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Maya History and Cultural Resources

Maya History and Cultural Resources

Whilst we do our best to explain, highlight and show the story and history behind our products and the weavers who create them (from their culture to their religion), we also want to recognise the incredible research into Mayan textiles and culture that has been done by others which is helping to educate about and preserve this incredible craft. Although you can find many interesting and insightful articles on our blog (written by our talented volunteers throughout the years), we also wanted to pay homage to other research that has been done around maya textiles as well as Guatemalan culture, religion and history. With examples from a wide range of mediums then, from articles, museum exhibitions, to books to documentaries, we have done our best to compile a list of our favourite and what we believe to be the greatest media about Guatemala and all it entails. 


Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - James D. Sexton

“This collection of folklore offers a rich and lively panorama of Mayan mythic heritage. Here are everyday tales of village life; legends of witches, shamans, spiritualists, tricksters, and devils; fables of naguales, or persons who can change into animal forms; ribald stories of love and life; cautionary tales of strange and menacing neighbors and of the danger lurking within the human heart. These legends narrate origin and creation stories, explain the natural world, and reinforce cultural beliefs and values such as honesty, industriousness, sharing, fairness, and cleverness. Whether tragic or comic, fantastic or earthy, whimsical or profound, these tales capture the mystery, fragility, and power of the Mayan world”. (Goodreads)

The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation - Greg Grandin

Over the latter half of the twentieth century, the Guatemalan state slaughtered more than two hundred thousand of its citizens. In the wake of this violence, a vibrant pan-Mayan movement has emerged, one that is challenging Ladino (non-indigenous) notions of citizenship and national identity. In The Blood of Guatemala Greg Grandin locates the origins of this ethnic resurgence within the social processes of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century state formation rather than in the ruins of the national project of recent decades.” (JSTOR)

Maya Textiles of Guatemala - Margot Blum Schevill

“Informative and beautifully illustrated.... It is both a detailed anthropological study, which delves into aspects of Mayan culture and examines historical and sociological forces brought to bear on Mayan communities of Guatemala, and a catalog of the stunning collections, containing descriptions of techniques, dying processes, and textile production”. (Booklist)

The Maya Textile Tradition - Jeffrey Jay Foxx

“The Maya Textile Tradition provides an in-depth look at the life and art of the Maya of southern Mexico and Central America. Some 145 stunning images, made by the award-winning photographer Jeffrey Jay Foxx and arranged in breathtaking color portfolios, capture the glorious Maya arts and culture as preserved since ancient times. The photographs combine with artful line drawings made especially for this book, an introduction by Linda Schele, co-author of the groundbreaking study of Maya civilization The Blood of Kings, and texts by four leading Mayanists to provide a unique portrait of these proud and vital people. Ecologist James D. Nations introduces us to the history and ecology of the Maya world; Guatemalan author and curator Linda Asturias de Barrios discusses how the old ways still guide the people in their farming, marketing, and weaving; textile specialist Margot Blum Schevill writes on innovation and change in Maya textile art; and anthropologist Robert S. Carlsen discusses ceremony and ritual in the Maya world.” (Goodreads)

Ancestry and Artistry: Maya Textiles from Guatemala - Roxanne Shaughnessy

“Cloth holds great importance for Guatemala s indigenous communities, and traditional dress plays an essential role in Maya identity today as a vital link with the ancestral past and a means of cultural reinvention. Whether worn for religious ceremonies or as an emblem of ethnic pride, textiles offer a medium for innovation and creative expression, as well as a marketable product for the tourist industry. Through a range of perspectives reflecting on Maya identity and the effects of global influences on culture and community life in Guatemala, Ancestry and Artistry traces a century of dynamic change as well as the remarkable continuity of ancient Maya traditions in the face of significant modernization, political upheaval, and religious transformation.” (Amazon)

Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala - Edward F. Fischer and R. McKenna Brown

“Essays on the pan-Maya movement by virtually all the leading U.S. experts on contemporary Maya communities and the top Maya scholars working in Guatemala”. (Google Books)

