If you find yourself in the town of Tulum or any of the surrounding towns, you will see clothes, table runners, bedspreads and blankets that are hand woven by local and Yucatan Mayan communities. Mayan women in the small towns outside of Tulum still wear their traditional dress calledhuipil, the colorful embroidered shirts and dresses that the Maya are so famous for. Elders in Tulum do wear the traditional huipil, but younger generations have opted out for western dress in their day to day activities. During cultural activities and celebrations, women of all ages dress in their huipil and show off the Mayan weaving.
If you look closely at the weaving and embroidery on the traditional dress and materials created by Mayan artists, you will see a few patterns that are repeated through these beautiful pieces. Each family has a unique weaving pattern, but there are repeated symbols used in the art form.
Women create a vision of their universe in embroidery of their traditional dress. They create a symbolic story in the symbols that they use. The symbols tell a story, replay history or represent mythology. In many cases the patterns represent the organization of the cosmos.
Men typical do the weaving of blankets, table runners or heavy cloths. They also use the symbolism described above to create the gorgeous patterns seen in the local stores.
Typical symbols used in Mayan weaving and embroidery
Each artist is free to create a design that is unique to them. But there are some typical symbols that are used in the creation of each piece. Like mythology, certain symbols represent an action or understanding. A scorpion is a call for rain, cotton represents clouds, Diamond shapes represent the world. If the number 13 is woven into the design, it represents the movement of the sun through the sky and into the underworld, a similar belief that developed the Temple of the Sun in the Mayan ruins.
There are other symbols that are typically used, flowers, suns, leaves and vines. The detail that is put into each design is truly amazing. To top it off, the colors are created with natural dyes making the process from start to finish a true labor of love.
Mayan Riviera Mayan clothing
The cloth used for dress in the Mayan Riviera is very different than in other Mayan communities in Guatemala, Chiapas, and colder Mayan communities. In the Mayan Riviera, clothing is made from light white cotton with the borders filled with the embroidery. If traveling to Mayan communities located in the mountains, the entire outfit is woven, not just the borders to ensure warmth. Women have adapted this design to fit the climate in the Mayan Riviera.
To learn more about Mayan beliefs and mythology, read about the Temple of the Wind in the Tulum ruins. Join us each Monday for Mayan Monday and learn more about the Mayan influences and contemporary culture in Tulum.