If while vacationing at Iberia’s great Mexico resorts in Cancun, on the Riviera Maya, or the island of Cozumel you find yourself in one of the Yucatan’s Maya villages or even just browsing in many gift shops, you’ll see huipiles (also called hipiles). They’re boxy ladies’ cotton tops, either white with colorful embroidery and stitching or in some of the more elaborate versions, complex designs; they can range from sleeveless blouses to tuniclike garments extending most of the way down the legs.
Often made by women with simple “backstrap” looms (a wood-and-cloth contraption tied to a wood post), huipiles can take weeks or even months to weave, depending on its complexity. The craft and designs go back centuries, and the motifs in the designs including not just the merely attractive and decorative (flowers, hummingbirds, butterflies) but reflect a variety of cultural symbolism and traditions. Some, for those who know how to read the language of huipil designs (and that of course includes almost none of us), also refer to the wearers’ village or region, language, marital status, and various other aspects of her life. In that sense it’s a deeply personalized possession, you might say it’s akin to a Mayan Facebook page in cloth (OK, well, I might say that).
As a gringo visitor, of course, the huipiles available to you for purchase will largely stick to the more generalized motifs of Mayan culture. But these are beautiful enough, and few are the souvenirs you could bring back from your Yucatan vacation that are more meaningful and attractive – or make more of a conversation piece – than a Mayan huipil.
Photo | Wikipedia