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MAYA FASHIONS
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The ethnic communities of the Maya have various systems of social and administrative power. There are stewards [Mayordomos] who are the decision making leaders of groups.

The Chole have a traditional form of government under the care of elders, while the Lacandons recognize the oldest member of the caribal [traditional cluster of huts] as their sole authority.

Among the Zolques for example there are albaceas, who take care of images, and fiscales, who are in charge of rites, chants and prayers.

Another characteristic is the religious syncretism of ancient beliefs and Catholicism. The Tzeltals venerate "talking crosses", sculptures associated with pre-Hispanic idols, which according to tradition talk to the faithful.

Of all the fiestas organized by the different groups of the state, the Chamula Carnival, also called Kin Tajimultic, is the most famous. This is the most important fiesta of the Totzils and includes cavalcades, ritual dances, a procession of flags and the spectacular fire running. These ceremonial activities serve to reaffirm the group's identity and to revive an ancestral religion based largely on agriculture.

INTRODUCTION

Chiapas is a fascinating place for the fashion conscious individual as Chiapas women have unique fashion sensibilities. On one hand a woman's own individuality shines forward but on the other hand she boldly proclaims her loyalty and inspirations to her family. It is a strong bond.

In some villages the men also where their traditional "costumes". North of the Mexican border the word costume would tend to refer to something somebody wore in a play or on Halloween but in Mexico the word is used differently. There the word means, "what somebody is wearing".

The first time you see a group of men in full costume you may be astonished, as they are so colorful. There is also so much going on that you literally have to buy a book.

Mayan clothing is extremely well made. Garments are hand crafted with quality materials. Communication plays a key role and each piece is created with almost telepathic aptitude for expressing information about the individual wearing the garment.

Every village is different. Some villages have no costumes except western clothing. In some the men wear the costume but in other villages the men are all dressed like cowboys. In essence there is no standard fashion and the people are tolerant of any style.

By and large many people in the Chiapas are farmers and it does not matter where in the world you go because farmers all dress the same.

In Canada if you go to a farm the farmer will be dressed the same as a farmer in Chiapas. In fact when you travel to the higher regions of Chiapas in the winter and the locals are wearing their winter clothing you would almost think you were in Manitoba Canada!

Chiapas women are different from western women in the way that they do more work and are more physically fit. Chiapas women are strong, tough and not to be messed with. If there were ever a war between men and women in Chiapas it would be a bad day for men.

This is not to say that Chiapas women are not feminine, quite the opposite. The women posses the same feminine qualities as do women the world over.

In Chiapas women are treated differently than in western cultures. Chiapas men for starters do not ogle women or make rude comments as they walk the streets. They are in fact highly respectful of women.

Children also wear traditional costumes and you will quite often see an entire family dressed in their costumes from head to toe with the smallest toddler wearing their miniature huipil.

It is a very beautiful site to see as it demonstrates such loyalties; you do not see this in western culture.

HAIR FASHIONS

In Chiapas, women wear their hair long, men short. Except the Lacandon who wear their hair long. With the Lacandon the Northern villages cut their bangs across the front while the Southern Lacandon do not.

If you visit a Lacandon village and also have the opportunity to look at any old pictures of people from that village you will be astonished. You will see people in those photos walking around the village. These are the descendants of people in the old pictures. The similarities are remarkable. The fashions and hairstyles have not changed in generations of families.

It is as if the Lacandon find the best way to do something then stick with it.

Throughout the rest of Chiapas hair fashions are standard. You do not see many men with long hair. We have inquired about this and been told that men with long hair come from Mexico City and are usually Azteca.

Women wear their hair long. Most have long thick beautiful black hair. There are also numerous hair colors as many Maya have intermarried with foreigners over the years. Braiding is common and you generally do not see many women with their hair not braided.

In the cities things are different. The ancestors of the invaders and other foreigners who have settled there are into trends and western fashions. Chiapas is a very cosmopolitan place. Lots of people come from all over the world and hang out in Chiapas for weeks, some months. They bring their styles and trends, which rub off on the local population.

HATS

In Chiapas you will find that farmers and ranchers wear cowboy hats. The odd guy will wear a baseball cap and in some villages some men wear their traditional hat.

In some villages there is a traditional hat for the women however this is not too common in the Chiapas. Many women instead carry a blanket that they fold then place on their head. We inquired about this practice once and were told that when the women place the blanket on their head they are stopping energies from entering the crown of their heads.

When working in the fields many men or women will wear a scarf or hat.

TELEVISION

Most Mexican TV comes from Mexico City and satelite TV. Mexican TV is interesting TV, which actually surprises a lot of people. The Mexican TV networks broadcast some pretty wild stuff. With hot Latin music pulsating in the background and their use of vibrant colors even the most mundane TV show takes on a character all its own.

The TV "stars" in Mexico have an extremely European flavor. Reasons for this could be because there is not a language barrier between them and the Italians and Spaniards not to mention all the other countries of the world that speak a similar language to Mexican Spanish. The Mexican TV stars have their own styles and at the same time borrow the latest trends from their foreign counterparts.

Mexican TV stars are more flamboyant, better dressed and way more sexy than Canadian or American TV stars.

Mexican television is racist as well. The Maya are often portrayed as ignorant subordinates while Mexicans, who look more Swedish than Mexican, are portrayed as intelligent, affluent and sophisticated. Commercials are a perfect example. A TV commercial on frequent rotation shows a debonair wealthy Spanish Mexican driving up to an expensive restaurant in his flashy car [this was a car commercial]. Of course the mindless idiot who has the honor of parking Senior's car is an Indian, who is overwhelmed at the prospect of even getting close to the car. He is of course, too stupid to drive it. Pathetic. A perfect example of the continuing oppression of the Maya.

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SNA JOLOBIL

 
Sna Jolobil means "The Weaver's House" in Tzotzil, a Mayan language; it is an organization made up of 800 weavers from 20 Tzotzil and Tzeltal speaking Indian communities in the Chiapas highlands. It is incorporated as a profit sharing "Sociedad Cival".

The main objective of Sna Jobobil is to preserve and revitalize Mayan art by encouraging its members to study and recreate ancient textiles, natuaral dying methods for wool and cotton, and ancestral weaving techniques.

Each piece is an original creation with it's own value, impregnated with the sensibility, wisdom and respect with which each artist composes the designs and symbols inherited from their elders.

Sna Jobobil is also a study center for the backstrap loom technique known as brocade, in which the designs are woven into the cloth itself.

Many of these brcaded designs survive from pre-colombian times; they portray the saints, gods, and animals who protect the growth of corn and fertility of the earth and symbolize the Mayan vision of the cosmos.

Women who devote their lives to brocade and achieve mastery of its complicated techniques and symbolism are greatly admired in their communities.

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