Catarina Aguilar Lives On

In Traditional Weavers of Guatemala – Their Stories, Their Lives, the story of Catarina Aguilar Cruz of San Juan Cotzal includes the following: “For a time, Catarina was weaving for a woman named Susana from the United States. Unfortunately, when she spent fifteen days in the hospital with gastritis, her husband did some housecleaning and inadvertently burned the papers that had the contact information for Susana. Catarina has some weaving partly done for Susana but can’t reach her to finalize it.” When we wrote that I thought, “Wouldn’t it be just too wonderful if by some miracle Susana saw this and contacted us?” Susana-in-the-US — that’s pretty wide-open.

Catarina discussing details with Susanna.
Catarina discussing details with Susanna. (Photos from Susanna.)

Two days after Christmas 2015 I got an email from Susanna Badgley Place. It said, in part: “We just arrived in Antigua and my daughter presented me with a copy of your new book. Can you imagine my amazement when I saw Doña Catarina smiling from the Cotzal pages.” It was THE Susanna! My friends in the room had to wait until I calmed down to find out why I was making all that joyful noise. Fortunately Susanna had included her phone number, and I called her right away. We had a great conversation that night, and we will have more. Susanna lives in Guatemala part time now, and our names, if not paths, have crossed before. Among other things, Susanna has also written a book about the Ixil Triangle, Guatemala Ixil Journey ( ).

Susanna told me a little about their project working to revive the design of the k’ot, the two-headed eagle so important to the Maya. When we were with Catarina she was working on one panel of a huipil like the one pictured here, with a red k’ot on a white background. (note: you can see Catarina weaving that panel and read about the k’ot in our book.)

Susanna and Catarina
Susanna and Catarina

It was sad to have to tell Susanna that Catarina had died last year. But given the closeness of their relationship in years past, Susanna will likely go visit Catarina’s husband Gabriel and daughter María the next time she visits Cotzal. All those metaphors about the threads of life…this is when they apply the best.


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