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  • hardie karges 6:03 pm on December 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Guatemala, Timor, weaving   

    Way beyond language, food, and architecture is the trail of textiles, 

    something very dear to me for its intrinsic beauty as well as its inner story line, as seen by weavers, not historians. Nevertheless traditional weaving patterns and whatever stories they might contain are frequently neglected in favor of borrowed patterns, for whatever the reason. The path of Navajo rugs from Mexican serapes, via the Navajo weavers’ sojourn at Bosque Redondo in proximity to Mexican weavers is well documented. The path of Indonesian yarn-dyed ikat fabrics across the Pacific Ocean from Manila to Acapulco in the once-a-year galleon and on to the Mexican highlands and Guatemala is easily believable. The path of a particular modern weaving and dying design from the town of Solola’, Guatemala, back across that same ocean to the newly liberated country of East Timor is mind-boggling. The galleon trade has been discontinued for almost two hundred years. Many designs are universally geometric and easily conceivable from multiple sources. This is not one of those. This is an EXACT duplication of a design whose origin lies one hundred eighty degrees away any direction you go on the planet. There are not many bookstores in Dili, East Timor, and even fewer with color glossy photographs of Guatemalan weaving. An Iberian Spanish-Portuguese connection is possible, but remote and confusing, therefore improbable. There is no shortage of folk art cowboys roaming the globe looking for groovy goods for sale to sell. But the odds of one who knows Guatemalan textiles showing up in East Timor and finding that particular weaving must be about one in five or six billion, me, and I didn’t do it. The odds of someone weaving that style of piece there again have just improved. It did sell, after all.

  • hardie karges 6:56 pm on February 16, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Guatemala,   

    Save the Endangered Peoples 

    Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, the quaint rural Mexico that you always wanted, but it changed before you got there.  Guatemala City is nothing much more than a pit stop, but the western highlands are breathtaking.  Long inhabited by the highland Mayas from the ‘City’ west all the way to Chiapas in Mexico, the area is a piece of living history.  Emerging from the mists of history as descendants of the classic Mayas possibly inter-mixed with central Mexicans, they nevertheless maintain their ancient traditions to a degree seldom matched anywhere else in the world.  Numbering dozens of ‘tribes’ (i.e. linguistic groups) and millions of people, these are a proud people who never changed their names to fit Spanish fashion and who only reluctantly give up their own clothing styles to fit Western fashion.  Most Indian women never do, and this becomes a point of identity and pride in their ‘Guatemalanness’.  Though there is increasingly a stratum of ‘generic’ Indians whose females wear non-distinct, though very striking, Mayan garb, traditionally a woman would wear the style of her particular village, and were identifiable as such.  The related Quiche’, Cakchiquel, and Tzutuhil Mayas reside in the central area around Lake Atitlan and Quezaltenango, and are generally relatively prosperous, with tourist income, though a far cry from their former glory.  Increasingly they are fragmented culturally and their languages are mutually unintelligible from one hill to the next, forced to rely on the Guatemalan government and the Spanish language for their unity.  The Ixils and Kekchis to the north and Mams and other related groups to the west are in worse shape, maintaining traditions in a world that increasingly doesn’t care.  You can protect an endangered species from extinction, but what can you do for a culture?  I guess we should print bumper stickers that say: “Save the people!”

  • hardie karges 9:48 am on February 15, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Guatemala,   

    Maya, Illusion 

    One of the great mysteries of histories is “What happened to the Mayas?”  The quick answer, of course, is nothing.  They’re still there, right where they always were.  Okay, not so much around Tikal and the other classic jungle centers in Peten, but definitely not far from the Yucatan and Guatemalan highland centers where the Spanish found them.  The question then is: “What happened to the Mayan cities and high civilization?”  The cities were probably never cities in the Western sense, but more like ceremonial centers, where people gathered and then dispersed periodically, just as they do now on market and festival days.  Civilization itself seems to go through phases, possibly in some predictable order, but the concept is so new that it’s hard to generalize.  The era of civilization occupies only a very small fraction of man’s total time as a creative, speaking, tool-using animal.  Certainly civilizations don’t just go through an early, classic, and late phase, and then just disappear.  Something else comes along.  Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia are still here long after their classic eras.  As for the cause of cataclysmic changes, disease is a good guess.  Cities were a major breakthrough for bacteria.   

    • Guatemalan Maya Health researcher 10:53 pm on February 16, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      You are correct, the Maya are alive and well today. Why did their cities collapse? Good question, one that we will never know. I would wager it is a combination of overpopulation, lack of resources, climate change, and cultural development. What is exciting is that the Maya are beginning again to resuse many of their historic and traditional temples.

    • Lake Atitlan 8:22 pm on March 18, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      You are right that the Maya are alive and well. Some are even prospering around Panajachel.

  • hardie karges 2:41 pm on February 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Guatemala, Lake Atitlan, Mayan Indian   


    Back in the old days Guatemala was THE place to hang north of the Darien Strait, beautiful and cheap, the winning combination back then before my DNA started demanding a bigger gene pool to swim in.  The first time I was there, c.1977, the earthquake had just been cleaned up and people had forgotten that there was still a civil war to fight.  International hippies still slept on the beach and paraded through town in the evening playing guitars for tips.  Very HIPPIE.  Some buds and I rented the house over the hot springs in 1981, from which I launched my handicraft-import business, which still sputs and sputters to this day.  Perched above Lake Atitlan at 5000 feet and ringed by volcanoes, in a land inhabited by some of the most beautiful and peaceful people in the world, the scenery was incredible.  I can still see it in my mind’s eye to this day.  Then one day a body was found tossed down the ravine along the road back to town.  The civil war was on, and all bets were off.  Within two years the country was in a shambles and Panajachel, formerly dubbed ‘Gringotenango’ because of the number of tourists and travelers there, was devoid, at least until the handicraft business really took off.  I hadn’t been there in over ten years, until I went back last year.  It’s better.     

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