docs/q__ventana-_dossier0_hd (this is spectacular – Spanish, but go for the pictures)

www.nenaandco.com/pages/sustainable-vs-vintage

http://www.prensalibre.com/economia/voz-comercial/descubre-los-colores-de-nicteel

http://www.prensalibre.com/vida/escenario/la-guatemalteca-isabella-springmuhl-sorprende-en-mexico-con-sus-diseos-y-una-pasarela-inclusiva

http://www.prensalibre.com/guatemala/solola/presentan-diseos-con-telas-tipicas

cool google pix   (the address is too long to fit here)

An interesting aspect of the fashion crowd is that many of them are Guatemalans who feel strongly about celebrating Mayan culture and cloth. They love their homeland, and their websites are full of history, art, design, symbolism, and other aspects of culture designed to educate anyone who will read them. Again, perspective is everything. In the fight against Cultural Appropriation, which is how some see this, this kind of publicity is seen as a ruse, a cover up for the real motive, which is to take advantage of women who don’t know better. It might look like an economic battle, but the root is racist, they insist. For those interested in promoting Mayan textiles, showing the world how beautiful they are and helping to expand the market, this is part of the ongoing process of education, reaching out into the world.

Is there a right or wrong here? Are there good guys and bad guys? The answer is probably yes, to all four questions. The need now, in my view, is to learn how to talk with (not at) each other, to really listen to each other’s points of view. I believe that great good can come from this, but it will take a willingness that currently seems elusive.

La Conquista Actual de la Revolución Industrial

DSCN3574

¿Hermoso huipil, no? Es uno de los estilos de moda ahora. En algunas partes de Guatemala, los monocromáticos están populares actualmente, entonces probablemente si viene de una área así, una mujer lo usaría con un corte con verdes también.

Judaica 2013 037

En el pasado, un huipil como este estaba tejido en un telar de cintura, con brocado sacado con los dedos de la tejedora, y podría tomar un par de meses tejerlo. En algunos lugares todavía es así.

Judaica 2013 038

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pero mientras la Revolución Industrial llegó a la playa de Norte América hace 200 años, para el traje tradicional está llegando a Guatemala ahora. El huipil verde no es un ejemplo de brocado tejido a mano sino de un huipil hecho con una máquina industrial, la que hace un bordado que parece como cruceta. Mire el lado adentro, con sus hilos blancos y una capa de pelium (piel de ángel) para apoyo.

DSCN3575

Este huipil estaba bordado por la máquina abajo, la cual puede hacer treinta cada veinte-cuatro horas. Esta máquina está en Totonicapan, pero hay muchas alrededor del país ahora.

DSCN3563

Hecho a mano este huipil cuesta Q. 600 – 800, más que el salario mínimo por una semana de trabajo, para alguien que tiene trabajo. Hecho con máquina se vende por menos de Q. 200.

Mientras la mayoría de gente ve esto por el lente de destrucción de la cultura, también se puede ver como un paralelo a Walmart. La gente que tiene suficiente recursos que no necesita hacer sus compras allí puede quejarse y gritar en contra de la tienda todo el tiempo, pero la gente que necesita, o quiere, los precios bajos son una legión, suficiente para hacer a Walmart la empresa de ventas por menor más grande en el mundo. Nosotros que podemos pagar por un huipil que toma meses para hacerlo podemos llorar todo lo que queramos, y vamos a hacerlo. Pero hay mujeres que no pueden pagar el costo de comprar o tejer el traje tradicional, su pobreza elimina esta parte de su propia expresión cultural. Ellas han dejado de usarlo, y sus corazones estaban rotos. Ahora, gracias a las mismas máquinas que hacen ropa para todos  nosotros, ellas pueden nuevamente vestir como su comunidad, sentirse más en casa.

DSCN3874
Huipiles de San Juan Cotzal en venta en Chichicastenango. Por lo menos algunos están allí porque sus dueñas quieren dinero para hacer nuevos, en colores nuevos. 

Y no es solo un asunto de pobreza. Hay mujeres a quienes les gusta lo nuevo, la variedad de colores y diseños disponibles, la tela más ligera (hay más calor acá cada año, de verdad), y tener varios huipiles en su closet de los que puede escoger. ¿Necesito hacer notar que la señorita en la foto, tejiendo el huipil, no está vistiendo traje tradicional?

