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THE COLORS THAT BIND: DYEING AND NATURAL DYES IN MAYA TEXTILES by KRISTEN MICHELLE LEAHY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the Sponsorship of Dr. Anthony P. Andrews and Dr. Gabrielle Vail Sarasota, Florida February 2012
ii Para Sna Jol obil y Rosa, Sergio Castro, y la s Mayas de Chiapas. El futuro es suyo. "and when you want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." Paulo Coehlo
iii I owe a tremendous debt to everyone who helped me grow and learn these past five years. To Allie, Marisa, Mark and Mark, Mallory, Megan, Amelia a nd Amelia, Adam, Ariel, Mike, Danielle, Roger, Kyra, Anamica, James and Claire, Nick, Katie, Samantha, Sandy, Paula, and Adria. To Zoe, for making distance meaningless. To Mom and Dad, who ran away to Guatemala when I was little, and can be blamed for my sense of wanderlust and obsession with handicrafts from Latin America in my adulthood. To my grandparents, who love and support me in times of plenty and times of strife. To Evan for his amazing translating. To Stephanie for paving the way. Endless gra titude to Tony and Gaby for being such incredible mentors, and Erin and Uzi and Maria for sharing their time and wisdom with me. The encouragement you have afforded me has been the greatest gift. To Charla and Jos for their persistence that aided my Spani sh language skills gracias de mi corazn. And to Concepcon for teaching me to weave. My time was worthwhile because of you.
iv Table of Contents Title page i Dedication ii Acknowledgments iii Table of Content s iv List of Illustrations v Abstract vi Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Chapter 2: History of Maya Textiles and Weaving 7 Chapter 3: Historic Overview of Dyes in Mesoamerica 18 Chapter 4: Natural Dyes of Mesoamerica 29 Chapter 5: Change and Conclusions 42 Bibliography 49
v Illustrations Figure 1 Diagram of a backstrap loom 8 Figure 2 A ceremonial huipil of Santa Maria Magdalenas, Chiapas 9 Figure 3 Yaxchil n lintel 26 depicting rulers Lo rd Itzamnaaj Balam and Lady Kabal Xook 10 Figure 4 Images of goddesses in the Madrid Codex; Madrid 102b, Madrid 102, and Madrid 79 11 Figure 5 Postclassic cloth fragments from Chiapas 13 Figure 6 Brazilwood 31 Figure 7 Ac hiote 32 Figure 8 Barba de Le n 32 Figure 9 Barba de Le n 33 Figure 10 Sakatinta 33 Figure 11 Musgo, moss 34 Figure 12 Ch'a te': hierba amarga 35 Figure 13 Indigofera suffruticosa Miller 36 Figure 14 Coc hineal 38 Figure 15 Caracol prpura 38 Figure 16 shells, dyed threads, and a garment from the purple dye 39
vi THE COLORS THAT BIND: DYEING AND NATURAL DYES IN MAYA TEXTILES Kristen Michelle Leahy ABSTRACT Weaving is an i mportant tradition with cultural significance to the Maya culture. Dyeing, the art of applying organic materials to threads with the intent to produce color, has been neglected in literature about weaving and textiles. This thesis seeks to explore natural dye use in Mesoamerica from prehispanic times until the present, drawing data from the greater Maya region with a particular emphasis on data from Chiapas, Mexico. My research includes descriptions of organic dye materials, instructions for dyeing, and pic tures of the materials and colors produced. My investigation document s the recent effort to promote natural dye use in weaving cooperatives that market folk art to Western consumers. ______________________________ Dr. Anthony P. Andrews ______________ ________________ Dr. Gabrielle Vail Division of Social Sciences
1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ...Los indios hacen de ciertas c scaras y cortezas y hojas rboles que ya ellos conocen y tienen para teir y dar colores a mantas de algodn, que ellos pintan de negro y leonado y verde y azul y amarillo y colorado o rojo, tan viva s y subidas cada una que no puede ser ms en perfeccin.... (Gonzalo Fernndez de Oviedo y Valds 1526) 1 The above quote by Spanish historian Gonzalo Fernndez de Oviedo y Valds shows admiration for the the intricate clothing of the Maya, including the wide range of color produced in cloth. The wonder conveyed by Gonzalo's words at the Mesoamerican dress evokes the color palate that is still favored by Maya natives to this day. Clothing, especially handmade garments, indicates creativity of the wearer none more so than in the Maya region of Mesoamerica, where some women weave their garments by hand, for themselves and for their families, and increasingly, for a growing commercial craft market. Clothing displays the bonds of community, as many Maya vil lages have distinct regional dress. Threads are the lifeblood of weaving. You cannot produce a piece of woven cloth without miles of string that have been painstakingly spun from tufty fibers. Clever use of tension, sticks, time, and thread can produce c loth of amazing skill and versatility. A backstrap loom is used to produce textiles in the Maya region. It is a simple 1 know and have for dyeing and making colors for capes of cotton, that they paint with black and tawny and green and blue and yellow and blush or red, so alive and increases (my translation)
2 loom that uses two sticks or bars between which the warps are stretched (see Figure 1). One bar is attached to a fixed object (usually t ied to a pole or tree above the weaver) and the other to the weaver, usually by means of a strap around the back. One weaves by exerting tension by moving back and forth, and using a heddle to create a shed through which a shuttle moves, which creates the weft. The weaving is complete when the weaver can no longer lift the heddle. The weaver ties off the ends to create tassels and cuts the weaving off the loom. The Tzutujil Maya, who live near Lake Atitl n of highland Guatemala, say that a weaving is born! (Prechtel and Carlsen 1988: 130). The backstrap loom is unique in that it is portable, and can be rolled up and tied to a tree or tall post when the weaver wishes to continue weaving. Thread can be made from a variety of materials: cotton and agave fiber s were the primary materials used in prehispanic times; wool was introduced by the Spanish and has become very popular in mountainous regions. The traditional method of producing thread begins by spinning fibers with a spindle, a stick held down with a wei ght called a whorl, or even a ball of clay on the end of the stick. First, the wool is carded (two brushes are run against the other in opposite directions, with the wool in between) so the fibers lie in the same direction and dirt and other impurities are removed. The weaver attaches the fibers to the spindle and spins by twisting the spindle in one continuous direction. The individual fibers twists into one strong thread before it is spun around the spindle. When the rough fibers becomes thread, it is rea dy to be dyed or woven. Dyes are used to color fabric, either before the weaving begins or after it is completed. Natural dyes can be obtained from bark, leaves, plant matter, plants
3 themselves, dirt, clays, and berries. Usually the organic material is b oiled to leech out the juices, and the threads (or garment) are soaked in the juices for an extended period while the color saturation increases with time. This thesis seeks to explore the art of dyeing textiles worn in the Maya region of Mesoamerica, fr om ancient times to the present day. The technique of dyeing threads with natural materials continues to this day and enhances the beauty and value of weavings. Why and how does it continue? This specific intangible heritage provides extra intricacy to the cultural complexity of Maya dress. The following chapters examine different aspects of the Maya artisanal dyeing industry: Chapter Two provides a brief history of Maya culture and textiles produced in the Maya region. I explore the history of weaving in depth, including archaeological discoveries made from Honduras to northern Mexico. I also explore changes to Maya dress from prehispanic times until the present. This includes changes to depictions of Maya dress in prehispanic paintings and carved images s uch as stelae, colonial accounts of Maya dress, and modern threats to traditional dress. Chapter Three examines the history of dyed textiles and natural dyes. It includes a review of Spanish sources, which I summarize in English. My earliest source is fr om 1937 and the latest is from 2009. This will allow the reader to observe the treatment of indigenous dyeing over a seventy year period. I owe a debt of gratitude to museums with textiles collections that attempt to synthesize the Mesoamerican textiles in their collections for providing detailed bodies of knowledge on this subject. Chapter Four provides detailed descriptions of dye producing materials from both
