Linking the Past with the Present

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.


  • Liliana Girón

    I read about you in the newspaper of today in Guatemala. I am a working woman that is making an effort to help a group of women of my country to sale their product made of maguey. We make bags, individuals for plates, cards, maguey paper, etc.
    We`ll really appreciate if you can help us to offer our products in other places out of Guatemala and give an opportunity to my women group to obtain certain money to help of their houses` economy.
    Thank you very much.

  • James Florida

    How to make maguey paper ?I need it please

  • Seyna

    Hi Kathy,
    I think of you!
    Listening to “Braiding Sweetgrass”.
    Best, Seyna

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