Esto no es el fin de los tejidos mayas, pero sí está teniendo un fuerte impacto. Entonces para nosotros que queremos que las tejedoras sigan tejiendo, ¿qué hacemos? ¡Apoyarlas! No podemos parar “el progreso”, las máquinas están acá y no van a salir. Pero nosotros podemos dar valor a los textiles hechos a mano, tejido, brocado, bordado, todos, en Guatemala y en todo el mundo. Cuando llegue al mercado, no negocie el precio  lo más bajo posible. Negociar es esperado y ellos planifican para eso, entonces sí, hágalo hasta un punto. Pero no importa que tan alto es el precio para empezar, es poco comparado con lo que costaría si era hecho por una artesana en un país desarrollado – si ella podría hacer un trabajo equivalente.  Tanto como en el precio, enfoque una conversación sobre las piezas que le interesan. Pregunte de dónde viene, quién la tejió, cuánto tiempo tomó, cómo consiguió los materiales, cuándo estaba de moda (todo cambia más rápido de lo que la mayoría de gente piensa – los huipiles arriba estaban la moda hace cinco años, y ahora están afuera), qué significan los símbolos, cómo se usa, y cualquier otra cosa que pueda pensar. Muestre que importa, porque sí, importa. Y no se detenga  después de la segunda pregunta y respuesta, que casi siempre es, ”Mi madre lo hizo.” Un nivel de interés de 30 segundos vale una respuesta de 30 segundos. Edúquese antes de llegar, y más cuando llegue.

scarves, handwoven and not

Aquí es una colección de bufandas que son demasiado común ahora. De aquellas arriba,  mitad son hecho a mano, mitad son industriales importadas, sin una etiqueta que lo diga. ¿Usted sabe cuál es cuál? Unas pistas: las barbas elegantes son amarrados a mano al final de las chalinas tejidas a mano, probablemente con telar de pie. Las amarillo y verde con árboles etc. – son jaspe, probablemente tejido con telar de cintura. Las demás, de las cuales se puede ver muchas ahora, son comerciales – la rosada, negro/blanco, anaranjada/azul-gris, y la del lado derecho con ladrillo y flores.

Si todo esto le importa, aprenda todo lo que pueda, no sólo sobre la política pero sobre los textiles. Después busque maneras para expresar su preocupación, para compartir con los artesanos haciendo el trabajo y viviendo la vida que alguien de afuera piensa que vale. Sea tan creativa como quiere que ellas sean. Por mi parte, mi intención es hacer todo que puedo en el proceso de educación, escribir cualquier cosa que creo que ayuda alguien para entender más. Y doy la bienvenida a todas las preguntas, así que siéntase libre de preguntar. (No siempre sé las respuestas, pero hago todo que puedo para averiguar.)

 

The Industrial Revolution’s Latest Conquest

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Beautiful huipil, isn’t it? It’s the current style, one of them. In some parts of Guatemala monochromatics are the moda, so this would likely be worn with a multi-green skirt if the woman is from one of those areas. (In some places that fashion has already passed.)

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In the past, a huipil like this was woven on a backstrap loom, utilizing a hand-picked brocade technique, and would likely take a couple of months to weave. In some places it still is and does.

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One panel for a huipil that is far more complex than the green one. To finish this one could easily take four months. (Easily in time, not effort.)

 

 

 

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But whereas the industrial revolution arrived on North American shores some 200 years ago, for traditional clothing it is only just getting to Guatemala. That green huipil is not an example of handwoven brocade, but an industrially produced embroidery that looks like cross-stitch. Look at the inside, with its many white threads and a vellum backing for support. This huipil was embroidered on the machine below, which can produce thirty every 24 hours. This one is in Totonicapan, but there are many around the country now.

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Woven by hand, that green huipil would cost Q. 600 – 800, more than a week’s wages for someone who has a job. Made on this machine it sells for less than Q. 200.

While most people are viewing this through a lens of cultural destruction, it can also be seen as parallel to Walmart. People who can afford not to shop there rant and rave against it all the time, but the people who need (or just want) those lower prices are legion,  enough to make Walmart the biggest walk-in retailer in the world. Those of us who can afford the luxury of huipils that take months to weave can cry all we want, and we do and will. But there are women who cannot afford to wear traditional clothing, their poverty cutting them off from that part of their cultural expression. They had quit wearing them, and it was breaking their hearts. Now, thanks to the same machines that clothe all of us, they can once again look like they belong, feel at home.

And it is not only a matter of poverty. Some women like the newness, the tremendous variety available, the lighter weight (it gets hotter here every year, no joke), and being able to have several huipils in their closets to choose from. Do I need to point out that the young girl weaving the huipil above is not wearing traditional dress?

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Huipils from San Juan Cotzal in the market in Chichicastenango, at least some there because their former owners want money to weave a new one in new colors. 