4 Spanish and English sources, as well as a discussion of modern dye use in highland Mexico. Thi s section includes the Latin, English, Spanish, and indigenous names for each plant or organic material used to produce dyes. Chapter Five explores how changes to the art of dyeing have affected the clothing produced. I discuss the role of individuals in the creative process and how cooperatives have become involved in revitalizing the art of producing natural dyes. I explore dyeing as an artisan activity and discuss how it may be classified as folk art. I further explore dyeing as an intangible heritage. In the conclusion, I link these chapters and draw conclusions between historical reports and present day dye production. I include suggestions for alternate ways to approach this material, as well as suggestions for further research directions. Altho ugh there is some overlap in materials and method, I am primarily focused on dyes used for textiles, as opposed to dyes used for paints on monuments or murals. However, I did investigate at length the research on Maya Blue, a pigment used in prehispanic Ma ya murals that has captured the imagination of researchers (Arnold et al 2008; Chiari 2008; Jos Yacamn et al 1996; Littmann 1982 ). One of the mysterious components was long thought to be indigo, which is also used in textile dyes. The meanings of diff erent colors to the Maya is of limited value to this study, where little villages and hamlets are so isolated from one another and likely had different color use patterns from their neighbors. Individual preference and associations with color may be more i mportant than pinning down pan Maya color association patterns. However, Postclassic prehispanic sources document the fact that the cardinal directions
5 are tied to specific colors. East is associated with red, north for white, west to black, south for yell ow, and the center is associated with the color blue green (Sharer and Traxler 2006: 148). Color theory has its place in the study of dyes. I come from a family of people in which artistic inclinations and colorblindness occur together. Different percepti ons of color should not detract from the enjoyment of color perception. When thinking of color associations, the dominate system of color choice of importance to Western society seems to stem from Medieval or Renaissance sumptuary laws which were used to c odify dress and social standing and to prevent the lower class from rising 'above their station. 2 Mesoamerica does not follow this narrative. Our own culture is perhaps is analogous: color choice depends a great deal on individual likes and dislikes, how t he whims of fashion affect public perception, as well as overarching color narratives (see above). The history of natural dyes was drastically impacted by the invention of aniline dyes. The invention of synthetic dyes in Europe in 1856 changed the fashion industry in the Old and New World. Cotton was replacing wool as the preferred material for clothing, so creating a dye strong enough to affect a plant based material was an imperative. A purple dye was discovered quite by accident by chemistry student Wil liam Perkins when synthesizing benzene into aniline. The color production that followed sparked a rivalry between England and Germany that began the Industrial Revolution. Sources disagree about when the rainbow of synthetic dyes replaced natural dyes in M esoamerica; textile 2 In 16 th century Britain, purple was reserved for the elite; therefore, a girl of the 16 th century could not make a dress of purple cloth to trick a higher status gentleman into believing she was a lady and therefore eligible for marriage to him.
6 researchers Robert Carleson and David Wenger (1991) say the early 20th century. But dyes from natural sources are slowly making a comeback in hand woven textiles through the work of cooperatives and small artisan groups. The history of dyeing in Europe affected the dye industry in the Americas. For going to be named Tyrian purple (Travis 1993), after the purple dye obtained from sea snails in the Medite rranean during Roman times. Harkening back to ancient Rome is a carries a certa in message; calling the dye obtained from the purpura pansa World use of a color affects how research is carried out in modern times. The study of dy es combines prehispanic sources, historical trade documents, and indigenous knowledge. Knowledge of botany, chemistry, anthropology, art history, and trade systems contributes to our understanding of this artisanal craft and its survival. The manufacture o f items of clothing serves the basic function of keeping people clothed and warm and protected, and while the garments express the creativity and individuality of the weaver, they also often reflect larger social and cultural patterns of the Maya world. In the following chapter I will examine our increasing awareness of the many dimensions of Maya clothing by reviewing the history of research on the subject.
7 CHAPTER 2 HISTORY OF MAYA TEXTILES AND WEAVING The Maya are the living descendants of a ci vilization that developed in southern Mexico and northern Central America, notable for their large cities with monumental architecture and their artistic and scientific accomplishments, which included a phonetic writing system, a sophisticated calendar bas ed on astronomical observation, and an advanced numbering system. They emerged as a complex society during the last centuries of the first millennium BC, and evolved into the most sophisticated culture on the American continent by AD 700 Following a peri od of long drought and widespread political strife, the cities in the southern Maya lowlands the heartland of Maya culture entered a relatively short period of decline, and most were abandoned by AD 860. Some inhabitants migrated to the cities in the north ern plains of the Yucatn peninsula, but similar processes also led to their decline and political collapse by the 11 th century (Sharer and Traxler 2006: 499 530). When the Spanish arrived in the 16 th century they encountered a much reduced population, mos t of whom were living in smaller and simpler settlements, whose culture still preserved many of the of the features of the past, including their rituals and writing. Efforts by Spanish missionaries to Christianize the people of the New World led to the des truction of much of this culture. The replacement of Maya languages with Spanish, as well as the destruction of written words on foldout books called codices, nearly eradicated the native languages. Despite the ways in which the culture was impacted by the introduction of Spanish culture and Christianity, certain
8 salient features have survived to the present day. Weaving and creating clothes from natural substances is one of those cultural traditions that continues into the present, although it was strongly impacted by the Spanish and the centuries of colonization. History of Maya Textiles and Clothing Weaving, the process of creating cloth by interlacing threads, is a traditional activity dating back thousands of years that continues to be highly valued in Maya culture. Cloth was woven using a backstrap loom (Fig. 1), a portable device controlled by string and tension to produce durable cloth in complex designs. It is capable of producing rectangular cloth with four selvages (finished edges) which makes i t ideal for creating clothing that does not require tailoring. A backstrap loom is versatile enough to produce both cloth thick with intricate embroidery or cloth of the most delicate gauze. In the Maya region of Mexico and Guatemala, weaving on a back str ap loom is mainly practiced by women. The backstrap loom is unique in that it is portable; it can be rolled up when not in use and tied to a tree or tall post when the weaver wishes to continue weaving. Figure 1 Diagram of loom from Schevill (1993:55)
9 Perhaps the most iconic piece of weaving still produced with a backstrap loom in Maya culture is the huipil a simple tunic of two or three woven panels sewn together with holes cut for the arms and head. This design allows for elaborate woven details, leading to complex patterns and styles. The word h uipil is of Nahuatl (Aztec) origin, and preferred by researchers, although words for the garment exist in the Mayan languages (Anawalt 2001; Looper 2000). It is worn almost exclusively by Maya women. Our knowledge of prehispanic clothing is limited to sur viving images of textiles, and a few fragmentary pieces that have been recovered from archaeological contexts. Images of Prehispanic Textiles There are two sources of images of prehispanic cloth and clothing. The first are depictions found on Maya stelae, limestone carvings with ritual significance, and the second are images recorded in prehispanic codices. Figure 2 A ceremonial huipil of Santa Maria Magdalenas, Chiapas, from the Florida Museum of Natural History exhibit Images of the Maya. Photo credit to Jeffery J. Foxx.
