Thinking of Guatemala

Tomorrow, Thrums Books’ photographer Joe Coca and I are flying to Guatemala where we’ll wend our way to rainy Panajachel. Yes, we’re working on another book! It’s hard to keep track, isn’t it? Morocco, China, the Navajo Nation, Guatemala. We’re covering all the textile bases.

For this month’s featured textile museum it seemed fitting, given our locale, to highlight the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena (Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Dress) in Guatemala City. I first learned of this museum through Deborah Chandler and Teresa Cordon’s book Traditional Weavers of Guatemala, where they cite it as an important supportive organization for traditional Maya textiles and also a place where some of the weavers featured in the book are able to sell their work.


Museo Ixchel is a private, non-profit whose goal is to “collect, preserve, document, rescue, exhibit and educate around the indigenous Guatemalan textile tradition, highlighting its cultural, technical, and artistic value.”


The museum has an amazing collection highlighting the work from the indigenous communities of Guatemala. It includes almost 8,000 pieces dating from the end of the 19th Century to today. The items, primarily textiles, originate from 147 towns and 34 villages; 181 communities are represented. The main collection consists of a variety of everyday and ceremonial items: huipils, skirts, shawls, cintas and tocoyales (ribbons and bands for the head), jackets, capes, tablecloths, blankets, pañitos ceremoniales (ceremonial cloths), and much more.

Ceremonial huipil from San Martin Jilotepeque, 1920. From the collection of the Museo Ixchel.

Education & Exhibitions

Museo Ixchel offers a variety of classes for children and adults alike to inspire enthusiasm about the culture and the techniques related to traditional Guatemalan textiles–everything from backstrap weaving for elementary school students to embroidery workshops for university students. Related to the educational activities are the permanent exhibitions that show the evolution of Guatemalan textile traditions from pre-Hispanic times to the present. Additional rotating exhibitions feature specific aspects of the general collection.

Hand-embroidered ceremonial Pants from San Cristóbal Totonicapán, 1920. From the collection of the Museo Ixchel.

You can support the important work of the Museo Ixchel del Traje through the “Friends of the Ixchel Museum” which is a U.S. charitable foundation dedicated to supporting the Maya textile traditions of Guatemala and the work of the Museo Ixchel. It’s a crucial time for honoring these centuries-old traditions, and the museum would love your support.

Off to pack,

All photos courtesy of the Museo Ixchel

*** And thank you all so much for the terrific title suggestions you sent last week, and especially for the support and enthusiasm for Susan Schaefer Davis’s forthcoming book on Women Artisans of Morocco. (All will be revealed soon.)

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