There are few places left in the world where the clothes people wear are the clothes they weave. The Mayan highlands of Chiapas, Mexico are one of these rare places. Their weaving is gorgeous, without question some of the most exquisite traditional weaving in the world. These Mayan weavers are the descendants of the great Mayan civilizations that ruled the Chiapan highlands and southern jungles 1,500 years ago.
The Tzotzil-speaking town of San Andrés Larráinzar has one of the oldest and most stable weaving traditions in the Chiapas Highlands - Sna Jolobil. Sna Jolobil means "The Weaver's House" in tzotzil (a Mayan language).
The main motifs of San Andrés, especially the grand design and the toad, are reminiscent of the patterns used by the Ancient Maya of 300-900 A.D. in lowland Chiapas. As members of the Chiapas weaver's cooperative, Sna Jolobil, the women of San Andrés collect and study old textiles and give classes in the ancient art of natural dyes.
Like the Tzatzil-speaking weavers of old, the women of San Andrés are leaders in the revival of a Chiapas backstrap loom technique known as "brocade." The designs are woven into the cloth itself. Many of these brocaded designs survive from pre-colombian times; they portray the saints, gods, and animals who protect the growth of corn and the fertility of the earth and symbolize the Mayan vision of the cosmos. Women who devote their lives to brocade and achieve mastery of its complicated techniques and symbolism are greatly admired in their communities
Sna Jolobil is one of the oldest cooperative organizations in Mesoamerica. It is one of the longest lasting and most successful artisan cooperatives in Latin America, now in its third decade and encompassing more than 800 weavers from 20 communities. The main objective of Sna Jolobil is to preserve and revitalize Mayan art by encouraging its members to study and recreate ancient textiles, natural dying methods for wool and cotton, and ancestral weaving techniques. Each piece is an origiral creation with its own value, impregnated with the sensibility, wisdom and respect with which each artist composes the designs and symbols inherited from their elders.
Featured in the landmark book “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art” is the founder of Sna Jolobil, María Meza Girón. Feria Maestros del Arte is indeed fortunate to have several members of this cooperative at this year’s show. They will be selling Chiapan textiles - bedcovers, blouses, mats, tablecloths, pillow covers, and other indigenous textile creations. These are considered some of the best quality textiles in the world.
To watch a video of Sna Jolobil at Feria Maestros del Arte, just click here.