Accepted paper:

Clothes as mutual communication from the case of Mayan women in Guatemala


Yuko Honya (Keio University)

Paper short abstract:

For Mayan women in Guatemala, clothing is an important medium of non-verbal communication. Focusing on the evolution of women’s tunics (huipil), I will not only analyze how Mayan women have shared various patterns and created the variety of huipils, but also examine the mechanism of female network.

Paper long abstract:

In the Guatemalan Highlands, Mayan women are weaving textiles with looms that date back to the Mayan Civilization and making their clothes from them. There are approximately 80 Mayan villages where women continue to wear traditional clothes, including (1) a huipil (women's tunic), (2) a wrap-around skirt, (3) a sash. The difference in the shapes, patterns and colors displayed on these pieces of clothing shows what village a woman is from. Therefore the role of clothes is considered an important medium of non-verbal communication. In this presentation, I will discuss how Mayan women have shared various patterns and created a variety of huipils. Firstly I analyze the evolution of huipils collected from the end of the 19th century to the present in a Mayan village, Nahualá. Secondly I examine how women have inherited various patterns, invented a variety of huipils and shared them among themselves. All women take interest in huipil. In this village, there are four kinds of huipils distinguished by patterns. When women find a beautiful pattern in someone's huipil, they try to borrow it from its owner in order to copy it, as well as to make their own huipil decorated with it. In this way, various patterns are spread in the village through the female "web" of communication, which extends from interfamilial level to the community level. Thus, I aim to examine the mechanism of the informal female network created by their clothes.

panel P052
The future with/of Maya anthropology