Object: Shirt

Shirt or Huipil
Chuj Maya
ca. 1945
Materials: Cotton

This shirt, or huipil, from the Sam Noble Museum collection was made by an unknown member of the Chuj Maya community of Guatemala. Chuj is a language belonging to Q’anjobalan-Chujean family of Mayan languages. There are five branches in the Mayan language family, namely, Cholan-Tzeltalan, Huastecan, Q’anjobalan-Chujean, Quichean-Mamean, and Yucatecan. The Chuj language is spoken by many people in Guatemala and Mexico today. In Guatemala, most Chuj live in the department of Huehuetenango. Huehuetenango is one of Guatemala’s largest departments and is located along the Sierra de Los Cuchamatanes mountain range. This shirt is believed to have come from San Mateo Ixtatá, one of the two main Chuj communities in the region.

The huipil is a traditional Mayan garment, usually made of one or two pieces of hand woven cloth that is heavily decorated with embroidery around the neck. The designs used on huipiles are usually specific to the maker’s community and combine elements of Precolumbian and European styles. The influence of modern western-style clothing on traditional Mayan garments can be seen in this huipil’s fabric. Rather than being woven on a traditional backstrap or treadle loom, the fabric for this shirt is commercially produced muslin.

The following video shows a woman using a traditional backstrap loom.

[Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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