Tzotzil Maya: textile weaver

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Meet the household of Mariano, his son Mariano junior and daughter-in-law Petrona, in the Tzotzil village of Zinacantán. The women are in charge of weaving textiles and cooking (tortillas with vegetables, mainly) while the men work in the greenhouses. The village produces flowers for the whole of Mexico City. When I came to this household in March 2019 (as a tourist), all the men were out, working.

The family raise their own poultry.

The family raise their own poultry.

A view of the hills from the family garden.

A view of the hills from the family garden.

The women weave intricate designs into their textiles by adding coloured yarn into the warp and weft of their backstrap looms. They are real masters of brocade weaving. During our visit to Mariano’s household, two young women demonstrated the technique to us; it seems these skills are pretty general. Like those of making tortillas. If a woman can’t make tortillas, she won’t be able to marry.

Backstrap looms have been used since pre-Columbian times. They are small, inexpensive and easy to transport. The Tzotzil women from the Highlands of Chiapas now have the Textile Co-operative, to support fair trade. However, you will still see a lot of the women walking the streets of San Cristóbal with loads of textiles over their shoulders, trying to sell to the tourists from the street.

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Tzotzil street vendor of textiles in San Cristóbal.

Tzotzil street vendor of textiles in San Cristóbal.


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