Some symbols meanings
While some patterns are purely esthetic or directly copied from a cross stitch pattern book, some particular patterns have special meanings in Maya culture. Symbols vary in form, shape and can have different meanings in different places.
The tree of life
The tree of life in San Juan Sacatepequez: "two people, one life". This symbol represents the life of man: birth, growth, reproduction and death. But also the union of 2 people that become one in the form of a branched tree. The fruits that the tree bears are the children.
In tactic principle, the Butterfly represents the freedom of creativity of the weaver before the weaving process begins. It also symbolizes the freedom and the free will in life in deciding which path we want to take.
The Serpent, in San Martin, Chimaltenango, the Serpent represents the protector of human beings. It serves as a guide on the path of life.The Serpent is also associated with the weaving, the rain, and fertility. It is a well-diffused pattern in Mayan weavings.
The Chompipe or turkey, in San Juan Sacatequepez represents the offering of the parents of the groom to his bride.
In Nahuala, the Lion of wealth is a symbol of strength, power, and prosperity. He is also associated with good luck.
The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. The quetzal is viewed as a symbol of goodness and light and can be seen in many traditional designs.
Flowers represent fertility or new life.
The way the Huipil is made has also some significance. In some areas like Tecpan, the brown lines that are the back pattern of the ceremonial Huipil represent the furrows of the earth when planting crops. In other places the center of the Huipil has special names. Like in Tecpan, or Comalapa the central part of the Huipil is called ”ruwa ruk’ux”, “on her heart”, on her chest. That particular piece is the master piece with all the boldest figures as well as the most ancient. In Colotenango, the central part of the Huipil is named “the mother”.The center is also the place where the villagers meet for their ceremonies and processions. In the center is the Temple. And in the center you can find the Ceiba, the sacred tree for the Maya. So again the weaving as an a sacred activity shows the various levels of significance it can have. Some are just aesthetic , some cosmological, some cultural. Some are part of the “costumbre”, meaning they might have a significance but the meaning has been lost but the pattern remains.
The evolution of indigenous clothing
As patterns evolves so do the colors. Maya women like any women of the planet follow fashion. Maya women are not preserved in a golden age of weaving or embroidery. Their tastes change the same way that artforms do in occidental societies, by encounters, inspirations, events.
For example, in Zinacantan, Chiapas, the cross stitched Huipiles used to be bright pink before the turn of the 21st century. It was believed that the new millennium could mark the end of times for the Maya people. When this did not occur, colors choice changed and became peacock palette. The arrival of new technology like modern embroidery machines or more modern loomes also has an impact on traditional fashion. Ultimately the patterns remain but the colors change over time. European colonization, and with it their fashion, made long lasting changes in Maya garment traditions, especially among the male population.Men have always interacted more closely with the colonizing authority, as they were brought to seek employment in the new political and economic systems. In the new work environment, Indigenous clothing was discouraged or banned, and this cultural norm exists even today.
Some traditional styles of men's clothing remain only in isolated areas and mostly during rituals or local social practices for example, in Solola, San Juan Chamula, San Andres... In contrast, Maya women's attire remains more traditional. Many wear the traditional Huipil (blouse), the Corte ( the skirt), and a Faja ( a belt). In some communities, they also still wear traditional headdresses. Women are the main carriers and guardians of tradition,"la costumbre."