The little town of Nunkiní, in the southern state of Campeche, has seen the birth of several petate weavers even before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico. In this little town, the name of which means ¨there where the sun is born¨, Magaly Cahum Wicab was born.
Daughter of hammock and hat weavers, she ended up taking a course for the weaving of petates, which she adored, and now, together with other women, her main source of work and income.
We met Magaly on a trip in which we were looking for the master weaver, Maria Olga Kantum Tzeek. Unfortunately, Maria Olga does not weave any more and her health is very delicate. Magaly showed surprising ability and curiosity in introducing new designs to the petates. The day we met her, I was wearing a blouse from San Andrés Larráinzar in Chiapas, and she immediately took out a notebook to draw the design, count, and see if it could be woven in a fiber such as huano, out of which the petates are made. This year we will see if she did get to weave it, among other petates, baskets and hats she will bring.
Huano is a variety of a palm that grows in Campeche. Before the palm stalks open, they are cut and sliced in stripes, two, three or four, depending upon the weaving intended, very fine or not. Then they are dehydrated and treated with sulfur, to bleach the fibers, bunched together and eventually dyed with natural dyes.
This process is the same as with the jipi, the fiber that is used for weaving the very fine Panama hats, which are woven in Bécal, a town close to Nunkiní. The petates, or pop in the maya language, are generally combined in two colors, the natural fiber color, bleached with sulfur, and a pink or light or dark red, all natural dyes. People refer to them in maya as kich kelenpop, which means, ¨beautiful petate¨or ¨painted petate¨. The petates can be made for floors, tables or as table mats, and the weavers also weave baskets, hats and other other elements.
We hope you enjoy Magaly’s work.