Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Huipíl (Blouse)



Huipíl (Blouse)


Maya huipíles, indigenous women’s rectangular blouses, vary from one town to another in Guatemala. Weavers from the town of Chimaltenango, in north-central Guatemala, expresses their ethnicity in very skillfully brocaded pieces, with rows of bold geometric patterns in brilliant colors. They weave the panels of their blouses on backstrap looms.

Though now made from aniline (chemically derived) dyes, the purples and greens are part of an age-old palette of natural colors valued by the Maya and other indigenous peoples. Likewise, the ancient Maya valued greenstones, especially jadeite, above all else. Its color cousin, blue, was applied to ceramics after firing using a mixture of clays and minerals known as Maya Blue. These colors that are rare in nature have remained at the top of the Maya palette over the millennia, despite the massive changes that have taken place in the Americas from the Spanish invasion to globalization.

Geographic Area

Central America, Guatemala, Chimaltenango


Kakchikel Maya


20th–21st century



Credit Line

Gift of Anne Sayre

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

Exhibition Checklist