The Revival of Traditional Practices as a Response to Outsiders’ Demands: The resurgence of natural dye use in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala

Heloisa Speranza Modesto, Sandra Niessen

Abstract


The Revival of Traditional Practices as a Response to
Outsiders’ Demands: The Resurgence of Natural Dye
Use in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. Over the last
two decades increased interest in “natural” products in
North America has, along with the banning of Azo dyes
in Germany, helped expand market demand for naturally
dyed textiles. This paper explores natural dye use among
the members of a Mayan women’s artisan group in San
Juan La Laguna, Guatemala – one of the only Guatemalan
groups that was using natural dyes in 2000. It evaluates
the artisans’ motivations to use natural dyes and the
socio-economic impacts of its use. Women control textile
and dyeing activity in San Juan and the returns play an
important role in complementing household income. The
use of natural dyes involves additional knowledge and effort.
Because natural dye knowledge is restricted and the
market for naturally dyed textiles is unappealing for artisans,
the number of artisans who use this technique is
limited; this in turn reduces the use of dye-material and
market competition.

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