Weaving Through Chiapas

The inner courtyard at Na Bolom, with eponymous jaguar. Photo by Joe Coca.
The inner courtyard at Na Bolom, with eponymous jaguar. Photo by Joe Coca.

First, let me tell you a little bit about Na Bolom, House of the Jaguar. This combination museum, study center, and guest quarters, housed in a converted monastery in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, has a decided late-nineteenth-century feel. The faded photographs of Indians of the Lacandón rainforest, the shadowy book-lined library, the personal relics of founders Fritz Blom and his wife Trudy Duby Blom—all take you back to an earlier time. A time when the magnificent Maya ruins at Palenque were first being excavated, when a tight community of anthropologists and archaeologists were reveling in new discoveries.

It’s a charming place to stay, if you don’t mind rooms heated just with small wood fireplaces, and iffy plumbing. It’s an even better place to throw a party.

The launch party for Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas took place on March 19 in the main courtyard of Na Bolom. Bougainvilleas as large as trees towered over the collonaded patio in the flickering lights of a balmy evening. A record crowd showed up and mingled: local businessmen and women, government figures, ex-pats, artists and photographers, anthropologists, Tzotzil Maya men and women from outlying villages, students from the Indian university. Besides the obligatory remarks, there was a quartet playing delicate traditional music on harp, violin, drum, and gourd rattle, and a runway fashion show highlighting the dress of several villages—gorgeous stuff. Posh (a local cane liquor) flavored with some kind of wonderful jungle fruit flowed freely. Authors Chip Morris and Carol Karasik signed a lot of books! And that was the point! (Kudos to María Luisa Armendáriz, president of Na Bolom, and her event planner, Emilio Gómez, for making it all happen. And to my long-time publishing buddy, Linda Stark, for being there, too.)

It was a great party, a testament to the respect and friendships these authors have garnered over all their years of work in Chiapas, but also to the interest in and respect for indigenous art and folkways that seems to grow ever stronger. Wish you could have been there. Next best thing, get the book!

Headmen from the village of Huixtan, hearing a naughty joke about a chorizo.
Headmen from the village of Huixtan, hearing a naughty joke about a chorizo.
Students, one of whom performs interpretive Maya dance. His makeup is not traditional.
Students, one of whom performs interpretive Maya dance. His makeup is not traditional.
Author Chip Morris with Maya shaman Apab’yan Tew.
Author Chip Morris with Maya shaman Apab’yan Tew.
A traditional band from the village of Chamula.
A traditional band from the village of Chamula.
Fellow publisher and traveler Linda Stark with Carol Karasik, wearing an antique wool huipil.
Fellow publisher and traveler Linda Stark with Carol Karasik, wearing an antique wool huipil.
Three women from Huixtan, where embroidery is the fashion.
Three women from Huixtan, where embroidery is the fashion.

 

 

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