February 19, 2022

What's the Story Behind the Traje?

What's the Story Behind the Traje?

In Guatemala, the indigenous women wear trajes or outfits that are beautiful, made by hand and representative of the community that they are from. For example, if you see a woman from Santa Catarina Palopo, she is probably wearing a blouse made of blues and greens with embroidered butterflies, birds or animals while a woman from San Antonio Aguascalientes will be seen wearing a blouse with predominantly reds and oranges with a specific geometric pattern.  You may recognize the blouse from Cajola from many of our photos -- it’s red with black and white stripes!

So let’s break down the whole “traje” into it’s parts. First, the top or blouse is called a “huipil” (pronounced wee-peel). Huipil comes from the Náhuatl word “huipilli” which means “my covering.” Technically a huipil can be a short blouse or as long as a dress. It is made of two pieces, a front and a back, and openings are left for the neck and arms. The front and back are sewn together but without much shape. The huipil of Cajola is much simpler than many other towns because the town has historically been poorer, and because the traditional backstrap weaving has been oriented to weaving household goods rather than clothing. The color red stands for blood (representing your lineage, not wounds) as well as the dawn. The women in Cajola often also embroider a decorative edging around the neck or adorn it with sequins. 

 The skirt or “corte” that is worn by the women of Cajola is a dark blue wrap. It is made up of two long pieces of heavy cotton fabric dyed with indigo which are sewn together with what is called a hand embroidered "randa" covering the seams. The randa can be simple or complex and also gives a decorative element to the corte or huipil (the two pieces of fabric are connected with randa). The color of the corte represents the night, the hair of Maya women or the underworld.

A traditional belt or “faja” is what holds everything together! Handwoven in black with white stripes, it represents the Milky Way which is a common theme in many cultures around the world.

The headpiece worn by the women of Cajola represents authority, the authority and strength of women, who give life. Cajola’s headpiece is a backstrap woven length of fabric. It is wrapped around their hair forming a sausage, then tied at one side. The traditional cinta in Cajola is a plain red with small stripes along the edges. But you will often see more elaborate cintas around here and in other towns. 

And finally, there is a traditional “wrap” called a rebozo that can be worn across the shoulders or can be used to carry a baby. It has broad red and white stripes (and of course, is handwoven). The red represents the menstrual cycle and the white the pureness of the newborn. 

Women from Cajola wear their traditional traje frequently, but those who can afford it also invest in more elaborately woven huipiles from other communities. The more elaborately woven blouses can be extremely expensive, but the women wear them for many years, it is like an investment. Everyone is enthusiastic about seeing their own designs on other women. Wearing from different communities, but representing all of Maya people.

If you’re interested in more about huipiles, check out an earlier post, The Other Story of Huipiles. If you find yourself inspired by the pattern of the Cajola red huipiles check out our Mayamam Stripe collection or the Cajola red scarves