San Andres Larrainzar and Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas: Textiles, A Conduit to Culture

Our last road trip on the Chiapas Textile Tour: Deep Into the Maya World takes us to the Maya highlands villages of San Andres Larrainzar and Magdalena Aldama. Many feel that both these villages produce some of the most outstanding textiles of the region. Here, we visit extended family cooperatives where both women and men weave, and a flying shuttle loom workshop that employs over 80 men in a remote village far from the center of town.

Worthy news: We all tested COVID-negative before leaving Chiapas and returning to the USA. This was the fourth tour this season where every participant tested negative.

It is a delight to be here and experience how the textiles are a roadmap to the culture. Weavings incorporate symbols of everyday life and spiritual beliefs. We understand more by seeing, sharing, and learning. We know that for women, the work of weaving is incorporated into other daily activities of cooking, caring for children and elderly family members, attending to the needs of husbands and friends.

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How long does it take to weave a huipil? we ask.

Time is a dimension here, not a precise measurement. Life is governed by the rising and setting of the sun, the rotation of the earth, the alignment of moon and stars. The answer to the question is tentative. Oh, maybe eight or nine months, a woman says. Each day is different. She picks up her loom, ties one end to a tree trunk and cinches the waist tie around her mid-section while watching the sheep or goats and children, all is women’s work. Then, she picks it up again while the baby is napping or the husband goes to the field to plant or harvest corn, beans and squash. Work is intermittent and unpredictable.

Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico. Highlands villages are isolated at the far reaches of winding mountain roads. Poverty keeps people in their place. They live in cinder block houses that have no heat. The floor can be packed earth. A wood-fueled cooking fire gives off a smokey essence that penetrates cotton and wool on the loom The fire is a source of light from which to weave as the sun sets.

Perhaps there is an elementary school there with access to a sixth grade education. Yet from this, the creativity of the human spirit rises and some of the most extraordinary textiles emerge.

My advice is to our travelers is to observe and understand. We do not come here to judge. We can compare values, lifestyle and culture in order to appreciate and explore similarities and differences.

I want to share with you this photo-essay of our last road trip together. I hope you enjoy it.

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