10 Stelae limestone rocks carved to depict people and glyphs show images of Maya rulers, commemorate battles, dates of ascension to power, major ritual events, and other royal activities; they also depict rulers as gods. In short, they reaffirm elite power. Therefore, the clothing shown on these monuments may not be indicative of Maya fashion, but should be considered a tool to show the importance of Maya rulers and their power. The depiction of traje the contemporary word for Maya dress, was often elaborate, as the elaborateness of clothing affirmed elite rule. Women are not often pictured on monuments, but when they are, their costumes are very ornate Lady Kabal Xook is depicted on three separate carvings with her husband Itzamnaaj Balam (Bird Jaguar) of Yaxchil n from structure 23 at the site, a building that was dedicated to her (Fig. 3) In each, she is wearing a long dress that appears to be a le ngthened version of a huipil with repetitious floral designs that were probably made with rollout stamps (Looper 2002). On Lintel 26, she has an elaborate border of what appears to be beadwork or lace. Images depicted on stelae suggest that, during the Classic period, cloth was plain Figure 3 Yaxchil n lintel 26 depicting ru lers Lord Itzamnaaj Balam and Lady Kabal Xook Taken from Mesoweb.com. http://www.mesoweb.com/maler/yax.lint el26z.html
11 without brocade, and was left undyed but decorated with rollout stamps, jade pieces, and feathers. We know from historical accounts that threads were spun of cotton and agave fibers. Rollout stamps are tubes of clay or stone carved with designs that repeat as they are rolled across a flat surface. Plain white cloth was woven, and designs were applied with rollout stamps and then decorated with jade beads and feathers (Looper 2000: 6 10). Motifs on clothing tended to reinforce female identity: flowers and aquatic imagery, especially toads, were associated with fertility (Looper 2000: 36 37, citing Morris 1985). Frogs and toads are designs that have links to the past and continue to be used in the present, where they likewise in oads are the Earthlord's musicians whose The stelae show elites, but many of the images in the Maya codices depict female activities being performed by gods. The Madrid Codex depicts several images of goddesses spinning and weaving (Figure 4). In the almanac on Madrid 102b c, the earth goddess Ix Kab is shown spinning and weaving with a backstrap loom. On Madrid 79c, Chak Chel is pictured weaving from a backstrap loom, which i s attached to a tree. She holds a weaving pick in her hand and wears a serpent headdress. Figure 4 Images of goddesses in the Madrid Codex, drawn by Villacorta and Villacorta (1976: 382); Madrid 102b, Madrid 102, and Madri d 79; also available at mayacodices.org.
12 Textile studies by researchers Patricia Anawalt, Rosemary Joyce, Matthew Looper, Mary Ellen Miller, Walter (Chip) Morris, Margot Blum Schevill, and others have result ed in compilations of the attire worn by Maya people in the pre conquest period. Men wore a combination of any of the following: short or long cloaks in square or rectangular shapes; short skirts sometimes worn with a belt; hipcloths; loincloths; open or closed fronted vests to the waist; headdresses; wrist or shin guards; jewelry; slip on padded armor; ceremonial limb encasing costumes; ball game costumes; and sandals. Women wore skirts from the waist to the calves, as a sarong, or over one shoulder; shor t skirts worn over another skirt; upper garments; capes; headdresses; and jewelry (Schevill 1997: 132). Fragments from the Cenote of Sacrifice at Chichen Itza and Chiptic Cave Two well known instances of the recovery of prehispanic cloth from archaeologi cal contexts in the Maya area include those from Chichen Itza and Chiptic Cave. These are only fragments, but have the potential to inform us about the physical structure of the threads, ancient patterns of weaving, and the nature of the colorants used to dye the cloth. The first of these is a collection of textile fragments salvaged from the sacred well of Chichen Itza, a northern Maya city. The limestone well, called a cenote, contains sacrificial offerings from the Classic period and after, and included cloth bundles that were preserved by the water in the sinkhole. They were recovered by Edward Thompson in the early 20 th century, and include more than six hundred fragments, which are now
13 preserved in the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. Because of the nature of the underwater recovery, the objects are without provenance. Attempts to determine if these textiles were dyed have been unsuccessful, owing to the blackening process that occurred during the decomposition (Lothrop 1992: 39 40). However, th e salvaged textiles display a wide variety of styles and techniques, including brocade and slitwork (a technique used to create deliberate holes in the cloth, not unlike lace) (Lothrop 1992: 57 74). The second and more interesting discovery because of its relevance to this study comes from Chiptic Cave in Chiapas, Mexico. The find was a sealed bottle containing charred bones and a collection of three cloth fragments stitched together (Figure 5). The pieces indicate an unprecedented array of color applic ations: regular vat dyes, resist dyes that were possibly applied with wax, and what appear to be complex painted designs. The researcher Irmgard Johnson seems hesitant to date the fragments, but they likely derive from the time of or before the Spanish Con quest (Johnson 1954 citing Wauchope 1942). There are more than a few unknowns about this mysterious piece, but it documents that dyes were in use at least four hundred years ago, and that the Maya could apply color to cloth in three different ways, display ing both painting and dyeing techniques. The Chiptic Figure 5 Postclassic cloth fragments from Chiapas. Image found on Athena Review Archive
14 textiles may be a transitional stage that shows the prominence of dyes after the Spanish Contact. The fragments are currently housed in the Museo Regional de Arqueologa e Historia, in Tuxtla Gutierrez,C hiapas. Colonial Era Changes to Weaving and Dress The Spanish Conquest Traditional Maya clothing changed with the arrival of the Spanish in the early decades of the 16 th century. The original clothing of the Maya was apparently of little interest to the Spanish conquistadors, because they did not describe it in detail (Anawalt 1996: 14). However, because later Maya clothing differs from that depicted in prehispanic sources, researchers know that contact with the Spanish had an effect on textile produc tion. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived, they brought goods and animals to help them colonize New Spain. The introduction of sheep, and thus wool, to Mesoamerica by the 16 th century may have revolutionized dye arts among indigenous cultures. Prior t o the Spanish Conquest, agave ( Agave americana ) and cotton ( Gossypium hirsutum ) were the only available materials for weaving. One of the technical aspects of natural dyes is that they adhere well to animal fibers; thus silk and wool dye more easily than c otton or flax. As a result, dyeing techniques may have expanded and diversified when the Spanish lthough cochineal, indigo, and shell fish purple were accessible as dyestuffs, their chromatic potentialities could not be realized until the post As Schneider and others point out, the availability of wool revolutionized dyeing.
15 Cloth produced on a backstrap loom is limited in width to the weavers' a rmspan. The introduction of the treadle or foot loom in the Colonial period led to the production of large pieces of cloth rapidly, which could be cut to size and tailored to the body (Schevill 1997). To produce the large cloth sizes necessary for skirts, the Spanish introduced treadle or floor looms, which are so large that they are almost exclusively worked by men. Jane Schneider suggests that Spanish introduced wool and large looms In the Guatemalan highlands, wool from Spa nish introduced sheep provided the foundation for a new male weaving style based on the com mercialized treadle loom (Schneider 1987: 429). Wool is also very popular in the mountainous highlands, where it can be cold. Change to Maya clothing was a gendered process. Men interacted with the Spanish more often than women; men engaged in earning money while women tended to remain in the home. Spanish clothing was necessary for business and earning money, so men adopted Spanish style clothing more rapidly in the urban areas. However, in more isolated communities, men continue to wear distinctly Maya clothing. In Zinacantn, Mexico, men still wear the embroidered over tunic with decorative tassels. On feast day s men of Santiago Atitln, Guatemala wear the striped pants with embroidered birds that complement the women's huipiles. Women in many communities have adopted drawstring skirts over the tubular wraparound skirt still worn in some areas. The huipil as a ga conquest dress that exists today includes long and short decorated huipils and wraparound skirts. In Yucatan, the huipils were worn to
16 ish influences on Maya costume were substantial; many Spanish influences introduced occurred in Maya area during the Colonial period following the Spanish conquest and have co ntinued through the period of Independence to present times. Post conquest 130). Contemporary Changes and Traditional Dress Industrialization and commercialization are threatening traditional weaving practices. The textile market is now flooded with machine and factory produced clothing available for purchase by native Maya, who no longer have to make their own clothes. As a result the younger generation often choos es to wear Western clothes rather than traje Fewer women each generation are willing to spend time learning to weave. Weavers that do master the skill have trouble supporting themselves as they often have difficulty selling their work for a living wage. I n recent years, weavers have begun to form cooperatives, or co ops, to sell their handmade textiles to visitors to the Maya region. Cooperatives help set a higher price for the weavers' creations, but they also require a high quality product, be it more co mplex designs or finer materials. Walter (Chip) Morris describes Chiapas cooperative Sna Jolobil's story of success in detail in The Marketing of Mayan Textiles in Highland Chiapas, Mexico (1991). In the 1970s, when Sna Jolobil was first formed, Chiapas wa s not known for tourism, or for the quality of its textiles. To
17 distinguish their wares from lower quality craftsmanship sold to tourists on nearby Guadalupe Street, Sna Jolobil began to use different materials to produce higher quality textiles. The intr oduction of capitalism to Mesoamerica has had an impact not only on the practice of selling weavings, but on the learning process. A long term study by Patricia Marks Greenfield, Weaving Generations Together: Evolving Creativity in the Maya of Chiapas (200 4), which began in the town of Zinacantan in 1970 when the economy was based on subsistence agriculture and continued upon her return in 1991 when it had become partially commercial, followed the weaving choices of the residents of Zinacant n, Chiapas. She found that: The teaching of weaving has turned out to be remarkably responsive to societal changes, notably the movement from agricultural subsistence to an entrepreneurial cash economy. As predicted, we found a definite move ment from highly scaf folded relatively errorless learning, involving a great deal of observation of models (1970), toward a much more independent sort of trial and error learning (1991).... At the same time, and also as predicted, the stock of four carefully defined stri ped and basketweave patterns grew to an infinite number of complex figurative and geometric patterns, with motifs that are constantly changing and being recombined Innovation is not a negative adaptation. In th e case of Zinacant n, change has clothing and revitalization of their cultures are authentic expressions of the Maya, an evolution of living traditions, not frozen in a timeless pattern that is either classic Maya the weaving process, and the practice will continue into the future.
