Searching for the Face of an Icon

Posted on March 12, 2015 by Damian Graybelle | 0 comments

By Elizabeth Olmedo

for everMaya

 In 1959, with a rise in national pride in their Mayan heritage, the Bank of Guatemala commissioned a search to find the most beautiful Mayan woman whose profile would represent the beauty of the Mayan culture on the nation’s 25-cent coin.

Today known as the “Choca,” the 25-cent Quetzal coin received its nickname due to the visibility of only one eye, much like the profile found on the Lincoln penny. 

In Guatemala, people colloquially refer to someone who can’t see well as “choco.”

The original face of the coin established in 1950 was deemed not to have been a true representation of Mayan beauty and they were obligated to go back to the drawing board. So who is the woman that we find today on the 25-cent Quetzal coin dressed in traditional Mayan garb, wearing a tocoyal (headdress)?

Architect Ovidio Villeda Moscoso was given the task of creating the iconic image for the coin.  Prior to beginning the search, he spent months at the Guatemalan Museum of Natural of History researching what defined the traditional Mayan facial features. Photographer Julio Zadik then traveled to Santiago Atitlán (one of the largest towns on the edge of Guatemala’s most treasured Lake Atitlán) where a competition was held to search for women who most personified the Mayan features.

Out of a competition of thousands of Mayan women, Zadik photographed the three winners and Ovidio Villeda created the ideal composite based on those portraits.  That image now adorns the 25-cent coin.

One of those girls was Doña (Lady) Concepción Ramírez, known affectionately among her neighbors as Doña Chonita. Though only 17 at the time Zadik took her photograph, she has become an inspiration and voice for women.  

Doña Chonita continues to live in Santiago Atitlán and people travel from around the globe to visit the woman whose portrait has influenced Guatemalan history. Viewed as a model of humility and distinction, she has received numerous prizes and tributes. Doña Chonita has become a face and spokesperson for the Mayan culture — a timeless culture that we, at everMaya, strive to share with others through our one-of-a-kind handbags, custom pillow covers, and decorative lamps.


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Born to Weave: Traditions Inherited from a Goddess

Posted on March 06, 2015 by Damian Graybelle | 0 comments

by Elizabeth Olmedo for everMaya

Tradition holds that the Mayan Moon Goddess, Ixchel, taught the first woman how to weave. Wrought with cultural symbolism, vibrant colors, and elaborate motifs, Mayan mothers have passed down the art to their daughters from generation to generation for centuries.

Following tradition, a newborn girl is presented with the necessary tools for weaving. At the age of eight or nine, she receives her first lesson, watching her mother, older sisters, or older women in the community. Around the age of 11, the girl weaves her first piece of cloth.

For Mayan women, weaving presents an integral part of their daily lives and is viewed as one of their most important responsibilities as they are tasked with safeguarding and passing along the craft.  Perfecting the skills required to weave is a badge of honor.

Aside from its religious and social aspects throughout history, weaving has held central significance to the indigenous women’s economic contribution to their families. Textiles, designs, and colors vary from one village to the next, and a woman demonstrates respect for her community by adhering to the esthetic rules and by following the cultural and social norms. A woman’s clothing identifies her as an individual within her culture while communicating the traditional Mayan beliefs about the universe.

Aspects of the Mayan culture are illustrated through metaphors woven into the material. For instance, the horizontal zigzag design found in many Chichicastenango (a town in Guatemala) weavings represent the mountains where the Maya Quiche grow their corn. Typically, patterns relate to aspects of everyday life, rituals, and nature.

Rich in heritage and culture, the symbolism encountered in Mayan weavings provides the weavers with a connection to their ancestors and traditions. Essentially, it reveals their identity — as an individual and as a member of the community. It is no wonder that young girls are groomed and prepared in this ancient, captivating art-form from the moment they enter the world.

At everMaya we are proud that our stylish handbags, beautiful pillow covers, and decorative lamps carry forward the timeless Mayan traditions of quality, handmade products to a new audience.

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