Culture and traditions

Typical costumes of Guatemala

The traditional clothes of Guatemala stand out for being the most colorful in all of America. The traditions surrounding the typical clothing of the Guatemalan people are greatly influenced by its history. Here we present the main costumes and designs.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Departments of Alta and Baja Verapaz

Within the Department of Alta Verapaz, the area of ​​Cobán stands out, in which the huipiles used by women differ from those of other departments because they are shorter, and are made of a more delicate fabric. They are known by the name of kembilz or pikbil.

The huipil is adorned with varied figures, including the tobacco blanket. It represents beauty, purity and, ultimately, the women's demure through representative drawings of nature and a cut that symbolizes the sky, the darkness and the four carinal points.

The huipil is accompanied by a wide skirt or traditional cut that is usually dark blue, thanks to which a combination that attracts attention is achieved by the contrast between the colors and the texture of the skirt and the huipil.

Under the skirt, it is common for the woman seen with a petticoat (female undergarment) green, although there are also white or red, decorated with wide or small stripes. Married women use a wool headdress known as tupui or tupuy, which symbolizes the coral snake, considered messenger of the gods.

Representative drawings of nature in traditional costumes of Guatemala

In addition, indigenous women in this area of ​​Guatemala wear necklaces and silver rings called jackals, which are a symbol of wealth, so the woman wearing it does so with great pride. The rings are decorated with little birds, spheres, wild animals … and the necklaces are usually made with old coins and end in a cross called cuansh.

On the other hand, in Baja Verapaz, the girdles that women use during the holidays stand out, which are adorned with zigzag motifs. In its day to day, it is one of the few Guatemalan communities where women do not use a girdle to hold the cut, but the ends twist and get inside it. The huipil in this case is a single canvas, with a round neck and no opening for the head.

Chimaltenango Department

During the patron feast of this department it is especially frequent to see that Chimalteca women tend to dress with a huipil characterized by their wide red stripes to frame the shoulders. They are stripes of geometric designs alternated with drawings of animals and sections of multicolored lines.

Although today the use of the traditional costume is being lost and is only usually seen in the elderly, below we list the characteristics of it for men and women:

  • The huipil of Chimaltec women also stands out for its V-neck or square neckline made of black velvet at the edges. The skirt, on the other hand, also includes numerous colors and is usually very long, which is why it is usually wrapped around the waist. They are held with a red sash.
  • As for men, they usually wear a simpler clothing. This is usually a combination of white pants and shirt, with a blue or black jacket, and a white or black kneepad that hangs from the waist by means of a red sash.

The suit of the new generations is the result of a combination of fabrics and a multitude of colors. This is the reason why it is usual to see Chimaltec women dressed in skirts made with typical pleated fabrics at knee height. Instead of using huipil, the most common thing nowadays is to wear a colored blouse, usually adorned with different lace or embroidery.

Typical prints of Chimaltenango

In the municipality of San Juan de Comalapa, the so-called overpriced It is the most traditional dress, as it is the garment that is worn during ceremonial parties. This one stands out for being divided into the following parts:

  • Creya: red, it is at shoulder height and in it various motifs alternate (geometric, animal …).
  • Upper strip: in her figures of eagles are recognized, a symbol of the dualistic character of the Chimaltec worldview.
  • Lower strip: includes a feline, animal associated with the underworld.

If these three parts are observed in its entirety, three designs are appreciated that are associated with the three strata of the cosmos according to the culture of this department: heaven, underworld and earth. The blue background with white stripes represents the sky (blue color) together with the purity of the comalapenses lands (white color).

Huehuetenango Department

Huehuetenango is a Guatemalan department that is located in the northwestern region of the country. Of this area, the suits of the municipalities of San Rafael Petzal and those of San Ildefonso Ixtahuacán stand out, whose cuts are almost identical.

In the case of Ixtahuacán, women usually dress with a huipil, as in the rest of Guatemalan departments. Here the huipil is characterized by including silk embroidery and its wide square neck. Of course, the characteristic geometric designs and the stripes of varied colors are not lacking.

The process of making these huipiles is long and requires a lot of dedication by the weavers. Thus, the canvases are woven in stick loom and are joined through small stripes of colors. Tubular cuts are also woven in a stick loom, which is characterized by the following:

  • It is an instrument used to make traditional Mayan fabrics.
  • It consists of four or more sticks held by threads.
Woman weaving on sticks loom (Guatemala)
  • When knitting, it is necessary to tie one end to a post, column or even a tree with a rope, while the other is attached to the weaver's waist.
  • The purpose of being attached to the weaver's waist is because this can move to tension or loosen the loom.
  • The greatest difficulty is that the resulting pieces always have a certain width, so you must use several pieces joined together to give the desired size.
  • This way of sewing allows the weaver to make a design totally open to her imagination, so the resulting garment can give clues about its regional origin, social position, etc.

