Author Deborah Chandler (Traditional Weavers of Guatemala and A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala) was a recent guest at El Museo Latino in Omaha, Nebraska. She shared with us a little bit about the museum, its current exhibition, and her time there. Thanks, Deborah!
Thirty years ago, Magdalena Garcia was in graduate school at Syracuse University in upstate New York conscious that there were only four museums in the entire United States dedicated to Latino culture. An idea began to germinate: create a Latino focused museum somewhere in the middle of the country. It was a daring idea. Now, Omaha’s El Museo Latino is celebrating 26 years of serving eastern Nebraska and beyond; a showcase of awards won is right inside the front door.
Many of us think that museums are mostly about exhibiting objects, a sometimes-static affair. Some museums have educational programs to augment the exhibits. At El Museo Latino, there are exhibits, but their great strength is offering activities to the community they serve, activities that teach and celebrate Latino culture: folklore dance classes and art and craft projects, highlighting indigenous beauty from many Latin American countries, such as molas from Panama, huichol yarn paintings from Mexico, and more. This summer alone, more than 2,000 children are registered for activities at the museum. Very exciting!
I was invited to come and speak about Guatemalan huipils, the traditional clothing of Maya women. Last week as part of the current exhibition, “Huipiles: Indigenous Textiles from Guatemala.” The museum received a remarkable donation from Ronald Gole, his collection of 140 huipils, of which 34 are currently on display. On Friday evening, I spoke about huipils historically and currently, their evolution and the social/political/cultural factors that have triggered changes. On Saturday, my audience followed me around the gallery as I told them about the huipils in the show, from both cultural and technical perspectives.
Some in the audience were weavers, but most were not. Some were aware of Guatemalan history, but most were not. It was a weekend of learning for all of us—and isn’t that what museums are for?
Thanks to El Museo Latino and Humanities Nebraska for inviting me. The huipil exhibition will be hanging until October 26, 2019, and textile artist Mary Zicafoose will be giving an additional talk and demonstration on jaspe (ikat) on July 18 and 20.
Learn more about the cloth, the people, and the culture of Guatemala in these smart and gorgeous books by Deborah.