Friday, April 22, 2016

A morning in Zinacantan in the state of Chiapas, Mexico

I just recently spent a week in the state of Chiapas in Mexico and what a wonderful time I had!  I explored the remote Chiapas highland villages, the Canyon de Sumidero to several of the Maya ruins surrounded by a dense jungle.  This particular day, I was in Zinacantan, a town up in the mountains 10 kilometers north-west of San Cristobal de Las Casas. 
Talk about perfect timing, it was Sunday, their market day.  Today the area is known for it agriculture, particularly in maize and flowers.  The construction of the Pan American Highway tremendously improved the mobility and prosperity of the town's population for they could easily transport their products to other markets.
The Zinacantan attire was unadorned prior to 1975.  Over the years it has evolved, now it is an explosion of color.
The color palettes and floral designs change every year. Reds and purples seem to dominate the shawls this year.
It was some Guatemalan refugees that came through the Highlands that showed the women of Zinacantan how to expand their heddle-brocaded designs with animal and floral motifs.  There are two main festivals, the Feast of Saint Sebastian in January and the Feast of Saint Lorenzo in August.  Every household is expected to wear new clothes for these occasions.  That would involve a new tunic for the husband, and a new skirt, blouse and shawl for the wife.  And that is a lot of time consuming embroidery work.
It was when some of the women accompanied their husbands to Merida where the flowers were to be sold, that they discovered that the Yucatec Maya women used antique Singer sewing machines to embroider their huipils.  
Sewing machines were purchased and this labor saving process took off.  The base cloth for the skirts and shawls are woven in advance.  The embroidery colors and designs are mapped out. Weeks prior to the festivals, all sewing machines are running at full capacity.
This is the back side of the church where the market is setup every Sunday.
What a striking design!
Some women refuse to wear machine made designs.  Instead, a hand embroidered cross-stitch is used.
 Selecting some new yarns.
It was such a colorful day in every way.
Even the papel picadas flowing down from the entrance of the church were brilliant against the deep blue sky.

I had to laugh, these two dressed in their traditional attire were like every other young person around the world, the Iphone had not escaped their culture.
It was such a great morning and yes, I came away with two stunning shawls complete with the colorful tassels.  One machine embroidered and the other embroidered with cross-stitch.   I plan on using them as table runners.   
Chiapas is such an interesting and diverse state.  I was so intrigued with the week I spent there. I am working on an itinerary for a tour to Chiapas the end of February 2017.  Next month I will have the itinerary posted.  Please let me know if you are interested in joining me.

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