text & photos by Kathy Rousso
Ornate textiles often reveal historical records and can be a visual language, but what about a common maguey net bag? In one remote Guatemalan village this utilitarian object can tell us something about the people who make them.
In most of the country net bags or morrales are made using various looping techniques. This method is very old and is also found in other Latin American countries, Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. In other regions such as around San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico net bags are made by linking together strands of fiber. This is also how morrales are made in one village of Huehuetenango.
The reason for this is that about 100 years ago a Catholic priest came to live in a place called Peb’an, Chiapas. He was disliked by the townspeople so they made him a meal out of vultures. One of the maids had pity on him and gave warning, after which he got angry and cursed the town with pests and bats. The residents fled in many directions, taking their culture and customs with them. Today, descendents of this village live in San Andrés Huista, Jacaltenango, where a few men still create bags in the manner of their ancestors.