A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala
Every five years or so, I get that itch to move. Although it’s only been three years since I settled in New England, I’ve come to the realization that long, cold winters are getting tougher to tolerate. I yearn for warmth, color, texture—an environment that is both exotic and that bears the history of my Spanish ancestors.
Serendipitously, Thrums Books contacted me to see if I would be interested to review A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala by Deborah Chandler My immediate response was yes. At the moment I might not be able to travel (you know, responsibilities), but I can dream and maybe plan for when that moving itch needs to be scratched.
Full disclosure: I love travel guides. When I lived in Prague in the mid-1990s, I collected several travel guides for the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Poland. Travel guides provide you with practical information such as a mini geography, history, and language lessons, social customs, taboos and the usual suggestions of what to see, where to dine, and sleep. These guides often spur travelers to dig deeper. For me, it was reading about the early 20th century history and politics of Central Europe.
Unlike those hefty travel guides I collected, A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala is only 132 pages. Yet nearly every page jumps out at you with stunning, vibrant photography. Chandler, who resides in Guatemala City, is the creator and director of Weaving Futures, where she works with many Mayan weavers. Apart from her textile work, she leads cultural tours to communities in the Guatemalan Highlands, with a focus on indigenous artisans and their work. She is also the author of Learning to Weave and Traditional Weavers of Guatemala.
Her unique guide book serves as a wonderful resource of not only what museums to visit, but discovering the artisans, shops and markets that are dedicated to textile traditions. The book is laid out by geography. Each section names the department (province), the capital and the towns along with the language group (there are 22 Maya languages). She provides information regarding market days, the patron saint, and the date of the annual celebration—an important event in every department.
Right from the get go Chandler provides readers and prospective travelers, with a newfound interest in traditional textiles, statistics about the number of weavers and embroiders within the country (more than half a million); the different kinds of looms each with their special functions (six). You get the sense that strolling through the various markets can be overwhelming to the senses with the abundance of products. Chandler notes in her introduction that competition among the textile vendors can be cutthroat.
Apart from all the listings of where to visit, eat or stay, Chandler also includes sidebars and essays about culture such as the ongoing controvery of cultural appropriation of Maya design in the 21st century to an overview of the different looms used in Guatemala. A section of what other textile marvels you can discover in off the beaten path areas.
Overall, A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala provides a terrific introduction to the country’s textile traditions. If readers and travelers want more information about textile tours, NGOs, Fair trade shopping, suggested readings (textile and general information) Chandler provides a number of resources to flesh out your research before you go visit Guatemala.
To purchase A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Guatemala please visit https://thrumsbooks.com/product/a-textile-travelers-guide-to-guatemala/.