A Textile Traveler's Guide To Guatemala - Deborah Chandler

“The vibrant character of Guatemala is most visible in its handwoven textiles, which are still in everyday use and readily available in native markets all over the country. A Textile Traveler's Guide to Guatemala is an excellent resource for discovering artisans, markets, shops, and those storied regional textile traditions. Geared to independent-minded travelers, this guide presents the safest and most accessible methods of travel, where and when to go, where to stay, and what to eat. Expert advice helps the traveler know what to look for, how to distinguish high-quality work, and how to bargain intelligently and ethically. With abundant photographs, this guide celebrates the color, joy, and energy of folklife in Guatemala.” (Amazon)

Films and Documentaries 

Voice of a Mountain - Tyler Rumph

“Voice of a Mountain is a documentary of the lives of rural Guatemalan coffee farmers who took up arms against their government in a civil war that lasted 36 years. This documentary explores Guatemala's dark history from the perspective of those who saw armed revolution as their only hope for change in a poverty-ridden nation under years of military dictatorship. Ex-combatants talk about the bleak reality of the country that led to their involvement in the war, and the response of genocide from the Guatemalan government against its people. The documentary gives insight into their motives for joining an armed conflict as interviews reveal personal accounts of struggle, hope, tragedy, and the fruits of their resistance.” (IMBD)

Guatemala : Heart of the Mayan World - Luis Ara and Ignacio Juansolo 

“From Sierra de las Minas to Esquipulas, this documentary explores the cultural and geological riches of Guatemala, including the ancient Mayan cities and other natural wonders.” (IMBD)

Lost World of the Maya - National Geographic

(177) Lost World of the Maya (Full Episode) | National Geographic - YouTube

“The Maya - their soaring pyramids, monumental cities and mythical mastery of astronomy and mathematics have captured our imaginations and spurred generations of explorers into the jungles of Central America on a quest to understand them. Lost World of the Maya surveys their dramatic rise to prominence in the 'pre-classic era' of the Maya as well as new evidence of the collapse of their civilization in the 800-900's AD”. (National Geograhic) 

Lost Treasures of the Maya - National Geographic

Lost Treasures of The Maya - National Geographic for everyone in everywhere (

“National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin ventures into the Guatemalan jungle to explore how a new high-tech treasure map is revealing tens of thousands of ancient ruins. Now, dozens of archaeologists are heading on a voyage of discovery, exploring lost ruins for the first time in 1500 years. And what they're finding is rewriting the history of one of the world's most mysterious ancient civilisations - the Maya”. (National Geographic)


The cultural significance of dress and textiles - Joanne B. Eicher

Surviving Conquest: The Maya of Guatemala in Historical Perspective - W. George Lovell

Guatemalan Textiles - Harriet Newell Wardle

Mrs Rs. E. A. Osborne, with the tireless zeal of the amateur, has gathered from the quaint mountain villages of Guatemala a collection of textiles representative of native art and industry, probably the most complete yet assembled” (Penn Museum)


Museum Collections/Exhibitions

Sam Noble Museum - Maya Textiles 

Maya Textiles – Sam Noble Museum (

“The Pitzer Collection of Maya Textiles at the Sam Noble Museum demonstrates the diversity and beauty of this artistic, though inherently functional, tradition”. (Sam Noble Museum) 

Spurlock Museum - Maya Textiles 

Maya Textiles of Guatemala, Notable Collections, Collections, Spurlock Museum, U of I (

One of the largest research collections held at the Spurlock Museum is that of nearly 1,000 articles of clothing, adornment, and ceremonial Maya textiles from Guatemala. These 20th and 21st century textiles document weaving traditions from Maya communities located across more than 80 towns within 14 states of Guatemala”. (Spurlock Museum)



TRAMA Textiles does not own the right to any of these resources; they are here only as our recommendations for greater knowledge and understanding of Guatemalan and Maya culture, history and textiles.

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