The colorful textiles of women in Guatemala are well known far beyond the borders of the country. Every color, every figure and every composition have a different meaning. A piece of clothing that is an indispensable part of culture and everyday life: The Huipil. The traditional blouse of Mayan women forms the heart of traditional clothing and is still woven by hand from the indigenous women to this day.
What is a Huipil?
A Huipil in Guatemala is the typical garment of women, which is made of cotton and woven by hand. Mothers teach their daughters the production of a Huipil from early age on, which is then produced in months of work by hand. The history of the garments goes back over millennia: already in 500 AD, the garments were used in ceremonies. But it is not sure when the traditional, colorful robes were used for the first time. Archaeologists have indeed found ceramic figures of the Maya, in which the women from the higher classes have already worn a Huipil. Every village, every region has its own style and uses different colors. It requires an extensive knowledge of the respective regions and the history of the Maya in order to correctly interpret these figures and colors.
The name "Huipil" comes from the language of náhuatl and can be translated as covered or coat. Initially, the garments were used in ceremonies. Only gradually did they arrive in society. From that moment on, the women of the Maya were required to weave traditional costumes themselves and to wear them with full dignity. The elaborate production of the piece by hand.
The Huipil is woven in a classic production on a backstrap loom. For this, yarn from pure cotton is used, which is dyed in natural colors. For dyeing, women use different shells, trees and plants like coffee. Then the cotton must be woven, which is held in rectangular tracks. The motifs of the huipil include volcanoes, the sun, the moon, the stars, mother earth or hills. The joining of the individual panels to a Huipil takes place after the production of the cotton.
Depending on the style, one, two or even three handwoven panels are sewn together to make the traditional piece of clothing. Originally there were three panels with white sides for the ceremonies. All in all, a Huipil will be completed in two to three months' time. It falls like a loose tunic and has openings for the neck and arms.
The Huipil: expression of proud Guatemalan women
To this day, the Huipil is seen again and again in the highlands of Guatemala and is worn by women with pride. A true Huipil is made by hand, is made of cotton and always contains natural, bright colors. Last but not least, it shows the craftsmanship of women and thus forms an important part of the appearance of every woman. To this day, you can still see women wearing huipils as a daily costume in the highlands of Antigua, over the Lago de Atitlán to Quetzaltenango, Huhuetenango or Cobán over to the small mountain villages.
Every single Huipil has a different story, meaning and tells something important about the woman's homeland and her status in the society. The hand-woven treasures define the image of the indigenous women in Guatemala like no other and can rightly be called a treasure.