A highlight of our time in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, is a visit to Alberto Lopez Gomez’ studio Kokul Pok’. He is the weaver/designer from Magdalena Aldama who was was recognized and invited to New York Fashion Week in 2020. Aldama is a remote village in the highlands about two hours from the city where women have been weaving on the back strap loom for centuries. He tells us he is invited to Washington, D.C. to exhibit and sell in April this year, representing over 200 weavers from his village and a few others who he works with. He is a young man with talent, vision and a mission. It is always satisfying to visit with him as he explains the weaving traditions of his village and his family.
Alberto learned to weave ten years ago at age 22 from his mother, who also taught him the symbols in the cloth. She is now deceased. He explains to our group the details in a magnificently woven huipil made by his sister Rosa Lopez Gomez. It uses hand-spun wool dyed with natural plants available locally, such as lichens and moss. Most huipiles today use commercially purchased cotton threads, so this piece is unusual. When he began to weave, he was ostracized because this is women’s work. But, he says women are not recognized either for their weaving skills and his goal is to bring more attention to the highest quality weavers in a very machismo culture. He talks about how he wants to uplift the important work of women: They prepare the yarn, spin and dye. They are the cultural guardians by including important spiritual and corporal symbols in the cloth.
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Alberto is still the only man from Aldama who weaves. But he does more than that. He is a designer and guides innovation by suggesting color palates that go beyond the traditional. The workmanship of the pieces is of the highest quality. The weaving is dense and filled with meaning.
We learn about the symbols as Alberto explains each row of weaving. Our study tours are educational experiences that go deep. We see the triangles on the main panel of the textile and hear that this represents the universe. The side panels are where the weaver expresses herself by including symbols that are important to her. This one includes God, Catholic crosses, the plumed serpent, the union of mother and father, four cardinal points, the center of the universe, stars, orchards. Larger stars and smaller stars are Venus and the constellations. We see flowers and corn that represent the planting and harvest seasons. Women represent in textiles what they see around them in the natural world. When stars are in alignment, the elders teach that this provides notice of the coming rains. When a garment is worn and the arms are outstretched, it forms the symbol of the cross. The serpent design has a deep meaning: it connects earth and sky with the god of earth.
Alberto Lopez Gomez considers himself to be a voice for women in his community. He weaves, designs, communicates the history. His inspiration comes from dreams. His dream is to bring these textiles to other parts of the world and disseminate ancient Maya tradition through the textiles.
- Facebook: Alberto Lopez Gomez
- Instagram: Albereto Lopez Gomez
Alberto and Sue