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Santiago Atitlan Dress

The Tzutujil of Santiago Atitlan are some of the best weavers in Guatemala.

A guipil being woven by Concepcion on a back-strap loom. The horizontal lines are added as supplimental weft.
A treadle loom.
A closeup of a corte on a treadle loom.
Embroidering a guipil.
A woman with her rebozo on her shoulder.
Concepcion in a xk'op, guipil and corte. (see below)
A special order for Maria Mendoza.
The Guatemalan 25¢ coin for which Concepcion posed in 1956.

Santiago Atitlan is justifiably famous for it's weaving. Their native dress or "traje" (pronounced "trähe") of the women consists of four main articles of clothing. First there is the blouse or "guipil" (hueepeel), then the skirt or "corte" (court + e). A shawl, or "rebozo" ("re" as in red, "bozo" as in the clown), is usually at hand no matter what the weather. Finally there is the celebrated hair belt or "xk'op"; the pronunciation of which is as bazaar as it looks. It is sort of like "shk-úp" with a weird brake between the "k"and "o".

The women of Santiago utilize both embroidery and supplemental weft in weaving their guipils. The results of both techniques look similar but are actually quite different. As we all know, embroidery is sewn in with needles once the cloth is woven. Supplemental weft is added as the textile is being woven.

Guipils are woven on back-strap looms. Two equal panels are sewn together side-by-side, a neck hole is cut out, then the guipil is embroidered. Finally the sides are stitched together and the guipil is ready to wear.

The corte is woven on a treadle loom and includes ikot. Ikot, to over simplify a very complicated process, is a dyeing technique like tie dying only the tread is dyed before the cloth is woven. I personally think that the corte of Santiago is the finest in all of Guatemala.

In 1956 Concepcion Ajuchan at the age of sixteen, posed for the photograph used in sculpting the face on the Guatemalan twenty-five cent coin. Concepcion's xk'op is twenty four meters long.

"Rebozos" are the all-purpose cloth. They serve all kinds of needs from raincoat to baby-carrier, to shopping bag, to dishrag. They act as padding when carrying things on their head and young woman will coyly hide behind them if a cute young man looks their way.

In fact between the colorful clothing, the vibrant foliage, the enormous volcanoes and the deep blue lake, Santiago has to be one of the most exotic places on earth.

The Tzutujil xk'op (commonly called a "tocoyal" in the rest of Guatemala) is a colorful belt that must be a good twenty meters long. It is wrapped around a woman's head and looks like a very thick brimmed hat with no crown. I find it to be the most exotic aspect of the Santiago traje, though the "Atitecas", as they are called, are anything but mundane looking without them.

The photos on this page was taken in 1999 with my first digital camera, which, while I was impressed with it at the time, turned out to be a 1.5 pixel piece of junk.

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