Lately, there has been a lot of controversy about the traditional huipil (pictured) and foreigners appropriating the Maya culture. Many foreigners come to Guatemala and wear full huipiles or cut them up to make bags, shoes, accessories. Even us, at Hiptipico do the same. Recently, attention has been brought to this subject as female weavers are not receiving fair wages or proper credit for their design.
Living here in rural Guatemala for the past 6 years allows me to gain direct insight into this topic. I am able to talk directly to weavers and producer here in Guatemala.
One, I will start by saying that most of the women I speak with are completely honored that someone from another country would want to wear their traditional clothing. They are proud of their designs and happy to have someone else wearing a huipil!
Two, many people are living day to day and don’t know when the next sale will come. So, they will lower their prices for tourists or foreigners when they really need cash. I personally have a problem with buyers coming in without any cultural understanding and purchasing huipiles or products having no idea who made them, how much the labor cost or the cultural significance of the embroidery.
Three, I also find it disheartening when brands call themselves “designers” when they are actually using traditional patterns belonging to a weaver. If you are using a repurposed huipil, the weaver is the “designer” and owns all intellectual property.
And finally, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is not a foreigner problem. Guatemalans themselves are taking advantage of their own people and as many know - discrimination of indigenous people has been rampant for centuries. This continues on to the exploitation of weavers. There are Guatemalan runnings factories reproducing huipiles with machines and even screen printing traditional designs.
So you know, since Hiptipico’s inception, I have never called myself a designer and have always given direct credit to the women we work with. I also host buying and sourcing trips in Guatemala to link up other buyers who want to go about sourcing from Guatemala in an ethical manner. I want to make sure indigenous artisans have access to the global market while also receiving proper recognition and fair wages. Everything I have learned with Hiptipico, will go right back into the community.
I’m sure you can also imagine, the personal huipil collection I have acquired over the past 6 years. I have preserved some of the most unique designs to keep intact and not to be used for other production. I just recently decided to share these treasures with the right people. Those who want to touch and see the beauty of the traditional embroidery and feel a direct connection to a Maya weaver. You can click here to just browse or even shop my personal huipil collection. Each piece has been previously worn by a Maya woman, is “pre-loved” and carries a long history. I paid a fair wage for each blouse and profits from these sales will be reinvested into creating sustainable jobs for the Hiptipico artisan community.
Stay thoughtful. Be conscious.
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