Written by: Averie Floyd
I decided to give in and start an Instagram account when I first traveled down to Guatemala in 2014. I chose the username TextileTrekker because at the time, I had plans to travel the world seeking indigenous handmade textiles. My plan was to live out of my backpack, like many other millennials, traveling as far as I could, to as many places as I could, until my bank account was empty. However, once I got to Guatemala, my perspective on travel changed. I found the value in taking the time to really soak in a culture.
While I was interning for three months in Guatemala, I got to travel to some of the popular tourist destinations in Guatemala. It was incredible to see new places like Semuc Champay where I swam through an underwater cave with only a candle to light the way, or Tikal where I climbed the ancient steps of the Maya. However, I felt isolated in my travels, because I wasn't just a tourist coming and going, I was planted for the unforeseeable future.
Some people I met were not aware that in this small country of 15.7 million people, there are 4 million weavers. They had no idea about the richness of Maya culture found in the textiles alone. For me, the textiles are what drew me to Guatemala, have allowed me to stay here and continue to fascinate me.
My “extended stay” in Guatemala allowed me create deep connections with people living here and allowed me to “find myself,” which seems to be many millennial’s goal when they travel the world. The way I see it, if you travel to a different country every 2 weeks, you don’t give yourself the physical or mental break to sink deep into yourself. Building a life in another country challenges you to discover who you are without the normal comforts or distractions you grew up with.
After working with back-strap weavers for a year in Guatemala, I have learned the value of the slower processes in life. Although back-strap weaving is not the most efficient form of creating a textile, there is incredible symbolism in every step of the process.
When preparing the warp, the weaver creates the cross, or “heart”, of threads which allows for the lift and fall of threads during the weaving process. The weavers I have met, say you must take great care in the setup of the heart before you can even begin the weaving process. What a beautiful parallel to living a healthy life.
Once the loom is set up, the threads extend from the belly, which symbolizes creation or giving birth to the textile. When they start to weave, they tell their story through their textile which is created using the tension of their own body. They are weaving a piece of themselves into the work.
The weavers I have met over the past year continue to inspire me and I have found direct connections to the weaving process in my own life. For the last year I have been preparing my warp, opening my heart to a new culture and soaking it in as deeply as possible. Now it is time for me to weave my story through Casa Flor.
People who really know me, know that it is very scary for me to share my story. But the weavers have shown me that it can also be incredibly beautiful. Through Casa Flor, Rachel and I are sharing our stories – which I don’t think we initially anticipated.
Although I still have dreams to travel to India, Vietnam, and Peru to learn about their rich culture of textiles, I could not be happier to call Guatemala and Casa Flor my home. I am textile trekking nearly every month to new communities and I'm excited to share their stories, as well as my own.
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