Currently, most indigenous communities in Guatemala continue to use the stick loom to make their clothes.

Quetzaltenango Department

The Department of Quetzaltenango is the second largest capital of Guatemala. Known as Xela or Xelaju, is famous among other things for his song "Luna de Xelajú" and "Ferrocarril de los Altos", by Domingo Betancurt (musician of Guatemalan origin).

One of the most characteristic clothes of this department is the huipil, a garment used by women, composed of the traditional colors of the department, that is, red, yellow and violet. It usually also contains designs of birds, flowers, stars, etc. They are usually made with three canvases made on a loom. The neck of the huipil is characterized by its floral and animal prints diverse.

Bird prints typical of the Guatemalan huipil

On the other hand, the woman usually dresses with a cut or skirt that is gathered at the waist. It is a narrow sash, made of natural black and white wool. They also usually wear a perraje (fine cotton or silk blanket) composed of several intense colors in which marbled threads alternate whose design reminds of the tips of the arrows or nibs.

In ancient times, the typical costume of this department was that of municipality of El Palmar. It was a suit of Momosteco origin and humble appearance for both men and women. In the case of man, it was characterized by wearing a black round-top hat. They also wore a white long-sleeved shirt and a red band tied at the waist that made them the role of belt to hold their pants.

Department of Sacatepéquez

Within the Department of Sacatepéquez, the municipality of San Antonio Aguas Calientes stands out, located very close to the city of Antigua Guatemala. This community is famous for the high quality of its fabrics, where huipiles are easily identifiable.

Suchiteco huipil is characterized because its design can be seen whether the garment is the right or the reverse. Its brocade design has been going through several phases since its origins. Thus, while formerly it was geometric designs, currently those based on flowers and animals (especially birds) stand out.

At the bottom, women use a cut, that is, a flat piece of marbled fabric that is manually made on a standing loom and acts as a skirt. It is wrapped around the waist and fastened to it by a generally red girdle.

Also highlights Santo Domingo Xenacoj, a population founded by the indigenous groups of Sacatepéquez before the conquest. During their popular festivities, which take place in early August, women make the traditional costume of this party with cotton. It consists of a very bright red embroidery huipil and a blue or black cut with vertical lines.

Sacatepéquez typical costume

Sololá Department

Sololá is a department that is 2,100 m above sea level from which you can see wonderful views of one of the main lakes of Central America: Lake Atitlan. In this area of ​​Guatemala, the traditional costume of both men and women is for daily use.

Thus, the man usually wears a shirt and the woman with the famous huipil. Both have very similar designs, which never lack the sleeves. The pants are made in stick looms with the same textile material as the upper part.

The man uses a very characteristic rectangular garment called knee pad, which is wrapped around the waist and fastened by a girdle. It is also common to wear a bag. It is a type of sack characteristic of hunters, soldiers and pedestrians that is usually hung on the back. It is used to carry supplies, transport some clothes …

The Guatemalan backpack as a souvenir

For its part, it is common for women to make use of a cut that is rolled around the waist. On the head, they usually wear a tzute of cuyuscate or ixcaco, type of cotton whose natural color is brown brown. It is a type of fabric sewn by hand by women, a custom that comes from their Mayan ancestors.

He cuyuscate or ixcaco It is a type of natural cotton whose production is original from Guatemala. It is used since before 1950 for the use of güipiles especially. As mentioned above, it is usual to use it as a female garment to cover the head, but it is also used to, for example, cover food. They can be found in this department of sale to tourists.

Totonicapán Department

In this Guatemalan department, a large part of the local population is dedicated to the production of fabrics that are made in looms. Its production does not only cover the local market, but it is imported to other towns in the national territory.

One of the most used garments of this department is called huipil or güipil, which consists of a wide cotton shirt or tunic that is decorated with typical embroidery. It is a garment worn daily by women belonging to the different indigenous communities of Guatemala, especially for ceremonial occasions.

Woman with typical costume in Momostenango

The woman uses a series of silk ribbons in her hair, which are woven into small looms by means of an upholstery technique that allows you to carefully appreciate the designs on both sides of the fabric.

The different marbled threads are usually dyed with the knotting technique or ikat or ikkat. This technique is used to make the famous patterns that can be seen in the typical costumes of Guatemala. Its main feature is the dyeing of patterns by means of ties that are made on the strands before manufacturing the fabric.

Highlights the costume of the brothers of the Employer's fair of Totonicapán, which takes place between September 24 and 29 in honor of San Miguel de Arcángel. It is a ceremonial costume in which you can see a strong Spanish influence, given its ornaments in silver and embroidery with floral silk motifs. The purple silk scarves stand out, which belong to each brotherhood and denote the high rank of those who use them.

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