18 CHAPTER 3 HISTORIC OVERVIEW OF DYES IN MESOAMERICA Dyeing is the process of soaking fibers in different materials with the intent to produce colors. Dyeing threads requires a knowledge of local plants, minerals, clays, and other organic materials, an understanding of the botany of the plants themselves, kn owledge of mordants or fixers (so the dye does not fade or run when washed), experience with how much time fibers need to be soaked to produce a specific color, and the ability to determine if the dye will last or run. In short, it is a complex art requiri ng time and patience to learn. Dyes can be applied to threads before they are woven to add color and patterns, or after, to dye the entire garment. Until the mid twentieth century, dyeing in the Maya area relied on knowledge of local organic materials, but chemical synthetic dyes have largely replaced these natural dyes. Within the last sixty years in Mesoamerica, acrylic and chemical dyes have replaced local organic material dyes, the use of which were considered an important form of indigenous knowledge. There is relatively little mention in the literature about textiles that relates specifically to studies of dyes. For example, in an article about textile creation or design symbolism the dye process is generally only considered briefly in a paragraph ab out the colors a weaver might select, rather than being the focus of the piece. Dyeing threads is, nonetheless, vital to the production of textiles and to the study of the process by which they are made. Scholars should consider the materials and compon ents that lead to the creation a piece of cloth, not only the design elements in the
19 final product. The science and the art of dyeing thread adds imagination and creativity to the weaving process. With the exception of pockets of communities in Veresiano C arranza in Chiapas, and the Alta Verapaz, a region of Guatemala, which produce white cloth with white brocade, all other communities use color in their woven textiles. Synthetic dyes were invented in 1856 by English chemistry student William Henry Perkins His first discovery was that the color mauve could be produced from coal waste. The ability to produce and sell coloring agents for textiles revolutionized the study of chemistry, and instigated an industrial revolution between England and Germany (Travi s 1993). Early mention of dyes in relation to Textile Literature: Red, Blue, and Purple Early scholarship on natural dye practices in Mesoamerica includes naturalist (1937) confirming the use of caracol pupura a type of coastal snail, which was used to create purple dyes. The paper detailed the historical exploits of Ernst von Martens, German explorer and naturalist, who discovered its use by the Huave Indians, in 1874 in what is now modern day Oaxaca, Mexico. The dyes were of interest to the European explorer because the purple dye industry had collapsed in Europe, and von Martens had noticed a parallel between ancient Old World use of sea snails to produce purple dyes and a similar practice in the New World. It was assumed there was some connection between the Indians of the New World and the Mediterranean sea snail dye process, which also produced a purple dye. Born apparently did not witness the dye process firsthand or
20 produce new research, but he summarizes von Martens work. His article includes pictures of Huave Indian women wearing purple skirts produced by the dye. Lila O'Neale, who published Textiles of Highland Guatemala in 1945, devotes seven pages to dye practi ces in Guatemala. Cotton, wool, and maguey fibers are dyed to produce color. She studied several highland centers, including Salcaja, San Cristobal Totonicapan, and Momostenango. She pays close attention to the individual families, as each family is equip ped to dye threads; everyone knows this practice. Although some places have replaced natural dyed thread with commercially dyed ones, O'Neale expresses hope that natural dyeing will be commercially viable at a future time. Home dyeing of yarns, in the sen se of preparing yarns for weaving by the family for its members, seems to have been rendered obsolete by the avail ability of commercial yarns, although the practice may well be revived with world markets in their present state. At Concepcion Chiquir ichapa near Quezaltenango I found a family who knew how to dye cotton with indigo. They said they dyed their own blue yarn, a procedure which seems likely in this case since they raised, ginned, and spun their own brown and white cotton. They boug ht yarns of other colors. (O'Neale 1945: 24) Although dye making is an indigenous tradition that has roots in prehispanic times, natural dyes did not become the subject of study until the early 1970s. In his thesis Spanish Red: An Ethnogeographical Study of Cochineal and the Opuntia Cactus, R. A. Donakin (1977) outlines the colorful history of Spanish trade of the red dye cochineal. He gives a thorough background on the dye industries of the Old and New World that were affected by the bright red cochinea l dye. In this account he examines the relationship between insects, color and trade. He also traces the use of cochineal from the Mixtecs, to the Spanish, up to the present day. He concludes by mentioning that cochineal is still being used today as a colo ring agent in foods and cosmetics.
