Tuesday 9 June 1992

Fabrics In Guatemala And Mexico


Linda Wigley, the Curator of Trowbridge Museum, was the guest speaker at the June 1992 meeting of the Warminster History Society. Using slides to illustrate her talk, she spoke of textiles she had seen during her trip to Guatemala and Mexico.

The trip was possible through her receiving a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. First she went to Guatemala. The area she visited was surrounded with volcanic peaks and forests. The national tree is the Ceba. In the forests are many temples; 500 in Guatemala but only about 50 of these have been excavated.

In a typical village in Guatemala the shacks are made of wood and mud. The people grow maize in their back yards and the crops grow up to 14 feet high. The wealthy people live in exotic houses, made of brick.

The people of Guatemala wear very colourful traditional costume. Their clothes are woven by women using back strap looms. The men then stitch the woven cloth into garments. Children weave wrist bands and help prepare the yarn.

Each village has its own design on the cloth. Cotton is the most popular textile.

Linda went up into the highlands of Guatemala and was taught how to set up a back strap loom and weave on it.

There is only one woollen factory, where they make blankets and also baize for pool tables.

In Mexico the people wear mainly Western clothes, but there are a small number of people from the little villages who wear traditional costume. This is less colourful than in Guatemala.

The Mexicans embroider their garments. The Weapier blouses have a band of hand embroidery around the neck and armholes, and the garments are off-white in colour. The men's shorts have a band of embroidery on each leg.

The men still play traditional instruments. They also perform dances, usually hanging upside down with a rope attached to one leg from a very high pole. One particular traditional dance involves five men hanging from the top of a rope, gradually weaving their way downwards to the ground.