Since we showcase huipiles on almost every product here at Hiptipico, it definitely deserves its own blog post. We are very honored to share with you a bit more about what a huipil is, how they are traditionally crafted, and their cultural significance here amongst indigenous communities in Guatemala.
A huipil (pronounced wee-peel) is the traditional hand-woven blouse crafted by and worn by indigenous women in Guatemala. Women pair their Huipil with a traditional long fabric skirt called a corte. Indigenous women in Guatemala are known for creating the most fascinating patterns and color combinations in each huipil which are all one-of-a-kind.
The variety of huipiles are endless! Every indigenous region, town and village in Guatemala can be identified by their unique huipil. Each hand-woven pattern belongs to a specific community and is woven on a traditional back-strap loom with great detail and cultural symbolism. The process of weaving a huipil is a long and rather exhaustive process that can take up to four months depending on the weaver and her intricate design.
In some regions, including San Juan la Laguna, the process begins with naturally dying different cotton threads, using plants derived from their surroundings. In other regions, purchasing thread from the market is also common. Upon dying or buying thread, the weaver must organize the threads and spin them neatly into balls using a traditional wooden spindle. This allows the colors to be easily accessible so she can begin making combinations and designing her huipil. At this point, a traditional uridura is used to begin layering the threads in the order needed to transfer them onto the traditional back-strap loom. The weaver must count each loop around the uridora depending on the size of her huipil and the number of colors used in the design. Some of the most beautifully intricate huipiles are hand-woven with a brocade technique creating the decorative symbols on top of the woven blouse.
Huipiles are widely worn by indigenous women in Guatemala; however, they also represent a fashion trend. New styles, woven patterns and imported colors come into play and old huipiles are replaced with new designs. That is why many pieces end up in the textile markets in Guatemala as they are antique, vintage and heavily used huipiles which no longer are desirable by indigenous women. It is common to see stained, worn, and out of date antique huipiles being resold at local Guatemalan markets as an additional source of income for the weaver. With the desire to weave a new, fresh and trendy design, she will sell her used huipil and use the money earned to buy new thread and start designing a new huipil!
We want you to know that when we shop at the textile market we make it a priority to appreciate the origin story of every single textile in order to preserve it!
Here are some of the most unique pieces we have found their story behind them.
The white floral huipil is from Patzite and is handmade with a unique crochet technique. The coral huipil is from Chichicastenango, which is over 100 years old. We chose to preserve these two and keep them in our Permanent Collection, displayed in our office in Panajachel, Guatemala alongside with other unique treasures. Click here to see it
The Colibri (the hummingbird) is a well-known spirit messenger in many native cultures. In Guatemala, there is the legend of the young Maya chief who was protected by a hummingbird and then transformed into a quetzal. Click here to see it
This traditional wheat huipil from Chichicastenango, it is not an antique style, but a newer design coming out of the region these days. You can appreciate in the details what resembles a stalk and leaves. Click here to see it
The creation of a huipil isn't only a creative process where indigenous women put into play their imagination but also an ancestral practice passed on by generations. The huipil is embedded in history and is a cultural artifact rich in colors and patterns making the landscapes of indigenous Guatemala even more vibrant and rich.
Here at Hiptipico, we do our best to sustainably source and treasure unique huipiles since preservation is our top priority. You can view our online huipil museum and notice how much we've invested into curating a collection that will never be cut up, sold, or used for another project. Use the password: HonoringWeavers and click here to gain access to this exclusive collection.
When using huipiles to make bags or accessories our goal is to find used ones that are torn or stained in order to give them a second life. By treasuring traditional huipiles and supporting our collective of artisans not only do you help us provide a stable and constant income but you also help preserve indigenous culture in Guatemala.
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