21 In Indian Crafts of Guatemala and El Salvador (1965), Lilly de Jongh Osborne divides the dyes by those used with cotton and those used with wool. She provides a very thorough background of the complex economics of prod ucing threads, for example, the recent the influx of European cotton grown in El Salvador is favored over native cotton are chosen in the first place may be dependent upon something as simple as the excellent natural dyes available in Guatemala and El Salvador, the latter are still used. Esthetically, the results of dyeing with natural dyestuffs are far more pleasing since the Osborne notes the colors associated with the four cardinal directions and says they are associated with gods but goes on to describe every color producible with dye. She discusses cotton dyeing materials first, with some overlap with the wool dyeing materials. The animal, vegetable, and mineral mater ials are given Latin names, and sometimes no colloquial name to more helpfully identify them. Osborne pays particular attention to mordants, describing several at length: Avocado skin is popular, as is the crushed leaves of the tempate ( Jatropha curc as L. Osborne 1965: 42). Shawls dyed black are washed separately in an infusion of rosemary, which is particularly encouraged for new mothers, as it is reputed to give strength after childbirth ( Osborne 1965: 42). She goes on to describe d ip dyeing and ikat or jaspe dyeing, and distinguishes
22 these from tie dyeing. Osborne describes ikat as primarily used in the creation of skirts, or cortes, interestingly she describes it mainly as a masculine occupation. She compares these dye techniques t o their southern Asiatic counterparts, where it is used to produce batik designs (Osborne 1965: 48 49), although ikat or jaspe dyes in Mesoamerica are tied before weaving to produce the desired designs. She treats the subject of dyeing very thoroughly, but her discussion could benefit from some pictures or descriptions of each animal, vegetable, and mineral dye, not just the technique. Several sources mention dyes within the context of their evanescence. In the hemical researcher Gary Ross documents his journey to Oaxaca, Mexico to witness the harvest of the last reported crop of indigo (Ross 1987). Although Ross lacks anthropological training, his article focuses on the past and present use of indigo, while leav ing the future uncertain. In 1982 at the time of Ross's investigation, Mexico was experiencing an intense drought and the indigo plants stopped producing. Also, blue synthetics, which replaced natural dyes based on indigo, were becoming commonplace in Zapo tec weavings. Even as he assisted with the harvest that would allow the dyers to produce for another season, Ross described the situation as dire. Changes to Textiles from 1970 Onward Colorantes Naturales de Mexico by Teresa Castello Yturbide was publis hed in 1988. This text offers descriptions of a rainbow of colors, and the materials used to make them, but not the process to replicate the results. More importantly, it includes information about mordants and fixers. Although it seems to include more inf ormation
23 about the botany of the individual organic dyes, rather than the dye producing process. Further, she describes dyes use as a paint, as well as textile colorant. While synthetic dyes have been available in Europe since the late nineteenth century they took a long time to cross the ocean to the New World. Robert S. Carlsen and David A. Wenger (1991) note that synthetic dyes showed up in Guatemala before 1945, but they did not replace natural dyes completely. Many communities in Mesoamerica did no t have access to the new dyes for some time, but when they did, they adopted them quickly. Huipils started being collected around that time by lay persons. Chiapas, in particular, attempted to boost tourism by promoting folk art and woven items (see the in Maya dress, and details the textile collecting history by non Maya. Handwo ven Guatemalan textiles have begun to be appreciated in other areas of the world, and there is now an avid collector's market, particularly in the United States and Europe. In the late 1970s dealers began selling what seemed to be old, ceremonial textil es to selected clients who were willing to pay premium prices. It was later discovered that these 'rare' pieces were actually reconstructions which had been commissioned by the entrepreneurs. Because they got a relatively good price, skilled weavers put their time into making pieces that looked old instead of fashioning new expressions of their own artistry (Gordon 1992: 36). This article provides a brief history of the changing interest in textiles; antique weavings became collector's items at the b eginning in the 1970s.
24 Recent Literature on Dyes and Dyeing by Virginia Davis (1991) focuses on the practice of resist dyeing in Tenancingo, Mexico State. Davis follows the history and changes to the rebozo a versatile shawl worn by women in many parts of Latin America. The first part of the article details the origins of this garment; the second follows the attempt to document ikat resist dyeing prior to weaving to cr eate patterns. This article does not discuss the types of dyes used, but rather describes a specific technique on a specific garment. It makes little mention of dyeing materials or colors, except for the extremely popular blue and white mottled paloma not mentioned in the article. by Robert S. Carlsen and David A. Wenger (1991) seeks to change the pattern of studies focusing on a specific ma terial or technique by researching dyeing and dyes in textiles. The authors perform a systematic study of dyes used in Guatemalan textiles from ten different museum collections. Unfortunately, all of the textiles were collected at least thirty years after the invention of synthetic dyes in 1856. Carlson and Wenger describe the restrictions on their methodology: In order to optimize the identification of the dyes used in the ethnographic textiles three conditions generally must be met. First, a data ba se comprised of a corpus of well documented textiles must be available. Second, the re searcher must have adequate techniques to conduct dye testing. Finally, data from the dye test must be properly interpreted.... Research has been restricted to text They organize the dyes by color produced (limiting their discussion to purple, blue, and
25 red), and divide their corpus by the type of material (silk, cotton, and wool garments). They also note the impact of synth etic dyes on individual dye use: synthetic indigo replaced indigenous indigo. The next few sources on dyes show a change of approach; rather than focusing on specific dyes that are on the verge of decline, scholars focus on the skills involved in dyeing. The sources that are discussed in the following paragraphs focus on a collection of dye materials that produce a range of colors, rather than the historically famous dyes. These examinations focus on the art of dyeing, not simply on the history of dyes o r their trade. The Florida Museum of Natural History created an exhibit entitled the Maya: Then and Now, which highlighted the creation of textiles. The Docent Manual, published in 1994, provides a brief chart that describes the color and name (in Latin, Spanish, and Tzotzil) of each dye used by the Chiapas weavers' cooperative, Sna Jolobil. The leaves, bark and berries until the Chiapas weavers' society, Sna Jolobil, expe rimented (Docent Manuel 1994: 49). It can be assumed that this information was shown to the public from 1994 1995, indicating that there was a greater awareness of and appr eciation for cooperatives and dyes beginning at that time. Roquero mentions the methodology involved in creating dyes, mordants, and fixers, and the chemical composition of dye s. It also offers a thorough history of the use of dyes in
26 Mesoamerica and the Andes. In 2006, Roquero published her book Tintes de America which expands on this material. Her books are very instructive; a reader could most likely learn to dye cloth solel y from this material. community of Magdelenas, Chiapas. While it draws on the prehispanic past by including pictures of cochineal and caracol dyes used in the Mixtec Codex Nuttall and the Aztec Codex Mendocino, it strikes a balance by also including color photographs of work produced by contemporary indigenous dyers. Of great interest is the inclusion of a indigo being cultivated in Oaxaca. Analysis of Dyestuff on Historical T examines the Regional Museum of Oaxaca's collection of textiles, places textiles in a historical context, and for the first time, mentions orange and yellow dyes Modesto and Sandra Niessen (2005) details the use of dyes within Guatemalan cooperatives, specifically those aimed at non Maya consumers. I n the cooperative studied by Modesto and Niessen, using natural dyes is an effective way to attract consumers of (1996), natural dyes attract consumers due to their u nique shades, their natural sources, 157).
27 Ritual Beaut y: Art of the Ancient Americas (2008) provides a brief but detailed description of the Mesoamerican dyed textile tradition: allowed for year round sources of dyes. Assorted plant dyes produced yellows, tans and rust colors; indigo was processed for blue shades; Brazil wood and Campeche wood offered reds, dark purples and blacks. Animal derived dyes were in use as well: the cochineal insect for reds and the purpura sea snail mol lusk for purples. Mineral dyes were generally used as pigments painted onto woven cloth, enigmatic Maya blue, ochre and hematite among them. Threads were pre dyed before weaving and used as backgrounds coloring or in intricate woven patterns. There was a precise knowledge of the use of mordants, chemical agents that fix dyes. Naturally colored cotton in shades of tan and brown were also developed. It was called coioixcatl in Nahuatl, and today is known as coyuchi or (2006: 92 96). Bon: Tin tes Naturales by dye specialist Ambar Past, of Chiapas, is an instruction manual in Spanish and Tzotzil funded by Mexican textile cooperative Sna Jolobil. It is not organized by color, but rather by plant or material. It provides drawings of each plant, wi th step by step instructions for recreating dyes in Spanish and Tzotzil. The book contains very little information concerning the history of dyeing in Mesoamerica. It was first published in 1989. Conclusions Two of the dyes, cochineal and caracol purpura assumed global importance during the colonial period, during which time they were used for various purposes. Cochineal produces a brilliant red color and caracol purpura an intense violet, and in time became the favored dyes for the Pope's vestments. Ind igo is particularly significant
28 blue walls of the Bonampak structure containing the famous Classic period murals, and many other works of art on both a large and smal l scale (pottery vessels, codices, and other murals). These four dyes are further significant to the historical record because of their trade with Europe and their subsequent commercial impact. Red, purple, and blue dyes were difficult and expensive to pro duce in Europe in the 16 th century, which explains why they became of such vital importance to overseas trade after their discovery in the New World. The early literature focuses almost exclusively on these three dyes: cochineal, New World indigo, and car acol pupura Later studies of dyes are more comprehensive, by including a greater variety of colors and in studying the practice of dyeing. Mexican researcher Martha Turok provides a background of the color palette before describing weaving patterns. My ow n research into dye practices in Chiapas shows the use of many dyes with less colorful histories, but a greater range of color. The less well known dyes in use today in places like Sna Jolobil, producing green, black, brown, orange, yellow, and every shade in between, are equally deserving of scholarship.