This is not the end of traditional Mayan weaving, but it is having a huge impact. So for those of us who want weavers to continue to weave, what do we do? Support them, that’s what. We cannot stop “progress”, the machines are here and are not going away. But we can do everything possible to give value to handwoven, hand embroidered, traditional textiles, in Guatemala and everywhere else. When you get to the market, don’t bargain the price down as far as you can. Some bargaining is expected and planned for, so yes, do some. But however high the initial asking price is, you can be sure it is a small fraction of what a first-world weaver would be asking for equivalent work (if she could even do equivalent work). As much as the price, focus on having a conversation about the pieces you are looking at. Ask where they came from, who wove them, how long it took, how they got the materials, when it was in style (it changes a lot faster than most people think – the huipils above were in fashion five years ago, are out now), what the symbols mean, how it gets worn, and everything else you can think of. Show that it matters, because it does. And don’t stop after the first answer, which is invariably, “My mother wove it.” A 30-second level of interest deserves a 30-second answer. Educate yourself in advance, and more when you arrive.

scarves, handwoven and not

This is an assortment of scarves that are all too common now. Of those above, maybe half are handwoven, half are commercial imports, not labelled as such. Do you know which is which? A couple of clues: the fancy fringes are hand-knotted at the end of handwoven scarves; those were probably all done on foot looms. The yellow and green with trees etc. – ikat/jaspe, probably woven on backstrap looms. All the rest, of which you will see countless in the markets here now, are commercial – the pink, black/white, and orange/blue grey, and the far right rust/flowers.

If this matters to you, learn all you can – not only about the politics, but about the textiles themselves. Then find ways to express your concern, to let the artisans doing the work and living the life know that someone on the outside cares. Get as creative about it as you want them to be. As for me, I intend to do all I can to help with that education process, writing whatever I think will help anyone to understand. And I welcome questions, so feel free to ask. (I won’t always know the answers, but will do what I can to find out.)

Getting Passports in Guatemala

It was a day of miracles, to be sure.

Carmen, growing more beautiful every year.

In November of 2017 the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco in Peru will be hosting their third Tinkuy – A Gathering of the Textile Arts. Especially geared toward indigenous fiber artists, we non-indigenous folks are welcome also. This year I will be traveling with three weavers from Guatemala, Amalia and her sister Carmen from Samac, Cobán, Alta Verapaz, and Gilberta, from San Rafael, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. You can see a story about Amalia and pictures of all three in Traditional Weavers of Guatemala – Their Stories, Their Lives, and you can buy their work from Cloth Roads (Amalia and Carmen) and Mayan Hands (Gilberta). You can also see stories about Amalia and Carmen in previous blogs right here.

The reason I get to go is that I will be playing the “experienced traveler” role, helping the other three to both get ready and then go to Peru. Because Amalia has traveled to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for several years, she has a passport. This will be Carmen and Gilberta’s first time outside of Guatemala, so getting them passports was the first big step. (Peruvian visas for all three come later.) This is the story of passport day, which meant coming to the city.

Both Carmen and Gilberta arrived at the city bus station on time, no small thing considering they had to get up around midnight, leave home by 2am in pre-arranged private transport to get to Cobán and Rabinal, board public buses by 3am, to arrive here in the city by 8am. With all that, they got here within 20 minutes of each other.

Carmen’s bus

 

 

 

 

Rabinal from on high. A long way from Guatemala City by road. For birds, not so far.

When Gilberta was in Rabinal getting copies of all the necessary papers, the power went off mid-task, so she had copies of all but one document. No problem, we had to make a copy of Carmen’s payment receipt anyway.

Carmen arrived with originals and copies of both her document showing her dpi (personal identification document) in process (her card was stolen last December, but in spite of multiple visits to the RENAP office they still have not gotten her a new one), and her boleto de ornato. (That is a small tax everyone pays to help the beautification projects in their towns, for flowers and such. Variable amount, and they hold things like drivers’ license, car plate renewal, and passport applications hostage until you can show you paid it.) So first we paid her passport fee, where they accepted the copy of her dpi tramite (paperwork) without a hitch. Huge relief, and we figured we were in. We figured wrong, but it was a nice moment.

the passport office

When she got to the entry point (long line, but it moved quickly), she was told she also had to have a copy of the police report filed when her dpi was stolen. Of course she did not have that with her. We called Amalia, but no one was in the house to take a picture and send it. The idea of going to a police station to see if they could print one came out, which at first seemed absurd, but then looked better and better. Worth a try, anyway. Unfortunately Gilberta was already inside and we could not get a message to her telling her we were leaving and would come back, so we waited outside until she came out.

As her oldest sister, Amalia is Carmen’s unofficial legal guardian since their mother died.

