A Moment in Guatemala

We drove to the Sunday Chichi market despite heavy rain and wind (chilly, but still warm as it is the 'Land of Eternal Spring'). A full van - Dan and Rudi, Whitney, Haley, Uncle Avery and Grandpa Drew. A quick stop at the agricultural checkpoint. The Mayan man wearing a huge winter coat, complete with fur hood inquired, "¿Hay frutas?". He smirked upon Dan's "No" and jokingly followed with, "¿Solo mangos?". Why yes, how did he know? We smiled and looked at one another.....Little Mango, Happy Mango, Uncle Mango, Baby Mango and Grandpa Mango :)


Chichicastenango, Guatemala Market – one of the largest Latin American markets!

The extensive market of Santo Tomas Chichicastenango in Guatemala is a delightfully vibrant and overwhelming experience; a must visit destination for tourists and savvy travelers alike. Though most of the Guatemalan handicrafts and textiles at Little Mango Imports are purchased in their respective villages, I always enjoy attending the “Chichi market” while in Guatemala. I have been visiting the Chichi market since before I was old enough to remember, but I still find something fascinating to purchase or photograph on every visit.

Arriving early in the morning allows me to watch the transformation of the dirty streets into a pulsing, busy mix of colors and smells. At 5’5”, I tower above most of the indigenous Maya, while weaving my way through the streets and makeshift alleys. An occasional mortar aerial bomb is shot off from the church steps. The deafening noise is especially startling for those experiencing the market for the first time; my travel companion John leapt to the ground the first time he heard a mortar in the market! On most religious holidays, a parade of Catholic Saints winds its way through the market, a rewarding sight for visitors. Fresh-cut flowers, incense and weary locals decorate the church steps. Vendors’ tarps provide shade from the intense sun and rain showers. The unique handicrafts and exceptional weavings clutter tables and hang from improvised beams. Of course, as with most Latin American markets, bartering is a ‘gringo’ must. Though a fun and educational experience, I have thankfully become a familiar face in the market and am occasionally spared participation in the ‘bartering game’. A long, exciting market day culminates with bus dodging to return to my car.


Maya Treadle Loom

The Maya traditional treadle loom is used to weave multi-purpose cotton fabric, corte fabric, scarves among other textiles (narrow, scarf fabric is depicted in images). Introduced by the Spanish and traditionally operated by men, the loom is foot powered and no electricity is used whatsoever. Textiles woven on a treadle loom are regularly referred to as "machine made" by the Maya people. The implication of this claim that the process is similar to that involving a modern electric machine is deceiving.

The tense warp threads are alternately lifted and lowered with the use of foot pedals; meanwhile, the weaver passes the weft between the warp threads. Hand woven fabric often contains jaspe (ikat) design work. This is a common element of many Guatemalan fabrics and an art form in itself. It involves the binding and dyeing of yarns prior to weaving to produce patterns with blurred edges.

In contrast with the treadle loom, the Maya back strap loom utilizes a simpler technology and is mobile; however, the weaving process is more time consuming. Typically operated by women, the backstrap loom is used to weave huipiles, among other textiles.