Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Textiles in Daily Life: Proceedings of the Third Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–26, 1992 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1993).


Copyright © 1992 by the author(s).


This video/presentation focuses on the active participation of women in the development process in Guatemala. Development is viewed as a larger process of socio-economic change that takes into consideration issues of self-determination and selfreliance (Joy and Ross, 1989). Modernization theorists generally assume that there is a general improvement in women's participation and status due to urbanization and capitalist development (Quinn, 1977) while dependency theorists emphasize the detrimental effects of the development process on women. In this video we provide a context for examining the causes and conditions that allow for the participation of women (Nash, 1981).

For more than a decade, war and clashing ideologies have left deep scars in the rural communities in Guatemala. According to Smith and Boyer (1987:206) "hundreds of villages have been eliminated, and thousands of people have been tortured and killed." Consequently, many Maya women have been socially and economically displaced. In this video the focus is on these displaced women weavers and their cooperative efforts to forge a livelihood through transformations of their traditional textiles. The footage documents the lives and efforts made by these weavers to become self-reliant through their work (weaving) while also examining the long-term and strategic issues that will draw them not only into the regional and national markets but also into the international arena.

The harsh realities of eking out a living based on weaving have necessitated a shift in attitudes and behavior regarding the products that Maya weavers create. Historically, handcrafts were produced in order to fulfil functional and ceremonial needs within the craftsperson1s community. Textiles have served as deeply rooted indexical codes of social status and differentiation as represented by the use of "Huipiles" in highland Guatemala (Schneider, 1987). Indigenous demand for such products, however, has declined given the penetration of mass produced items to even the remote villages and political chaos, such that local weavers have had to seek out new markets in order to survive. But such transformations in economic production have occurred at a cost. Producers know local aesthetic and product preferences but are at a disadvantage when their products have to be tailored to consumers from other cultures.