Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium (2004)


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


Morrales or net bags are an important man’s accessory in rural Guatemala, and many are made from maguey fibers using the ancient techniques of thigh spinning, and simple looping. Adaptations to these styles probably began when neighboring Mayan and Xinca tribes exchanged ideas as they came in contact with each other in times of trade and conflict. With Spain’s colonization, new tools such as spinning wheels, knitting needles, and looms, along with their uses, were incorporated into bag construction. The sailors who transported these early explorers likely introduced the strap methods of braiding, and knotwork, and with the introduction of horses there became a demand for horse gear, such as saddlebags. One community abandoned their ancestral homeland for the present one, and brought unique bag making skills with them. More recently, missionaries, and international aid workers living in remote communities have introduced new techniques, and styles, while globalization has brought additional products and materials into these same villages. Movement of people as a result of the recent civil war, and economics has also affected morral making. Even a researcher such as myself can influence the production of bags made in the republic. All of these events have transformed morrales, and today besides being looped, bags are woven, knit, crocheted, and linked. From the first people to the present, learn what morrales can reveal about Guatemala’s unique land, its people and their history.