I have debated for years whether I should acquire the traditional traje (women's clothing) worn in San Pedro. Sometimes I'm asked by women if I would be interested; I think they wonder how I feel about how they dress. I started asking people here if it was odd for a gringa to wear the traje and everyone responded that they enjoy seeing visitors try it out so I decided what I wanted for my birthday this year was my very own traje (thanks, Mike!).
I own a very beautiful faja (woven belt) that was a gift 2 years ago from a Beca mom and master weaver named Cecilia; it is truly 1 of my most prized possessions. Folks who traveled with me last summer will remember her as 1 of the women who demonstrated her weaving for us.
Here's a photo of my beautiful faja I added after returning home:
The day after I arrived I visited Cecilia's home. Her daughter, Rosa, is a talented girl (pictured with me last July).
Rosa created the huipil (traditional blouse) you see below for a school project. I was blown away by the quality of her work and when she told me it was for sale I was happy to buy it. It's a nice match, I think, with the faja woven by her mother which is pink with vivid pink tinsely designs (I'm pretty sure tinsely is a word).
After the Friday evening Semana Santa procession I stopped in a store that sells corte (skirt) fabric. The quality was very high but so were the prices, at least as quoted to a gringa.
The 2 examples below were each pushing $200 for 8 barras, between 5 and 6 meters. Yikes! When I asked later how long a barra is, I was shown the way to measure - nose to outstretched hand.
I looked for an hour, then went back to my homestay and returned with my huipil, setting it on fabrics I liked in order to see how they looked together. I'm generally not a pink person so my 1st decision was to pick something with enough pink to match but with lots other colors. I also know from years of visits that you don't need to be too matchy - it's more about personal expression.
Then the fun began. :-) I discovered the market ladies would not only help me pick out fabrics but were willing to model for me, laying my huipil over their own and wrapping the fabric around their waists.
Sometimes their husbands or fathers tried to help (emphasis on "tried") and sometimes their friends happened along and had opinions.
I decided I wanted a good quality fabric - it's not a purchase I plan to make again - with some sort of animal design. I saw lots of birds and fish and butterflies but when the ladies heard I've had a pet turtle for decades they produced an unending stream of turtle designs; it seemed fitting. When my friend Andrea (wife of Cooperativa School codirector Lorenzo) came by, I learned that 4 barras (2.5-3 meters) is enough and you don't have to buy the full 8 barras; I'm quite sure the venders wouldn't have shared that gem with me. It was also clear that the prices dropped considerably when Andrea was asking; she agreed to meet me on Wednesday, the next market day, to help me shop.
In the mean time I was offered a used peraje or rebozo by a friend of the mom in my host family. This traditional wrap carries groceries and babies, protects against the weather, and covers heads in church.
I had plenty of time at the Palm Sunday mass to look at the various styles and knew the used one on offer was just what I wanted.
Back to the market I went on Wednesday, between an early morning procession and the day's family visits. I was looking at fabrics with more greens and blues, adding the rebozo to the color stew.
Andrea (on the right) met me there and together we found a nice corte with colors to go with the huipil, faja, and rebozo and a distinctive turtle pattern.
She negotiated the price while I looked at a neighboring vender's offerings and the fabric was cut and wrapped and tucked in Andrea's basket for a fraction of the price I was quoted in the 1st store, 250 quetzales (about $30) instead of 1500.
She offered to finish the top edge for me. She had me try on a corte belonging to her daughter and decided there was plenty of fabric to make a matching apron and offered to complete it in time for Easter Sunday.
I'd been warned to be sure the faja is tight enough or the whole outfit falls apart; host María gave me a flowered faja (since my faja from Cecilia was in the US) and helped me with the wrapping and folding and tucking and I headed off to 6am Easter mass in my beautiful new traje.