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Sustainability through tradition: the relationship between Mayan culture and nature

Sustainability through tradition: the relationship between Mayan culture and nature

At the end of July, Guatemala celebrates the Fiesta Nacional Indigena de Guatemala (National Indigenous Celebration), where representatives of different indigenous groups gather in Cobán to honor the native roots of the country through performances, music and dances.
 
Its indigenous origin is one of the strongest pillars upon which Guatemalan identity is based on: Guatemala is in fact a multicultural, multiethnic and plurilingual country – with almost 45% of its population being indigenous. This makes it one of the countries with the highest percentage of indigenous people in the world!
 
Since Trama Textiles was created by indigenous women to celebrate their heritage through the traditional art of backstrap loom weaving, we think it is important to share the relationship between their culture and nature, which inspires us to create sustainable and meaningful products.
 
Taking care of nature is fundamental for indigenous people. According to the Mayan vision of the universe, humankind and nature are two different elements that complement each other and that, together with Ajaw (the creator of the universe), create a harmonic unity that keeps balance in the creation. All living beings are connected, and when something influences a part of the ecosystem, all its parts are affected. Every action that does not respect the natural environment creates problems not only for land, water, plants and animals - but it also affects individuals and their communities. For this reason, indigenous people believe that living in harmony with their natural surroundings is the basis of a peaceful existence, where nature is seen as a living entity with which to establish a deep relationship.
 
In this symbolic connection, nature provides people with everything necessary to survive, and humankind has to pay back its generosity by only taking what is strictly necessary and expressing their gratitude. Indigenous people transmit ways of protecting nature from one generation to the other, keeping ancient knowledge and practices alive. The weavers at Trama Textiles do this by using natural materials found in their natural surroundings to make dyes and yarn and by taking the necessary time to complete the creation of pieces with traditional patterns that tell a story: every little action contributes to the balance of the universe, according to the Mayan vision.
Weaver, maya
 
The Fiesta Nacional Indigena de Guatemala celebrates this universal unity and the ancestral ways to keep it alive. Interestingly Ajaw, the creator, is a recurring figure also in this celebration, where one of the activities consists in electing the Rab’in Ajaw, “the Daughter of the King”: mistakenly considered as a beauty pageant, the event focuses on selecting an indigenous girl as symbolic representative of all indigenous women for the upcoming year. Started in 1968, the event became an opportune occasion to talk about gender equality and women’s rights, while celebrating the girls’ knowledge of cultural and historical traditions. Rab’in Ajaw was suspended in 2020 due to the  Covid19 pandemic, therefore the upcoming 2021 event will be symbolic not only to represent native identities, but will also represent the resilience of indigenous women facing a global pandemic that saw the rise of many social vulnerabilities.
 
This celebration exemplifies the role of indigenous women in keeping traditions alive and, at the same time, changing societies. Trama Textiles takes part in the change by empowering native women through the recognition and celebration of their traditional weaving techniques, as well as training women to be entrepreneurs and leaders. Taking our time, respecting the value of the natural materials we use, representing the weavers’ identity through historical designs: all of these are small actions that respect nature and unity of the Mayan vision and fuel our mission here at Trama Textiles.

 

 founders of Trama Textiles

Sources:

http://www.scielo.org.mx/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1870-54722012000300004

http://www.scielo.org.mx/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0185-25742009000200007 

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