May begins the rainy season— and the rains have started here in the Lake Atitlan area. There have been heavy downpours for several evenings but everyone is giving thanks to the Lord for the rain because it has been so dusty and dry. Eph 5:20 says “make music to the Lord always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” The rain is needed for the coffee crop, the corn and frijoles because there is little or no irrigation done here.
Because of the difficulty of gathering firewood during the rainy season, many families bring in enough firewood for many months or even enough for a year going up the mountain to gather it. This firewood is used to cook 3 meals a day so it does take a lot each year. I`ve seen men and boys with huge bundles of wood on their back with a strap around their forehead to hold it on and very small, thin horses with so much wood on their backs that I don´t know how they can walk. Where boys will help with the firewood girls begin early to learn household tasks and also to learn how to weave. Many of the women in the highlands weave for their household needs but also to earn money for the family.
A friend, who has been weaving since she was 7 years old, is teaching me the art of backstrap weaving and it is giving me an appreciation for the tremendous amount of work that our women´s groups do to create beautiful (tejidos) weavings. There are so many processes to not only the weaving but also the preparation to weave. Today we wound the warp yarns on the ‘urdidor’ which is a short bench with pegs to wrap the yarn on. It is put on the urdidor in the same design or pattern that you want your weaving to look like. We are using all cotton yarns of natural white and a dyed red yarn. Many women use natural dyes for their yarns and must take time to go up the mountains to collect leaves, bark and natural plants to dye the yarn before weaving.
Next we put the warp yarns on the loom (lienso) which consists of several cross sticks (palitos) with the front of the loom tied to a post or tree and the other end has a wide belt which goes around the weaver´s waist. Many women sit on the floor with their legs back under them, sitting on their calves, but as they age they use a stool to sit on and weave. After hours of preparation, we are finally ready to start the weaving. It seems like it takes me hours to learn the steps and remember them— I finally wrote them down so I could remember them correctly. I have woven about 8 inches and will take the weaving and loom home with me to finish and hopefully improve my skill!