Tuesday, October 08, 2013


El Hibiscus Project Mayan Clothing Embroidery and Weaving

Traditional Maya Huipil, Corte and Cinta

At the end of my last post I teased you with a future surprise for textile lovers. Here it is - a visit to the El Hibiscus Project Museum.

El Hibiscus is a lovely restaurant, garden, and museum which showcases the beautiful embroidered and woven textiles of the native Maya people of Guatemala. Not only is there a museum where you can get up close and scrutinize the displays, but in the restaurant area there are huipils (blouses) hanging over all the chair backs! In my 4 years in Guatemala
Guatemalan Hand Embroidered Men's pants
I've never been able to really study the craftsmanship of huipils. That's because they are in cases at the museum in Guatemala City or are actually being worn as clothing by folks so I can't (politely) put my curious eyes too close. When I find them in the market stalls up in the highlands I am overwhelmed with the agressive vendors trying to sell me something and telling me that it's all handmade when I can spot machine embroidery a mile away.

My favorite piece in the museum was this pair of men's pants which are hand embroidered with beautifully detailed birds. It wasn't very light in the museum so the picture just doesn't do it justice. Anyway, the design is on the bottom 12" or so of the pants. I've seen many different characters embroidered on men's pants when traveling in the highlands of Guatemala. I've even found the store where the women can buy the fabric for making pants already stamped with the outlines for embroidery. That's what I'd need.

Maya Huipil hand embroidery around neck edge
Many of the cortes (skirts) featured touches of embroidery as well. The traditional black and white ikat (tie-dying) of the weaving threads is seen in many of the village's designs. In Guatemala, each village traditionally had a favored color and weaving style for their skirt and blouse fabrics which still can be seen today.

Mayan Huipil traditional embroidery
We visited El Hibiscus this week on a day trip away from the hotel life and managing the boat repairs in the yard. David and Terri of s/v Sylvester came along on our adventure. The restaurant and museum plus gardens complex is only about an hour away from the Rio Dulce here by collectivo (crazily overcrowded public van for $1.50 per person) and just outside of the port city of Puerto Barrios. We all managed to get seats in the van on the way out because we picked it up on the first stop of the route. But I gave up my seat to a very young women with a newborn for the last part of the ride and half squatted on one butt-cheek over a wheel well. On the way back we couldn't all be seated - or even find a spot to stand or squat. We even had to ride different vans because only one of us could squeeze in (quite literally) for each van that came along. Jonesy was left for last and ended up riding part of the way hanging on the outside of the van's sliding side door (they conviently had installed an "oh sh*t" bar just for that purpose). No...this wasn't a slow moving van, he was going 50mph down a winding road. "Never again" Jonesy says.
David, Terri and Jonesy at El Hibiscus Restaurant Guatemala

Anyway I digress...because Jonesy needed to get his glasses repaired and we knew where to do that in Puerto Barrios (and he wanted to visit a real McDonald's!) he came along with us and toured the museum too.

In addition to the textiles, there were pottery shards displayed and some rustic weaving and spinning tools.

Yes, I'll be going back again and taking my fiberly friends with me next time. What I have shared on this blog post is just a very small portion

of all the fabulous textiles, arts, crafts and artifacts that are on display. We can spend a good part of the day there studying the textiles, eating traditional Guatemalan foods, exploring the gardens and hanging out in the hammocks...OK?

So scroll down and enjoy the photos below, better yet...come visit me in the Rio Dulce and I'll take you to some amazing places all of which are day trips!

How beautiful and exciting to see these fabrics and designs. Thank you very much for posting!
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