An article by Kimberly Rocío López, has been translated into English and published in El Faro, outlining the struggle for recognition of, and respect for the craft of, women textile weavers in Guatemala. The original article is in Spanish and published on Plaza Pública.
There is an element of colonial appropriation going on where their output is expropriated and exploited and used, by the State, for tourism, and other export-led motives. However, neither the women, nor their craft, receive the respect nor the recompense. In effect being used as cash-cows.
This will, hopefully, change as a result of a recent court victory for the weavers.
The article was translated for El Faro by Jessica Kirstein and includes great photos by Simone Dalmasso and Sabas Espinoza.
“Guatemala sells itself to the world as the country of women in huipiles, but they don’t want us here,” says Gloria Estela García, an indigenous woman who lives in Sacatepéquez and has made textiles by hand for years. Many other women weavers in Guatemala are also angry and tired of being used to promote a country where their clothing is worth more when they aren’t the ones wearing it.
Last November 6, the women of the Ruchajixik ri qana’ojbäl National Weavers Movement celebrated a Constitutional Court (CC) ruling. “It’s one of our greatest achievements,” said Leonarda Dionicio, one participant. In their movement to defend the intellectual property of weavings and Mayan ancestral knowledge, the women weavers considered the ruling a small victory against “a monster that could eat us at any moment” — the Guatemalan state.
27 women, representing the national movement, promoted and brought a legal action before the CC against the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT). Their complaint denounced two problems: the folklorization and commodification of the image of indigenous women in INGUAT’s tourism policy, which uses their faces to promote travel to the “Heart of the Mayan World,” and systematic exclusion, especially by withholding state tourism revenues from the weavers.
Thus, they demanded that INGUAT refrain from these practices and that the State adopt administrative measures and public policies with benefits for indigenous women weavers. The CC ruled in their favor and ordered the Institute to “implement adequate mechanisms for indigenous peoples’ real and effective participation in formulating and designing public policies on the matter, specifically those that could affect their rights, through legitimate representatives elected according to their own forms of organization.”
You can read the full article on El Faro, here, Women Weavers: To Outsiders We’re Exotic; In Guatemala We’re the “Marías”.
The article was adapted from the original Spanish-language version in Plaza Pública, Mujeres tejedoras: Afuera somos exóticas, acá las “Marías”, which includes many more wonderfully colourful photographs highlighting the amazing art and craft of these superb artisans.