Lessons in traditional Mayan culture

Mayan culture talk
Photo taken by Anthony Hill | The Oswegonian

Women in Guatemala have to learn how to weave before getting married because they have to make a guipil, an item of clothing, for their future mother-in-law, a Guatemalan master weaver said.

The Mayan master weaver, Alida Perez said weaving guipils is an essential part of Guatemalan Mayan culture on Monday night to over 100 people.

“Women get up in the morning, make food for their children, and start weaving,” Perez said in Spanish.

According to Kelsey Gillett, a double major in Spanish and French, when women weave these guipils for their future mother-in-laws, they are proving that they are hard working, brave and committed to their culture.

It takes five to 10 hours a day and six months of weaving to fully complete a guipil. “It teaches us here in America that not everything is so instant as opposed to the women from Guatemala who spend six months on one item,” said student involvement coordinator, Maggie Rivera.

Christina Luther, a Spanish and Human Development student, was amazed at how much work goes into making one guipil. “I didn’t know it took so much hard work to weave one guipil,” Luther said.

Students and staff learned a lot about what goes into weaving a guipil. Gillett learned that “all of the beautiful designs are not by accident, they are symbolic and have meaning.”

Rivera said it is important for the students of Oswego State to gain knowledge on many different cultures. “Ms. Perez coming is a great example about knowledge that can be transferred to our students,” Rivera said.

Gillett thought it was important for Perez to come to Oswego State because it would make students aware of how she puts her whole culture in her art of weaving.

Rivera said it was significant and important to bring Perez here to speak about the process of the Mayan textile, weaving, and styles because the process is not written down; it has survived through parents orally passing it down to their children for centuries.

According to Rivera, Colgate University reached out to Oswego State to see if we would be interested in having Perez speak. The university jumped on the opportunity of having Perez with the help from five groups: The Department of Modern Languages and Literature, Student Involvement, Tyler Art Gallery, Latino Student Union and ARTSwego.

Perez is a Kakchiquel Mayan from San Antonio Aguas Calientes in Guatemala. She is a spokeswoman for the Mayan people and meets with political and economic leaders around the globe to advocate for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.

Perez has founded a non-profit organization called Artisanos Unidos to promote fair trade in indigenous crafts and to market those crafts around the world.

In addition to her other accomplishments, Perez is the founder and director of a textile museum in Antigua, Guatemala, called Museo Casa del Tejido Antiquo, that preserves Mayan weaving and educates the public about Mayan weaving history, techniques and style.