The Fabulous Backstrap Woven Textiles of Zacualpa, Guatemala

The Fabulous Backstrap Woven Textiles of Zacualpa, Guatemala

Zacualpa is a small town in the Guatemalan department [state] of El Quiché that has become known for its fine woven textiles including huipiles [blouses], bedspreads [see above], and table runners [see below].

Zacualpa is home to thousands of Indigenous K’iché Mayan families who make a living farming and weaving much as they have done for hundreds of years. This region of Guatemala is quite poor and the people here suffered horrendous abuses at the hands of military death squads during Guatemala's long civil war. Dozens of Catholic bishops, priests, nuns and catechists were murdered in the town's church during the war and it's now been renamed the “Chapel of Martyrdom.” It's estimated that about 1200 people from Zacualpa were killed during the civil war, most of them civilians.


Zacualpa Weaving: To make a Zacualpa bedspread or table throw on a backstrap loom, the weaver starts with raw cotton that must be washed, combed and spun. She first stretches the long threads along a warping board to the desired length and attaches them firmly to her loom. Then she begins the complex process of weaving. To brocade, colored yarns are woven into the cloth to create the designs as the cloth itself is being woven.

The weaver adjusts the tension of the loom by leaning forward or back because of the strap that fits around her back, hence the name "back-strap loom." The panels are then joined with a decorative stitching. This is the traditional weave of Zacualpa where women wear bright red huipiles with purple decorative stitching at the shoulders.

We began our partnership with families in Zacualpa about a decade ago and we are proud to offer their magnificent weavings to North Americans. We now carry a broad selection of their products including table runners, pillow covers, and bedspreads. All Zacualpa bedspreads are 100% cotton and washable. You can see many examples of their work in our store here.

Back to blog