In light of the recent presidential election, and with the second round coming up in November, political candidates have recently been photographed wearing elements of traje – the traditional dress of the Maya – and clothing embroidered with traditional Mayan motifs. According to the Latinamerican Press:
The message that these candidates are trying to send is ‘look, I’m one of you,’ something that indigenous organizations have described as “racist” and “offensive”, especially when the politicians attired in Mayan garments, such as Pérez Molina, of the right-wing Patriotic Party, or PP, and an Army retired general, have alleged ties to human rights violations against the indigenous population during Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war.
In addition to their intrinsic beauty, the brightly-colored blouses and skirts that make the Maya’s traje have a distinct cultural and traditional purpose. Each piece of traje is hand-woven and embroidered in a painstaking process that takes weeks or months, and the designs and patterns are unique to each community and municipality. Wearing traje thus allows Mayan women to represent the unique cultural identity and history of their community, as well as to demonstrate solidarity with Mayan culture as a whole.
As indigenous Guatemalans make up over 40% of Guatemala’s population, and with the overwhelmingly high voting rate of indigenous Guatemalan women in the first round of the presidential election on September 11th, politicians are clearly realizing the importance of harnessing these votes. But the tactics seem to have backfired, with the fashion statement doing little more than fostering anger and offense from indigenous groups and leaders.
For more information, read the full article, Indigenous dress reduced to political tool.