Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas (Paperback)

A Woven History of Chiapas

By Walter F. Morris Jr, Carol Karasik, Janet Schwartz (Photographer)

Thrums, LLC, 9780983886068, 224pp.

Publication Date: February 28, 2015



Through the pages of this incredibly-researched history and photo gallery, the world of the Maya lives on through the lens of its culture and costume, still seen today in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. In a region battered by centuries of invasions, subjugations, civil wars, and severe economic hardship, the Maya continue to celebrate and sustain their heritage in extraordinary traditional dress and festivals that are both riotous and sacred. Their ever-evolving, colorful, beautifully-handcrafted dress features exquisite gauze fabrics that trace their origins from the 9th century AD to a present-day lowland village; festival wear that blends Roman Catholicism and paganism, reverence and mockery; gloriously brocaded and embroidered wardrobes that tie communities together; and embroidery techniques that reflect displacements and migrations in other words, fabrics that trace the history and evolution of a people. Two Maya experts and a photographer painstakingly record the remnants of influence from the Aztecs, Spanish conquistadors, Catholic missionaries, and the unseen gods and spirits that guide Maya culture today.

About the Author

Walter F. Morris, Jr. became a deep expert in the textiles and culture of the Highlands after traveling to Chiapas as a tourist in 1972. His fluency in Tzotzil and his extensive time in Maya villages have given him unique insights into the history and symbolism of Maya textiles. He is a founder of Sna Jolobil, a weaving collective based in San Cristobal, which both supports weavers and fosters excellence in native textile arts. He received a MacArthur Award in 1983 for his work in textile symbology in Chiapas. Carol Karasik is a writer and editor who has been studying ancient astronomical alignments at Palenque. She is the author of The Drum Wars: A Modern Maya Story and The Turquoise Trail. Janet Schwartz is a native New Yorker who came to Chiapas in 1978 on a Fulbright Scholarship to study the Bonampak murals. She has gone on to become a clothing designer, a tour guide, and ultimately a journalist/photographer with thousands of bylines to her credit. They all live in San Cristobal, Chiapas (Mexico)."

Praise For Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas

What a truly great and beautiful book! Chip Morris and Carol Karasik have told me all sorts of things that I didn't know about the Highland Maya. The whole book is a publishing masterpiece.”
--Dr. Michael Coe, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Yale University, and Curator Emeritus of the Anthropology Collection of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Harvard University.

“Walter F. Morris, Jr. speaks with a voice of authority derived from his thirty years of experience working with Maya textile artists in Chiapas, Mexico. His coauthor, Carol Karasik, brings her own experience of the country and its people and an accessible writing style to the book, and Janet Schwartz’s beautiful images speak their own language about Maya clothing in bright detail.
Maya Threads covers the clothing and customs of Chiapas from ancient to present times, and the changes that have occurred as new materials and influences have affected the culture.”
--Margot Blum Schevill, co-author of Maya Textiles of Guatemala

“Contemporary indigenous dress in Chiapas is a fascinating amalgam of pre-Hispanic Maya traditions and influences from the modern market economy, filtered by the creativity of the people who make and wear it. The authors [of this book] lovingly describe how and why it changed from then to now, based on long-time familiarity with Chiapas as well as new field work and interviews. Together with the gorgeous photographs, there is significantly more detail on the subject here than ever before, in some cases with the exact year and innovator identified. It is warmly recommended to travelers and scholars alike.”
--Ann Pollard Rowe, author of A Century of Change in Guatemalan Textiles, and Research Associate of Western Hemisphere Textiles at the Textile Museum