Mayan textiles

If I had lots of money, I would start collecting precious cloth pieces and hang them on the wall as pieces of art. I can’t believe I missed this exhibit of Mayan textiles. I love Mayan textiles for their beauty, colors, symbolism and because I love Guatemala.

This is what I found in a wikipedia article on Mayan textiles: “It was uncommon and often disgraceful to wear a huipil design from another community within one’s village; although, it was a sign of respect to wear a community’s huipil when visiting another village.” Very interesting. I remember my comment years ago when a favorite professor of mine wore a Guatemalan huipil in class. I said we have to be careful how we use and incorporate in our daily life symbolic objects produced by other cultures. I might have offended her with my comment for wearing the huipil. In fact, do we have the right to use other people’s clothing as we see fit? Is it a kind of a colonial attitude, exploitation by appropriation and imposition of our own meaning on the huipil, or does it just show appreciation for something beautiful created by someone different? Do Mayans see this kind of attitude as our own disgrace (see quote above) or do they decry the commercialization of their way of life? Or is it a legitimate way to popularize their culture, the way Cubists popularized African culture with their fascination with masks? I really hope I did not offend my professor with my comment. Actually, although the huipil did not have anything to do with the class, which was on Machiavelli, the professor had the right to wear it since her husband is from Guatemala. So she is adopted into the culture and you can say she can wear huipils as a sign of respect.


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