One of the blessings of writing Traditional Weavers of Guatemala – Their Stories, Their Lives, has been getting to know some pretty great artisans, including Herminia Santos from the famous weaving town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes. More than half a century of backstrap weaving has taken its toll and Herminia can no longer weave for the pain in her back and legs. But her daughters-in-law can – and do.
When I took a Cloth Roads group to meet her last February she she showed us the second panel of a huipil being woven by Marta Leticia. I have been wanting a huipil from San Antonio for a long time, have finally saved up enough money to buy one, and this one knocked my socks off. So I lay my money on the table, and told her there was no rush, whenever she got it done would be fine.
One of the most significant things about the San Antonio huipils is that the parts with curves in the designs – birds and flowers in this case – are totally reversible, the same on the back as on the front. The geometric parts are one-sided, and the back of those areas is just the background cloth, no pattern showing at all.
When we were there in February the huipil was about 3/4 finished. It has taken until now, the end of June, to do the last 1/4. Marta has other work in her life, but still that gives you an idea how long it takes to make a fully reversible San Antonio huipil.
Until now the only piece I have had woven in that magnificent technique is a belt. It’s a nice belt. But it’s no huipil.