Volunteer: Carol Ventura
From 1976 through 1980, I worked with the largest artisan cooperative in Guatemala, La Jacaltequita, a group of more than 450 women that specialized in colorful backstrap-woven hair sashes. I taught them how to organize the cooperative, designed additional products for them to weave, and found new markets to increase their sales. Because most of the members didn’t speak Spanish, I also learned the local Maya language, Popti’.
My Peace Corps supervisors advised me not to “weave with the natives,” emphasizing that they didn’t send me there to weave, but to work with the cooperative and help develop the town. At first, I fought my desire to join the women at their looms. After a while, though, I realized that it was an important female social activity and that since I was working with the textile cooperative, weaving a hair sash was the appropriate thing for me to do. The women were thrilled when I finally accepted their invitation to weave alongside them. They taught me well and a special bond developed.
This experience had a profound influence on my life in so many ways. I returned in the summers of 1986 and 2002 to research Jacaltec crafts. My bilingual book, "Maya Hair Sashes Backstrap Woven in Jacaltenango, Guatemala / Cintas Mayas tejidas con el telar de cintura en Jacaltenango, Guatemala", is based on my dissertation.
I currently teach art history at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. For more about what I'm up to, please look at http://iweb.tntech.edu/cventura/
Contributions from Carol Ventura
Officers of La Jacaltequita and I visited weavers in outlying villages twice a year. Here I’m discussing hair sashes with some of the members of the local chapter. The long hair of the Jacaltec women is wrapped with the same backstrap-woven hair sashes that they sold through the cooperative. American friends accompanied me on this trip to Limonar (a 6 hour walk from Jacaltenango) in 1979, including Anne Mulbry Cordon, the photographer.