29 CHAPTER 4 NATURAL DYES OF MESOAMERICA Naturally spun threads start as bits of fibers and become strong and sturdy threads. Thread can be made from a variety of materials. To create thread, the wool is c arded (the spinner runs two brushes against the other in opposite directions, with the wool in between) so the fibers lie in the same direction, and dirt and other impurities are removed. The weaver uses a spindle, a stick held down with a weight called a whorl, or even a ball of clay on the end of the stick. The weaver attaches the fibers to the spindle and spins by twisting the spindle in one continuous direction. The individual fibers twist themselves into one strong thread before it is wound around the spindle. When the rough fibers become thread, they are ready to be dyed or woven. Mesoamerica has a variety of fibrous materials that can be transformed into threads. Native to the Maya region are agave (a spiny perennial plant used in the production of tequila that can also create a strong white fiber) and natural cotton. Wool was introduced by the Spanish and has since become very popular in mountainous regions, as described in Chapter Two. Fibers from animal proteins attract dye much better than do fib ers from plants, allowing much more brilliant colors. The introduction of a new fiber material may have led to certain innovations in the art of dyes and dyeing (Schneider 1987). Dyes can be created from a variety of organic and mineral materials. In Mes oamerica, there are a variety of ecological zones that host specialized plants and
30 animals, some of which are used to create dyes. Therefore, not all dyes mentioned here were cultivated or foraged in the same environment, or were consistently used by the M aya. Innovation in dyeing technology over time is a certainty. DYES This section will be organized by the following types: vegetal dyes (originating from plants, seeds, roots, or parts of plants), mineral (from clays or similar origin), and animal dyes; within types, the dyes will be organized based on their color, starting with reds and then oranges, and then following the color spectrum in order of decreasing wavelengths. The following information was summarized from Ambar Past (2010) and Ana Roquero (2006). Supplemental material is cited where relevant. Vegetal Dyes Name in English: Blackberries Name in Spanish: Zarzamora Colloquial or indigenous name: Makob (Tzotzil Maya) Latin name: Rubus spp Blackberries are familiar to those in the United State s; plump black or purple berries growing on a thorny plant with wide leaves are a tasty treat that can also produce dyes in pink and purple. Blackberries are not native to America, and are considered a weed and invasive species. Fifteen liters of blackberr ies are necessary to dye one kilo of wool to any saturation. To dye, boil the wool for one hour with the juice of five lemons, stirring it constantly. When the wool reaches the desired color, take the mixture off the
31 heat and let the mixture cool overnight In the morning it is necessary to wash it without soap to set the dye. Name in English: Brazilwood Name in Spanish: Palo de Brazil Colloquial or indigenous name: Tzoj te' (Tzotzil Maya, although spelled tzjoj te' by Roquero), Espinita (Guatemala), Huiz c ahuitl (n huatl), Palo de Brasil, Palo de Nicaragua (commercial name in Europe) Palo de Santa Marta (Colombia and commercial name in Europe) Latin name: Haematoxylum Brasiletto Native to America, Brazilwood thrives best in hot climates, like the Amazon rainforest, but cannot be found in Chiapas, and must be bought commercially in the markets. One kilo of Brazilwood will dye a few kilos of wool (Past does not specify an exact amount of wool). Past describes it as a simple dye; a piece of wood should be so aked in water for one month; without heating, at the end of the month, dip the wool in the dye soaked water to produce deep reds and purples. To produce orange, the wool is dyed first in Lion's Beard. To produce purple, sodium bicarbonate is added. To prod uce Figure 6 Brazilwood from Roquero 2006: 123; a section of Brazilwood showing the heart of the wood
32 red, the wool is boiled with some lemon juice or citric acid. Name in English: Achiote, or annatto Name in Spanish: Achiote Colloquial or Indigenous name: Ach otl (n huatl, Mexico), bia (zapoteca, Mxico), bija (Antillas), chaya (Guatemala) Latin Na me: Bixa orellana L. It can be found in humid and hot climates, from Mexico to Peru. A spiny pod fruit that cracks open to reveal bright red seeds. Similar to pomegranates, the flesh around the seeds is bright red, and when removed, the pulp contains the dye. Achiote can produce a variety of colors, from yellow to red. Osborne (1965) says a shade of yellow can be produced by mixing with saffron. Achiote as a dye is not mentioned in Past. Name in English: Lion's Beard Name in Spanish: Barba de Le n (spec ific to Mexico and Guatemala) Colloquial or indigenous name: K'an ak' (Tzotzil Maya), Zacatlaxcalli (N huatl, Figure 8 Barba de Le n from Roquero (2006: 112) Figure 7 Achiote from Roquero (2006: 39)
33 Mexico), Bejuco mesquino (Guatemala), Cabellos de ngel (Mexico and Guatemala), ), Tripa de Gallina (Guatemala) Latin name: Cuscuta tinctoria Native to America, Lion's Beard is found in Mexico, Central America, South America, and Florida, especially in higher altitude regions. Lion's Beard is a parasitic plant that grows on other plants above the ground. It is a carroty yellow growing in long thin strands like angel hair pasta over the host plant. To dye, wash it and use all of the plant before boiling it and the wool. Lion's Beard produces yellow and orange dyes. Past describes the dye as not very strong (Past 2010: 34). It is also possible to obtain green if first dyed blue, then with Lion's Beard. Name in English: Mexican honeysuckle, firecracker bush Name in Spanish: Sakatinta Figure 9 Barba de Le n from Roquero (2006: 112) Figure 10 Sakatinta from Roquero (2006: 172)
34 Colloquial or indigenous name: Sakatinta (Tzot zil Maya), Micle, Mohintle, Mohuitle de Puebla, Mohuitli, Moictle, Moyotl, Mozote, Muicle, Muitle, Trompetilla, Yich kaan Latin name: Justicia spinigera This is an evergreen shrub. Native to America, from Mexico to Belize, found on mountains and higher al titude regions. This is a very versatile plant that with the proper methods can produce blue, grey, rose, and purple. To produce green, it is necessary to ferment the plant for a long time in a covered pot until little worms are in it, then drop in the woo l. To produce ocean blue, the plant and the wool are put in the pot in at the same time, and are left to ferment for nine days together. The wool should be washed very well after the desired color is achieved. Past advises that care must be taken when wa shing it so the color doesn't run. She also states there are many ways to use this plant to dye, but the evidence seems mostly anecdotal, and not very specific. Name in English: Oak moss Name in Spanish: Musgo Colloquial or indigenous name: Tzon te' (Tz otzil Maya) Latin name: Usnea barbata A New World lichen that grows on flora, especially on old trees on mountains. In appearance, it is very similar to Spanish moss. Figure 11 Musgo (moss) from Roquero (2006: 85)
35 To dye wool brown, the moss is cleaned and boiled together with the wool until it rea ches the desired color. Use the same amount of moss as wool. All of the above information is from Past (2010: 28 30), but Roquero (2006) mentions a moss (Usnea sp) that produces yellow and oranges. Oak moss is also used in homeopathic remed ies as a head ache cure. Name in English: Bitter Herb (translated directly from Spanish) Name in Spanish: Hierba Amarga Colloquial or indigenous name: Ch'a te' (Tzotzil Maya), Barretillo (Guatemala), chicajol (Guatemala), bacch ( Maya, Guatemala) Latin name: E upatorium Ligustrinum The bitter herb is a small shrub with green leaves and tufty florettes. It is native to Mexico and Central America, especially pine forests. To produce black threads, all of the parts of the plant are used and are mixed with black ea rth (clay from riverbeds). Three branches should be used to produce a kilo of wool, but it is necessary to change the branches every day. The wool needs to soak for three days in the dye. At night take the pot off the heat. On the fourth day, wash the wool Figure 12 Ch'a te': hierba amarga fro m Roquero (2006: 198)
