Maya of Zinacantan

For centuries, the Tzotzil Maya of Zinacantan have controlled the only source of salt in the Chiapas Highlands. Before the Spanish Conquest, Zinacanteco merchants traded the salt for amber, cacao, and quetzal feathers from the Chiapas lowlands, which they then sold to the Aztec traders who came from central Mexico. This link between the Zinacantecos and the Aztecs explains why the Zinacantecan weavers create Aztec-style garments, particularly the spectacular feathered wedding huipil . The art of weaving feathers into cloth was practiced throughout Middle America, but now only survives in Zinacantan. The Zinacanteco men's costume was strongly influenced by the coming of the Spanish. The black tunic and felt hat worn by religious officials today are similar to 16th century Spanish clothing. The scarf with tassles on the four corners was used before the Conquest. The long ribbons on the man's everyday palm hat appear to be an imitation of bird feathers.
       

(top right) Zinacantec salt seller at market.
(bottom right) Xunka Tulan of Nabenchauc, Zinacantan stretching thread on a warping board.

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