(Part of the conversation we had while we waited was about school. At 20, Carmen is the oldest in the class. She has two years left of high school, finally went in for a career of business administration. (All high school is vocational, with a career chosen upon entry.) I asked her how it was going and she said well, that they have finished the term but she has not seen her grades because they will only give them to her parents. Since her mother is dead, Amalia is her official stand-in, and Amalia did not have time this week to go have a parent-teacher conference and get the grades. Even though Carmen is an adult, rules are rules and they will not give her grades directly to her.)

Gilberta emerged after about an hour and half, passport in hand!! Astonishing, since as recently as three days ago they were saying you had to come back in a week to pick it up, and it had to be the person, no one else could pick it up for them. Hallelujah!!

A smiling Gilberta. Look in her hand!

So we decided to go find the nearest police station. Gilberta decided to stay with us rather than go home then, which would have gotten her home at least four hours earlier*. I think she was enjoying the day out. And surely it would be nice to be NOT sitting on a bus at least as many hours as she was sitting on a bus. Anyway, we stuck together. (*That turned out to be a lot more than four, as you will see at the end.)

Finding the police station was its own adventure, as the closest one is in the middle of “la terminal”, the major wholesale market area that is an absolute maze and mess. Every person we asked, and there were many, gave us different instructions. So here is where the police station is NOT: straight ahead six blocks, straight ahead five blocks, inside the terminal, near Pollo Campero, near the big parking lot, near the taxi stand, right around that corner, and that corner, and that corner.

You can see how one might get lost in there. What does not show here are angled streets and dead ends, of which there are MANY!

 

 

 

 

 

Amazingly, we finally got there, after at least half an hour walking and sweating. The police on duty, all young, could not have been nicer or more helpful, and in fact did print out the report she needed. (The theft was in Cobán, where Carmen lives, but all of the police in the country are national, so there is just one system. This is one of those moments to be grateful that a lot of the Guatemalan government now uses computers. That is relatively new.) Then was the matter of trying to find our way OUT of the maze. The best was when one of them looked at Gilberta, said, “You are from Rabinal, right?” (her huipil/clothing told that), and proceeded to explain the route to her in Achi. Spanish being a second language for all of us, that was good. You would have to know Gilberta to get this, but the too-funny irony is speaking in the best language to someone whose brain does not process information like that. But they repeated the information back and forth at least four times, and in fact she got us about half way out, after which we recognized where we were.

Amazingly, it was still only noon. But given that they had left home at 2am, and probably had no real breakfast, food seemed like a good idea. But so did getting this completed as early as possible. So we went to see if Carmen could now get in, with a plan of my giving her my apple, and while she was inside Gilberta and I would go find lunch. She did get in, but only in stages. The next thing they said was that she did not have the right rubber stamp on one of the copies to show it was real. She had the original there also, but nothing in Guatemala is valid without a rubber stamp on it. Fortunately they also have an office of RENAP inside the passport office, so she was able to get the stamp and a new copy. Then they asked for an original birth certificate, which also had not come up before. Amazingly, she had brought a copy of her latest, just in case, and they accepted it! (Birth certificates here are good for only six months, and the reason she has one is that you have to have a new one every year to start school, no matter how old you are or if you have been in that same school every year.) So finally she was all the way in, and Gilberta and I went looking for lunch.

An hour and a half later, Carmen emerged, passport in hand! And we handed her the lunch we had brought her.

I took them back to the bus station to return home. Tickets purchased, we had ice cream to celebrate. (Sorry I did not have the foresight to take celebratory pictures. I only took pictures of the data pages of their passports, which I am not posting here.)

So that was that story when I got home late afternoon. But for them there turned out to be more. I had left them to board buses around 2:30pm. At 6:20pm Carmen sent me a whatsapp message saying that for traffic they had not yet arrived at El Rancho, where they should have been a whole lot earlier.

Opening new lanes in the mountains takes a big effort.

Turns out that in addition to the construction project that rules that section of the highway now (and will for another year or two), there had been a four-ambulance accident. Carmen got to Cobán at 10pm, home at 11:15pm. Gilberta, whose route was the same for most of the trip, got to Rabinal at 9pm, home by 9:40pm. I’m sore from all the time walking and sitting on concrete yesterday, but I’m in a whole lot better shape than they are, pobrecitas.

All of this sounds crazy to an outsider. Here, it is a fairly usual day. (And I did not even include the part about having to wait until now because for many weeks the government did not have any of the little booklets that become passports. Even now, only first-timers are getting them. Renewals are getting a sticker good for one year, with the hopes that they will be caught up by then.) So you can see why we are really happy that they got their passports on the spot and do not have to come back to pick them up. As I said, a day of miracles for us.

We’re going to Peru!