36 (Roquero 2006: 198). Name in Spanish: Palo de Mula or Hierba de la Mula Colloquial or indigeno us name: Pitz' otz' (Tzotzil Maya) Latin name: Monnina Xalapense This is a plant that remains to be identified; it is used to create a variety of blue dyes. Past describes this as a difficult dye, because it is very rare and hard to find. The f the Hierba de la Mula and possibly the berries are used. About ten liters of berries are necesssary to dye a kilo of wool. It is used together with alumbre, and should be dyed for two days in a pressure cooker. Name in English: Indigo Name in Spanish: A il Colloquial or indigenous name: Cho'oh (Maya, Mexico and Guatemala), Jiquilite (Mexico and Central America), Llangua (Peru), Mutuy cube (Peru), Tinaco (Mexico), Tinte de A il Figure 13 Indigofera suffruticosa Miller from Roquero (2006: 170)
37 (Mexico), Xiuhqu litl (n huatl, Mexico) Latin name: Indigofera suffruticosa Miller and Indigofera guatemalensis Indigo, which refers to more than ten plants of the Indigofera plant family, grows throughout Central and South America and is used to create a dark blue dye. The word ail a loanword of Arabic origin, is used to refe r to the plant in Spanish. It is also the root word for synthetic dyes that are meant to produce blue. This dye has received a considerable degree of scholarly attention. New World indigo, native to Mexico, Central America, and the Andes, shares a similar history with an indigo plant from the Old World (no relation). It has been in extended use from prehispanic times until the present. And certainly the title of Catherine E. McKinley's book, Indigo: In Search for the Color that Seduced the World (2011), con veys the fascination and allure not only of the dye materials, but also the color it produces. Indigo dye was combined with the mineral clay palysgorskite to produce the pigment known as Maya Blue (see below). For historical information on the use of indi go in the Maya area, see the study by Alicia Contreras (1996). The literature (Ross 1987, Dean 1987) suggests that indigo continued to be cultivated as a dye in Zapotec Oaxaca at least until 1984. Dye specialist Ana Roquero (2006) devotes thirty three pag es to indigo dyes, but only includes two species (Roquero 2006:170 171), in Tintes y Tintedores de Am rica. The dye is made by cultivating and collecting the leaves, and breaking them down in water. It is necessary to oxidize it. It is a very complicated process, and for this reason it is often produced and sold in little cakes for easy use.
38 Animal Dyes Name in English: Cochineal Name in Spanish: Cochinilla Colloquial or indigenous name: Batz'i ch'uj (Tzotzil Ma ya) Latin name: Dactylopius coccus, alth ough Past lists it as Coccus cacti Cochineal is a cactus dwelling insect native to Central and North America from which the red dye is derived. Finlay (2003) describes this explores a cactus plantation in La Serena Mexico (of which the beetle is a parasite). Unfortunately, the beetle must be killed to produce the dye. It can also produce pink when the dye is diluted. The dye is significant for its ability to dye cotton (Past 1989: 66). Name in English: Murex Shell Dye, or Pu rple Shell Dye Figure 14 Cochineal from Roquero (2006: 143) Figure 15 Caracol prpura from Roquero (2006: 174)
39 Name in Spanish: Caracol prpura, Prpura, or Caracol de la p rpura Colloquial or indigenous name: Caracol (Mexico), Caracolillo (Ecuador), Caracol de Huamelula (Oaxaca, Mexico), Coacoyul (Michoacan, Mexico), Tucohoy' ti'xinda (Mixtec, Oaxac a, Mexico) Latin name: Plicopura pansa or Purpura pansa Caracol p rpura is a small coastal snail that produces a brilliant purple dye. Found off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, from Baja California to the coast of Peru, it is especially plentiful near th e coast of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is the last place in the world that this dye is currently produced in historic times it was also produced on the coasts of Michoacn, Guerrero, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (Turok 1966; Turok et al 1988), and possibly Chiapas and Gu atemala (A.P. Andrews, personal communication, 2011). thrown back to the sea after extracting the dye; it does not need to be killed. The dye reacts with the cloth material first by turning first yellow and then deepenin g to a dark purple. While purpura is not as popular a subject of study as cochineal or indigo, it has received significant press because it produces a brilliant purple that is similar to a popular Mediterranean dye called Tyrian purple, produced from two Figure 16 shells, dyed threads, and a garment from the purpl e dye. Castell Yturbide (1988: 51)
40 s pecies of the Murex family since Phoenician times. Mineral dyes Name in Spanish: Palygorskita Colloquial or Indigenous Name: (Yucatec Maya) Palygorskite is a min eral clay found in Yucatn and elsewhere in the world that was combined with indigo dye to make the pigment known as Maya Blue, which was used from Preclassic through Late Colonial times throughout the Maya area (Arnold 2005: 51 62). Fixers and Mordants in the fabric after it is dyed. Mordants are any substance that encourages the color to ye, but they are generally added to the threads after dyeing to ensure colorfastness. According to Bliss (1981), mordants are water soluble salts that encourage the dyes to chemically bond to the fabric. They tend to be poisonous in large doses, so care sh ould be exercised in handling them. 'Alum,' the term used by Bliss (1981: 22), or potassium aluminum sulfate is mentioned often in the literature in literature concerning Maya dye practices (Past 2010; Roquero 2006). It is very reliable for colorfastness and is available in drugstores.
41 Another natural source of mordants is urine, mentioned in Victoria Finlay's book Color 335). He uses chemicals from the drug store as a reducing agent instead, although the specific one is not mentioned. Most sources state that the process of fixing the dyes is done as a separate bath that the threads o r textile are soaked in after the initial dye, rather than mixing the fixer and dye in one bath.
42 CHAPTER 5 CHANGE AND CONCLUSIONS While human existence in most climates, including that of Guatemala, necessitates the use of clothing, there is nothing that requires clothing to be colored. Instead, the coloring of cloth is a way of making it more beautiful, of adding to a weaver's creativity, and in some cases of express demonstrated i n this study, the use of cloth as expression is influenced, even dictated by certain local, national, and international considerations. Changes in color not only represent a weaver's experimentation as the palette of available colors expands. These ch anges are also based on the availability of dyes and/or yarns as well as the cost of these items. (Carleson and Wenger 1991: 374) Rather than a continuous practice that has been handed down from older generations to the next, unchanged and unchanging, coloring threads with natural dyes is subject to much transformation. As mentioned in Chapter Two, dyes were revolutionized by the introduction of wool by the Spanish. The production of cochineal and indigo increased and export to Europe began. The arriv al of aniline dyes also altered the colors of Maya textiles. Carlsen and Wenger claim that alizarin (red synthetic dye) was immediately accepted into the Maya communities of Guatemala upon invention in 1871 (1991: 370). The earliest date of synthetic dye u se in Mesoamerica is not known with certainty, but it is clear that they entered the marketplace and became very popular in weavings and still are until the present day. How dyes continue to be used is significant. In the 1940s, O'Neale observed that eac h family unit would dye its own threads. She studied the individual families, and noted that each family was equipped to dye threads, and that everyone knew this practice.
