Updated: Apr 22, 2021
By Pável Valenzuela Arámburo and Circe Ariana Carrillo
Equipo de México: Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, Voces Mesoamericanas.
We moved from the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, to the house of Patricia Pérez Gómez, who lives in the Chenalhó municipality, in the community of Poconichim. We did this to document the process of making a regional Huipil (traditional textile). We had the goal of producing audio-visual material that creates a portrait of the problem of plagiarism on these pieces committed by fashion companies and enterprises on a national and international level, and to highlight the complexity and cultural relevance of this art piece in the cosmovision of the women from Tsotsil communities.
Poconichim is located 1,560m above sea level, 12.2km East from the municipal capital of Chenalhó, and has a population of approximately 228 inhabitants, who speak mainly Tsotsil. On the way, before arriving at our destination, we recorded some video footage, and because of the height of the spot, we were able to record mountains full of trees, agricultural fields and the moving clouds that were almost at our same height.
We arrived at Paty's house. In the front yard there were coffee beans covering the whole area, because Paty and some members of her family work on the coffee plantation as one of their main economic activities. Paty’s mother’s house is built with wooden walls and a sheet metal roof and, like most of the houses in this region, it is surrounded by trees and cornfields.
Paty’s mother kindly welcomed us, and invited us to her house. Inside, there was one of Paty’s sisters with her three nephews, two little girls and a boy. In the kitchen’s wood-burning stove there was coffee boiling, scenting the ambiance. While we prepared the recording equipment to begin with the visual record and the interviews, Paty and her mother hung the backstrap loom to one of the wooden pillars of the roof, and prepared the threads, selecting the colours they would use and organising them carefully to start working on the piece.
While Paty’s mother weaved the threads with the loom, Patty, sitting on a chair, played with her nieces, weaving some threads with her fingers to form a series of simple knots. The recording of the Huipil was performed, following all the parts of the process that involve its making. The required time for the making of a blouse is more than two months.
Due to the sanitary conditions set because of the pandemic, we agreed with Paty to speed up the processes in order to record each of the steps. With that objective, a previous recording plan was made with her on the phone. During the interview, Paty highlighted the importance of the preservation of the weaving tradition for her and her community, as well as its meaning. The piece they made is composed by a series of spiders. We were told that the legs represented the four cardinal points. She also emphasised the importance of continuing the tradition of the Huipil and told us that it has been an activity historically related to the women. However, there has been a gradual incorporation of men to the creation of these pieces, a participation considered to be extremely important as part of the deconstruction of masculinities in the community. She also highlighted that the making of Huipiles is already a part of her essence, the community’s essence, and that it is proudly displayed.
We talked of the components included in each community’s Huipil, and the meaningful elements behind the piece. Although this was a piece imposed by the Spaniards with colonisation purposes of distinction among communities, the Huipil was reappropriated by the communities and incorporated into resignifying their cosmovisions.
At the end of the interview, Paty offered us some coffee and breakfast to continue talking. We unexpectedly ended the conversation, fearing to be caught in a storm on our way. Paty, with all her wisdom, smiled in front of our worry and, looking at the sky, assured that it was not going to rain. We thanked her and put the equipment in the vehicle that would take us back to the city of San Cristóbal. On our way back, we stopped to make some recordings and we were able to return to the city, with no setbacks and no rain.