Textile Hunting in the Ixil Triangle

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The Ixil Triangle is a term used to refer to 3 towns in the Western Highlands of the Quiché department in Guatemala: Nebaj, Cotzal and Chajul. The worst crimes and fighting during the civil war took place here. It’s not so easy to get here– and perhaps as a result, it retains an isolated, traditional vibe. These towns are fiercly proud of their Mayan heritage and their clothing reflects this. In Nebaj, almost all the women wear a burgundy or cardinal red corte. The huipiles are heavily embroidered, often with green and wine colored yarns. Chajul is known for the use of rainbow colored pom poms on the head and around the waist; Cotzal is famous for their production of the natural fiber maguey.

 

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The “red skirt uniform” of Nebaj is striking. The solid color of the corte is slimming and bold; it stands in contrast to the multicolored, jaspe fabric that you most often see women wearing across Guatemala. With their dark hair and red skirts, the women of Nebaj exude an elegance that even Anna Wintour would notice. I divided my time between admiring the new (red) and old (burgundy) corte that flooded the market, and browsing the goods of the artisans market.

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I combined my visit to Cotzal & Chajul in one day, stopping first at a Chajulese weaving cooperative. I have a particular love for the Chajulese pom poms, and when I told the ladies, they insisted on showing me how they styled their hair:

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The market of Chajul is excellent for textiles and unlike most markets in Guatemala, there’s space to breathe. It’s the perfect size: not too big, not too small, very airy, and full of quality goods. Not to mention- it’s an incredible place to people-watch: no tourists, just fabulously adorned locals.

Cotzal is similar in size to Chajul. I missed the market day, but I spent hours admiring the innovative and beautiful work of yet another weaving cooperative. It was my first time seeing the use of maguey in weavings and I was impressed by their craftsmanship.

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Many hours later– with my wallet empty and with bags full of treasures– I made my way to finca Mil Amores in the small village of Acul. People often come here for the local cheese–but I think the real draw to coming here is the landscape. Acul feels like a cross between the Swiss Alps and Jurassic Park: the hills were very much alive with the sounds of birds and tropical plants. And at night, an unbeatable sky full of silent, shooting stars.

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Shopping: Be sure to visit on market days: Thursday (Nebaj), Friday (Chajul) & Saturday (Cotzal). In addition, visit the artisan market in Nebaj, the Asociación de la Mujer Maya Ixil cooperative in Chajul and the COPIMARI cooperative in Cotzal.

Sleeping in Acul: Mil Amores (502) 3072-9878 or Finca San Antonio (502) 5702- 1907

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