On a mission trip to Guatemala with my daughter, I learned about a weaving ministry led by Hilda Perez. Hilda teaches women in her village to weave. She and her husband Roduel live in Ixcan, an area where many refugees settled after Guatemala’s civil war. Not only is weaving a learned skill that helps to sustain the women’s families, it provides stress relief, and gives them a sense of purpose. There’s something beautiful about helping to give another woman some purpose in her life. Hilda has about 40 women that participate in the weaving ministry.
Hilda and Roduel travel over 10 hours to bring woven items to sell to the mission teams that travel to Santa Maria through a mission agency called Mission Impact. The items below are some that we brought back from our last trip. They are now available in our Farm Store. Proceeds will go towards purchasing more handwoven items from these talented women, and a portion of it will help fund mission trips back to Guatemala.
Backstrap Weaving is an ancient art practiced for centuries in many parts of the world. It is still used today on a daily basis, in many parts of Guatemala by Mayan women, to weave fabric for their clothing and other needed household textiles such as shawls, baby wraps, tablecloths, washcloths, towels, and so much more.
The art of weaving has been passed on from mother to daughter, generation after generation. At birth, baby girls are presented with the necessary tools for weaving. At the age of eight or nine, Maya girls are taught to weave for the first time, by their mothers, older sisters, and older women.
The looms are simple, often handmade by the weaver, and easily portable because they can be rolled up when not in use. The back rod of the loom is tied to a tree or post while weaving and the other end has a strap that encircles the waist so that the weaver can move back or forward to produce the needed tension.
A weaver using a backstrap loom usually sits on the ground but as the person ages that becomes more difficult and many will then use a small stool.
While Mayan textiles are used for daily clothing and provide protection against nature, they are also incorporated into ancient ceremonies and rituals. Women’s “traje” or traditional clothes consists of a “huipil” – a blouse made from a square or rectangular piece of woven fabric with a hole in the middle for the head and folded and stitched up the sides with arm holes. This is worn with a “corte,” a skirt that is tied at the waist with a woven belt. Textiles vary by community, and designs and colors are often indicative of a specific village. Women’s clothing identifies the woman as an individual within her culture, as well as communicating traditional Maya beliefs about the universe.