Textiles Los Escudos, Chimaltenango, Guatemala
The group Textiles Los Escudos is comprised of about a dozen Kaqchikel-Maya women connected by overlapping ties of family and friendship. Their name comes from the mountains that surround and protect the valley of their town Chimaltenango in Guatemala.
Weaving Techniques and Meanings: The Highland Maya employ two modes of weaving; they are back-strap and foot-loom weaving. Both techniques incorporate designs and colors in the selection and orientation of thread. In other words, patterns that appear in the final product result from weaving, not dying or printing. The women of Los Escudos employ the back-strap loom. A technique of Pre-Columbian origin, the back-strap is time-demanding both to acquire the skill and to produce fabric. Back-strap textiles are often elaborately decorated, incorporating design into the weaving but also through embroidery. Weaving using the foot-loom has origins in the colonial period and produces large, tightly woven fabrics. As is the case in most Highland Maya activities, weaving involves complementing pairs. Foot-loom weaving is men’s work; back-strap weaving is women’s work.
A complete Highland Maya women’s outfit includes a blouse made on a back-strap loom and a skirt made on a foot-loom. In general, craft production is associated with original creation and with the procreative power of women. A principal Maya goddess Ixchel, is patroness of fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, and weaving. Weaving is traditionally a female domain, and the creation of a textile is a metaphor for the creation of a new life.