Conservation and Protection of Mayan Textile Art of the Indigenous Women of Guatemala


Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez (AFEDES)


Indigenous Maya Kaqchikel municipalities in the Departments of Sacatepéquez and Chimaltenango, Guatemala


Indigenous & Afro-Descendant Rights, Violence Against Women & Femicide

Project Duration:

Jul, 2017 – Jun, 2019

Project Summary


Indigenous women in Guatemala face a ‘triple vulnerability’ rooted in injustice: social and political marginalization, exclusion from economic opportunities, and barriers to exercising their autonomy. Over 75% of Indigenous Maya Kaqchikel women depend on their spouses’ income, and rising poverty and malnutrition rates have pressured them into searching for alternative sources of income. Many Indigenous women turn to weaving, drawing on thousands of years of ancestral knowledge, instruments, and techniques to produce vibrant traditional Maya textiles. Yet the effects of centuries of discrimination, violence, and racism have led to a decline in the production and social acceptance of the textiles. Moreover, industrial, large-scale companies have exploited this situation by appropriating Maya designs and patterns for commercial gain without respect or remuneration for Indigenous communities.

Together with AFEDES, Horizons is empowering Kaqchikel women to become economically self-sufficient through the conservation and protection of Maya textile art. Our education campaigns promote the value of women’s contributions and women’s right to a life free from oppression and violence. Women are educated on the value and ancestral meaning behind Maya textile patterns as an inherent part of their culture, which help to strengthen Indigenous identity in Guatemala. Furthermore, by forming weaving networks, women can purchase threads in bulk, participate in technical workshops and access local fairs and markets to sell their products. Through this project, we strive to frame Maya art and designs as collective intellectual property, and advance the capacity of Kaqchikel women to operate small weaving businesses.


Key Achievements

  • More than 170 women, between the ages of 8-60, from 8 different communities in Sacatepéquez, received traditional Indigenous textile training.
  • More than 200 women attended and participated in workshops analyzing the impact of social, economic and political barriers on Indigenous lives.
  • Approximately 500 Indigenous women weavers participated in a Guatemalan Constitutional Court hearing, where they denounced the absence of regulations protecting the collective intellectual property rights of Indigenous clothing and textiles.
  • Nearly 600 Indigenous women weavers, accompanied by Indigenous authorities and allies, proposed reforms concerning laws protecting collective intellectual property to the President of the Indigenous Peoples Commission of Congress.

    Weaving is a work of art that represents the essence of Indigenous peoples. Each time we undo a thread, we do so with love because this is a way for us to ‘undo’ our sadness, our anxiety and our fear – and every time we weave the thread back, we are weaving our ideas, our thoughts and our dreams.
    — Brenda Marisol Bucú Puac, Woman Weaver