43 adequ ate equipment with which to do all his own dyeing for whatever type of materials he weaves. This is apparently true also in practice, to judge from the frequent mention of e 1944: 24). This is very different from the model I witnessed in Chiapas in 2009, where a single artisan dyed for her community and was employed by a cooperative. with th e support and initiative of a cooperative. Cooperatives are organizations where the members own the means of production. For example, when weavers agree to jointly sell their wares together, they control the price and make efforts to improve the quality. T he las Casas, Mexico, and an artisan group named Proyecto Tpica, in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, both use natural dyes to improve their products (Modesto and Niessen 2005; Morris 1991; Sna Jolobil's website http://www.snajolobil.com/). By the 1970s, synthetic dyes had replaced natural dyes throughout Chiapas, and nobody knew any longer how to manufacture natural dyes. Several non Maya women held workshops to promote natural dye use, Ana Roquero and Charllotte Kwon of Maiwa Handprints (Stephanie Schneiderman, personal communication 2010), and Ambar Past (Morris 1991: 421) hosted workshops in Chiapas to teach women to dye using natural materials. Through these initiativ es, Maya dyers are producing threads dyed from natural materials once again. Chip Morris describes this renaissance of Maya art in detail in The Marketing of
44 Mayan Textiles in Highland Guatemala (1991). In the 1970s, when the cooperative Sna Jolobil was f irst formed, Chiapas was not known for tourism, or for the quality of its textiles. To distinguish their wares from lower quality craftsmanship sold to tourists in nearby Guadelupe Street, Sna Jolobil uses different materials to produce higher quality text iles. Sna Jolobil revitalized hand spinning and dyeing threads with local plants and organic materials like agave fibers, wool, and cotton, which had been replaced by acrylic threads. At the time, however, the art of dyeing threads had been lost, and it wa s necessary to recreate the knowledge by interviewing elderly women who had practiced the art, and to get outside help from herbal and dye specialists willing to experiment with local materials (Morris 1991). The new dye specialists, in turn, gave their t hreads to Sna Jolobil, which distributed them to the weavers of the cooperative to promote a higher standard of traditional art. Morris supplies this rationale for the effort undertaken to natural dyes was not to save a tradition that didn't want to be rescued but to give the weavers access to better purposes, the economic incentive led to the revival of natural dyes in the highlands. Initially, the weavers were not excited about the earth tone dyes. Now, many dyed colors are available once more from natural materials. Rosa Daz Hernndez, from San Andr s Larr inzar, a highland Maya village near San Cris t bal de las Casas, spins and dyes her own thread using plants and organic materials around her garden and home, making such bright colors as neon pink, butter yellow, and violet. She sells most of her dyed thread to the neighboring villages of Tenejapa an d Magdalenas, and to the
45 cooperative of Sna Jolobil, although she keeps some thread for her own weaving. Women in Chiapas still prefer the brighter acrylics for their own garments, but the items woven with natural dyes sell for a higher price in the Sna Jo lobil store. Thus, the weavers who use them are able to make a larger profit from their handiwork. Using natural dyes proved to be a successful way to engage with buyers and give them an incentive to purchase something handmade (Morris 1991). Researchers Helosa Speranza Modesto and Sandra Niessen describe the leader of the Guatemalan cooperative Proyecto Tpica's motive to switch to natural dyes as follows: Carmen gave several reasons for her motivation to produce natural dyes. First, the industrial ly dyed yarn available in the market was of low quality and retailers refused to buy textiles produced with them. Second, 'people from far away were getting skin disease due to the use of chemical dyes' a reference to the German ban on the importati on of textiles produced with As in the case of Sna Jolobil, the cost of materials is a motivation for the change over to natural dyes. located in the believed that this technique could differentiate her textiles, helping her access high end retailers. Based on the above motivations, and using a basic knowledge learned from her grandmother, Carm en mastered the Neisson 2005: 158). Manipulating the means of production is linked to a higher profit in both cases, as well as higher quality of products. Both cooperatives make ment ion of outsider demands, and rising to meet the demand, as reasons for their success. As of 2001, the use of natural dyes in Guatemala was completely oriented to international consumers (Davis 2000,
46 Gould et al. 1998, Modesto 2001). The use of natural dye s is a technique that can illustrate a technological production adaptation 'to the combined constraints of the 2005:157). Drawing from the past is helping cooperative member s make greater profit and afford better lives. Making dyes does require a close relationship to one's local environment gathering materials that might exist in specialized environments. Indigo is cultivated. Lion's Beard grows wild. The need for the envi ronments that produce these types of flora and fauna will hopefully lead to greater preservation of such environments. The act of gathering in wooded areas may be linked to sustainable practices. Modesto and Neissen give a more nuanced view of sustainabili Moreover, indiscriminate harvesting of wild plants can result in endangered species (Hill 1996). Based on studies of natural dye use in Guatemala, Gould et al. (1998) and Davis (2000) reported that they were unsure about the long term sustainability o I have expressed some concern as to the toxicity of creating dyes. Modesto and Neissen's informant, Carmen, complains that the dyes hurt her hands. Fixers and mordants have been known to be toxic, but alum is ce rtified non toxic in small amounts, as discussed in Chapter Four. I would hope the sustainability of herbs and plants would lead to less waste and toxicity than their synthetic counterparts, but that remains to be verified in the case of each dye producing material. In Chapters Two and Three, I provide some historical context for textile history and dye use, especially the research that has covered dye producing materials and dye
47 techniques. As discussed, the research focused on dyes that produce red, pur ple, and blue because of a legacy of trade with the Spanish. This attention has come at the expense of other dye producers, like Palo de Mula, oak moss, and Lion's Beard. I provide this information in Chapter Four, where I describe the organic materials in detail, as well as the process for producing and replicating the dyes. Dyes are meaningful because they are a way to regain control of the production of non Maya dy e specialists, the Maya of Chiapas are using the knowledge of natural dyes to express themselves creatively and earn a living wage. I am very hesitant to cast the commodification of natural dyes in an entirely positive light, however. Natural dyes mean sig the Maya women who produce them prefer to use synthetic dyes in their own dress. According to Morris in the 1970s, weavers were indifferent to the dreary colors produced by natural dyes, but tinkering with the recipe may have produced vivid hues over time. significant changes in dye use do not happen independent of other factors. Instea d, these changes invariably represent underlying conditions such as the availability or the cost of the dye. By way of example, the Europeans inventions of synthetic dyes in 1856 and the subsequent havoc to Guatemala's cochineal reliant economy, ultimat ely led to that country's switch to a coffee economy The oppressive monolith of globalization has produced some positive change. In a thirty year study by Patricia Marks Greenfield described in Weaving Generations Together (2004), she documents the transition from subsistence agriculture to an entrepreneurial society in the Chiapas municipality of Zinacantn (population 30,000).
48 One of the responses to the shift involves more complex weaving styles and embroidery inspired by the flower growing enterprise in the town. While Ross (1987) expresses concern for the dying art of indigo dye cake production, recent research documents contemporary indigo production in El Salvador (Roquero 2006: 157). There appear s to be an overarching anxiety about the disappearance of traditional Maya practices in Mesoamerica, but research also indicates dyeing is alive and responding to change; from the outside pressures of globalization and smaller acts of individual agency. I do not possess the botanical, chemical, or economic training to do this subject complete justice. At the time of the writing of this thesis, I was not fluent in Spanish, and the likelihood of mistranslating some of my source material is high. I am inter ested in how traditional knowledge and arts are marketed, but did not explore this topic in as in depth a manner as I would like. However, I have supplied a body of knowledge for future researchers to dissect and critique, and another researcher may someda y reconcile these gaps. By showing attention to dyes that are often ignored in history, I hope to give the reader a more complete depiction of dye arts in Mesoamerica. Dye arts are interesting not because they are an unchanged art dating from ancient his tory into the present, but rather because they do change, as attested to by seventy years of archaeological and historical research. Major changes have taken place with the introduction of new materials (wool, synthetic dyes), tourist demand, commercializ ation in cooperatives, and the revitalization of the practice of using natural dyes. The study of these changes, which are part of larger ongoing social, economic, and cultural processes, represent an important contribution to
49 the understanding of highland Maya societies.
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