We #Choosetochallenge - Maya Women Artists Share Stories for International Women's Day 2021

We #Choosetochallenge - Maya Women Artists Share Stories for International Women's Day 2021

Artist stories for International Women’s Day: The theme for IWD2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge (#YoElijoDesafiar). In honor of women’s month, we share these stories from our embroidery artists. The artists were asked to create original pieces reflecting on women’s role in society, women they admire, and self-portraits.

“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.” –IWD 2021

Please enjoy and appreciate the unique voices of Maya women artists. Let’s create an inclusive world together!

by Fabiola Garcia Aguilar

I #ChoosetoChallenge the devaluation of women’s work… by honoring hardworking women.
The work of weaving on backstrap looms is always done by women. Women weave the garments that symbolize our traditions and our culture: belts with designs, cintas to wrap around our heads, huipiles full of symbols and patterns.
–Fabiola Garcia Aguilar, Story of the Weavers

Women have undergone a great evolution; today a working woman can become an executive, with the capacity to make her dreams become reality. While we celebrate these advances, may we still recognize the importance of women who work in the fields and who tend their homes. May women’s work always be valued, anywhere and everywhere.
–Thelma Esperanza Cubur Solloy, May women always be valued

Every day, the women of the village leave their homes early in the morning to wash in the river. For many women, washing clothing is one of few opportunities to earn a daily income. The positive side of this hard work lies in the friendly atmosphere, camaraderie, and laughter shared between women as they work together on the tranquil riverbanks.

–Rosa Lidia Cubur Solloy, Every morning women go out to wash

by Aracely Chuc Yax

As a working woman, creating my embroidered art, I am an example to my daughters. They see me as a dedicated and entrepreneurial woman.
–Ana Elvira Cubur Solloy, Self-portrait: an entrepreneurial woman

The flower seller carries her blooms in a basket to the market. I remember when I was young and my grandmother was alive, I would often go with her to sell flowers. This piece honors the flower sellers of Totonicapán.
–Felipa Aracely Chuc Yax, The Flower Seller

These women work from their homes: caring for children while also finding time to embroider, to weave, to bring value to their families through their dedication and creativity.
–Cipriana Garcia Ajpop, Women at Work

by Rosa Lidia Cubur Solloy

I #ChoosetoChallenge discrimination against Maya women.
For many many years, indigenous women’s wings have been cut. Maya women were prohibited from doing many things; they were denied the right to study. But today women have more autonomy, the right to express our opinions, to create, and so to spread our wings and fly to the highest heights.
–Rosa Lidia Cubur Solloy, No longer will they cut our wings

Maya women are too often enslaved in indentured servitude at the tortillerías (tortilla-making businesses). Most victims of this labor abuse don’t realize that

by Fabiola Garcia Aguilar

they are enslaved, because they were told from a very young age that their only value is in domestic work.

–Ana Berta Cubur Gil, Indigenous women at the tortillería

My self-portrait: I am surrounded by my culture. I love to learn about Maya glyphs and symbols, their colors and significance, and I love to identify myself with this heritage.
–Fabiola Garcia Aguilar, Self-portrait: surrounded by my culture

by Concepción Coó Quieju

I #ChoosetoChallenge limitations on women’s potential …by dreaming big.
We are composed of all the thoughts swirling in our heads. We can allow these thoughts and dreams out of our heads, and try to transform them into reality.
–Yessica Calel, Self Portrait

Before, women could only be housewives; a woman’s work was to care for her husband and children. Now we see that women can do everything that men can do and more. –Concepción Coó Quiejú, Women’s role in society

Like the birds, women can fly high. We can realize the dreams that live in our imagination.
–Margarita Xicón Burrión, Women’s Freedom

I #ChoosetoChallenge the lack of leadership opportunities for women.
In years past, women didn’t have as many rights in the 48 cantones (sectors) of Totonicapán, the department where I live. Only men could hold community leadership positions. But years pass, and today the voices of Totonicapán’s women are taken into account. We can hold leadership positions all the way up to becoming the mayor.
–Ramona Lucia Garcia Tzunún, Evolution of Women in Society

I #ChoosetoChallenge a lack of women role models… by celebrating women I admire.

by Marina Juracán

I admire the creative way my fourth grade teacher made learning and culture come alive for us. When we were studying mathematics, she dressed in a huipil adorned with Maya numerals and taught us about ancient Maya mathematicians. She told us of the legendary figure Quetzalcoatl, a mythic serpent bird. She taught us how our Maya ancestors held the quetzal as a sacred bird, its feathers adorning their ceremonial wear, but didn’t kill the bird— just took a few of its feathers and let the bird fly free.

–Marina Juracán, Portrait of a woman I admire

by Micaela Yaj Sunú

I admire my mother because she knows how to grind corn in the ancestral way, using a stone hand mill. Today girls don’t learn to grind corn this way. She has so many skills and so much knowledge, and knew how to keep our family moving forward even when she was widowed.
–Fabiola Garcia Aguilar, Portrait of my mother, grinding corn at a stone mill

I greatly admire my mother, because she has been a shining example for us. Since we were little, she has worked hard to give us every opportunity to advance ourselves through the beautiful weaving she makes.
–Micaela Yaj Sunú, Portrait of my mother, who I admire

I #ChoosetoChallenge gender stereotypes… by taking pride in myself and my capabilities.

by Cipriana Garcia Ajpop

This is how I see myself. I love to care for my chickens, because they have helped to sustain my family. I nurture them with care, and when it comes time, I sell them. My chickens give us income from their eggs, and they also provide us with nutritious sustenance. I am proud of my chickens.
–Cipriana Garcia Ajpop, Self-portrait: proud of my work

Here I picture myself surrounded by the activities that bring me joy and fulfillment from day to day. I love to weave, to care for animals, and to go out into the countryside to gather wood. I love to embroider, I know how to give injections to the sick, and I enjoy cooking.
–Simeona Lucia Juárez Yax, Self-portrait: what brings me fulfillment

By Concepción Yaj Sunú

My self-portrait: I am a woman who fights for her family. I know I can achieve great things with my own effort and will. Together with my husband, we dream of building a better and bigger house than where we live now.
–Concepción Yaj Sunú, Self-portrait: I dream of building

I find inspiration in my identity as an indigenous woman. Where I live, I am surrounded by the beauty of nature and my thoughts bloom just like the flowers.
–Marta Sulema Socón, Self-portrait: my thoughts bloom

We’re grateful to our embroidery artists for their vision, tenacity, and leadership. Click to browse our entire Women’s Month collection of original embroidery artwork. 

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