Given the decreasing amount of land available to indigenous farmers, many Maya households have sought other means to supplement their income. Many of the men in Maya communities work wage labor jobs in urban areas of Mexico or Guatemala. Some men migrate to the United States and work in agriculture. Women have had a tougher time finding ways to make a monetary contribution to their household’s income. Many now rely on their skills as weavers, seamstresses, potters, and so forth. Craft items such as huipils (blouses), shoulder bags, skirts, belts, or hair ribbons are quite popular with tourists who frequent the Maya ruins and archaeological sites of Mesoamerica.
In order to better market their crafts, many women have joined together to form cooperatives. These cooperatives allow the women to purchase supplies in bulk and at a discount. Furthermore, they can find outlets for their crafts together in order to sell their wares more effectively. And oftentimes these cooperatives give women a social outlet and a forum to discuss their problems and concerns, as well as a source of income.
One cooperative in southern Mexico is Sna Jolobil. Sna Jolobil is one of the oldest cooperative organizations in Mesoamerica. Several of the items in the museum’s collection of textiles were made by members of this cooperative.
This man’s shirt is constructed of cotton and wool and has a V-neck opening that closes with a tie. It was made by Maria Ruiz, a member of the Sna Jolobil cooperative and resident of the community of San Andres Larrainzar in Chiapas, Mexico.
This poncho (or K’u vinik) is also made of cotton and wool. It is open at the sides and closes with two pairs of tasseled ties on each side. This piece was purchased at Sna Jolobil and was made by Petrona Hernandez Arias, a resident of Zinacantan, a village in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.
While the fabric of this huipil was woven by machine, the elaborate embroidery at the neck and sleeves was done by hand. This huipil was purchased at Sna Jolobil and came from a Tsotzil community in Chiapas, Mexico.