Thursday, February 3, 2011

Culture: Guatemalan Tribes Wear History Well

Today in Class Dr. Dujovny described how Bengali clothing in Northern India became an identity marker in the wake of political unrest. This got me thinking about all of the rich meaning imbued in traditional Mayan dress in Guatemala, a country known for its exquisite textile tradition. Recently, the Los Angeles Times featured an article on just this topic:

Culture: Guatemalan Tribes Wear History Well : What comes off the backstrap looms in rural villages is more than folk art to these indians.
Check it out!

Although this article touches on just about every aspect of today's lecture, its main focus is the ways in which politics and history drive identity expressions through traditional dress in Guatemala. For instance, the article states:

"Although denying that the army wants to destroy the use of Mayan language and dress, Duran told The Times that "we cannot have one nation inside another nation. We are trying to create a country where the people identify themselves as Guatemalan, not Mayan."

Sound familiar? It goes on to state:

While anthropologists and historians are not in complete agreement, the consensus is that the [colonial] white invaders either created or encouraged the weaving of distinct colors and patterns for each tribe and region in Guatemala as a form of identification and control.

The idea was to make it easy for the Spaniards to see and identify any Indian in order to ensure he was working and living where ordered. It also served what American anthropologist Sheldon Annis describes in his book "God and Production in a Guatemalan Town" as a means to "create a new class of being . . . an identifiable work force, tribute payers, potential soldiers and the usually pliant objects . . . of the conquerors." It was nothing less than the creation of a caste society...

Even though the policy on language has changed, to a large degree that colonialist approach is in place today, even to the point that members of military intelligence are still taught the colors and patterns of traje [clothing] in order to keep track of Indians.

[The photo comes from:]

No comments:

Post a Comment