Mexico on my Mind

Linda returned this week from further adventures in Mexico, another book in the offing. When you’ve been to a place so many times, you amass quite a collection of stories (and huipils!). Here’s an oldie but a goody from Linda’s travels in Chiapas. Enjoy!


Handmade in Chiapas, Mexico

As Maya huipils go, those from Oxchuc in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico are not my personal favorites. They’re characterized by bold graphic stripes, often crimson on white, with odd embroidered points at the neckline. Chip Morris, author of Maya Threads and A Textile Guide to the Highlands of Chiapas, argued that the points should be described as rays, but to me they looked like jaguar fangs. I think he won that one.

huipils, Chiapas, Mexico
The huipil I bought in Oxchuc, Chiapas, Mexico. Fangs or rays?

What I do love about the one Oxchuc huipil in my random collection is the memory of the very old lady from whom I bought it. It was 2009, and I was on a short trip to Chiapas with Marilyn Murphy (my colleague at ClothRoads) and a few others. We drove up to Oxchuc with Chip and stopped in a little store a few blocks off the main plaza. This was no ordinary store, not the typical tienda. It was devoted to traditional crafts. Handmade musical instruments—drums, fiddles, harps; leather goods; hand-braided straw hats; twined maguey-fiber bags. And clothing. Women’s huipils, men’s shirts and trousers. All handwoven on backstrap looms. I think you could go back a century and find these same things on the shelves of any little village store, but today it’s like time travel.


Oxchuch huipils
Don Manuel Perez Cocon and his wife in their tienda in Oxchuc, Chiapas. Photograph by Alfredo Martinez, from A Textile Guide to the Highlands of Chiapas by Chip Morris.

Out behind the shop, even more wonders. The winding path through the garden and into a wooden shelter took you through a homemade folk museum. There were sculptures of grotesque little creatures, farmstead goods such as grinding stones so old as to seem like fossils, ceremonial objects open to conjecture. Magical. The proprietor, Don Manuel Perez Cocon, was 93 at the time, and blind. His tiny old wife ran the shop with vigor and discipline. A young grandson or great-grandson translated between our Spanish and their Tzeltal and manned the calculator. She was so in charge, so protective of her husband, such a strong presence, I had to have a huipil just like hers.

The next time I was in Oxchuc, in 2012, we went to the tienda straightaway. It was closed. She had died just two days before. I had never even learned her name. I don’t know if the family has carried on with the shop or the museum—hard to think that they would have. But when I get my huipil out and admire the precise craftsmanship and the ferocity of the neckline, it all comes back.

—Linda Ligon

Discover more magic from Chiapas, Mexico, these books by William Morris, Jr. 



5 thoughts on “Mexico on my Mind

  1. Leslie says:

    In the interest of accuracy, it should be mentioned that the photo of the truck is not part of the Chiapas story. That photograph was taken at the studio of Porfirio Gutíerrez in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca. The naturally dyed yarns drying on the truck are the work of Juana Gutíerrez and her husband Antoño Lazo. They are master artists. Thrums publishes beautiful books and educates many readers through them. Crediting the people who made the image possible is an important part of that process.

    • Karen Brock says:

      Yes indeed, the truck photo made possible by Thrums photographer Joe Coca, was taken in Oaxaca–part of Linda’s most recent trip to document the natural dyeing work there. Much, much more about this family of dyers and natural dyeing in Oaxaca in a forthcoming book.

  2. Mary Anne Wise says:

    Sometimes we only get the one shot! thanks for bringing it to life so we could “visit it,” too.

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