Latin america educational resource box

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ED.1987.3.84 This is a small sample of hand loomed cotton fabric made in ikat

technique from the town of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. In this piece, the weft

or cross-wise weaving threads are measured out and tie-dyed before being woven.

The Maya Indians make shawls and wrapped skirts of this fabric for the women to

wear or to sell to tourists. Note the small, stylized human figures that have been

“tied” into the black warp stripes to reserve the pattern in undyed white.

ED.1988.6.137 A small backstrap or body tension loom from Guatemala. This loom has

a piece of weaving in progress with stylized bird and diamond patterns on it. This

type of loom is still used today by Maya Indians in the highlands of Guatemala to

make their traditional clothing and ceremonial textiles. The stick wrapped with

string and holding some of the warp or foundation threads is known as a heddle

stick or harness and is used to raise and lower half the threads during weaving.

The long narrow, wedge-shaped stick is called at “batten” and is used to push the

weft or crosswise threads into place with each row.

ED.1991.12.57 a-c Three small mola-style patches made by Cuna Indians of Panama.

ED.1992.1.24a This is a handwoven hair tie of the type used in Totonicapan, Guatemala

by the native Indian women. Each little village has their own unique style of

weaving and wearing these. When women from several villages meet at a large

market town, they can tell which village each is from by the designs and ways of

tying them.

ED.1993.1.4 Small mola (square made of reverse appliqué, embroidery and regular

appliqué on cotton fabric) made by the Cuna Indians who live on the San Blas

Islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama.The women traditionally wear blouses

using 2 of these molas for the lower front and back, using commercially printed

cotton or polyester fabric for the yoke and small, gathered cap sleeves. The

making of these molas has become almost an industry in the area with several co-

ops and other non-governmental organizations in the area working to market them

internationally. (See also #2005.39.1)

ED.1993.5.39 a-s Woven rush figures from Mexico: 2 birds, 2 horses, 3 airplanes, 6 fish,

2 men in serapes and hats, 4 generic humans.

ED.1993.5.41 Woven wheat straw figurine of a four-legged animal. The straw was

soaked in water to soften, bent into shape, and tied with string to form the figure.

From Mexico.

ED.1993.5.51 Woven rush frame from Mexico made in a technique similar to that of

“gum wrapper chains” made here in the U.S. This is also the technique that was

often used to make straw “boater” style hats in the early 20th century in the U.S.

ED.1995.21.5 “Chamula” doll of unfired clay wrapped in roughly woven fabric from


ED.2000.23.5 This small piece of cotton fabric was woven on a backstrap loom by a

Maya Indian woman in the highlands of Guatemala. Note that there are no raw

edges—it is woven to shape. The stylized animal designs are woven into the

design by a technique called brocading. From the size of this piece, it was

probably made for sale to a tourist, but the width (if not the length) would be right

for a man’s sash.

ED.2001.24.74 Cloth body doll, probably from Mexico, of a woman with long braids

and wearing mestizo (acculturated Indian) dress.

ED.2001.24.100 Male doll from Guatemala wearing traditional Maya Indian dress. The

body is made of coiled brown paper and the head of stuffed and embroidered


ED.2003.27.47 Copper plaque of alcalde or village headman with staff of office wearing

typical clothing of Cuzco area of Peru, Quechua (Inca) Indian.

ED.2004.3.96 A small scoop carved from half a gourd with a pattern of a four-petal

flower made by scraping off the shiny surface of the gourd to reveal the dull

interior. Gourds are grown by people living in rural areas and are used for a wide

variety of utensils.

ED.2004.3.117 Wood plaque with brass model of pre-Columbian ceremonial knife from

the ancient Tairona culture of Colombia.

ED.2004.6.7 Woven straw doll’s hat from the border area of Panama and Colombia.

ED.2004.7.3 This is an embroidered panel from what was once a much larger, simple

woman’s blouse called a huipil. The pattern on this shows that it is from the town

of San Mateo Ixtatan, Guatemala. The Maya Indians wear these and each village

has its own design that is unique to that village—when visiting other towns,

everyone can see where the wearer comes from.

ED.2005.1.51 a-h Ceramic impressions of ancient Maya hieroglyphs. These modern

reproductions can be used for crayon rubbings in the classroom.

ED.2005.1.121 Dancing couple hand-molded of low fire clay and painted with tempera

Paint. Typical Mexican ceramic folk art.

ED.2005.1.135 Wooden “batea”. This is a typical household utensil made in all sizes for

everyday use for chores ranging from mixing bread dough to doing the laundry

and bathing babies. They are used throughout Mexico and Central America down

to Panama.

ED.2005.1.174 Model of tortora reed boat of the kind traditionally used on Lake Titicaca

on the border of Peru and Bolivia—the world’s highest navigable lake.

ED.2005.1.198 a,b Pair of Guatemalan women dolls in Maya Indian dress. The bodies

are made of rolled brown paper and the heads of stuffed cloth with embroidered

faces. Figure (a) has an acorn cap “basket” on her head- Indian women typically

carry burdens on their head, often wrapped in cloths such as the tzute (see below

#ED. 2005.1.323).

ED.2005.1.200 a,b Hand woven cotton belts made and used by the Indians of Mexico

and Guatemala.

ED.2005.1.255 An egg cup of carved wood, the stained surface is cut away to make the

design of a beach scene with palm trees. This was typical of souvenirs from

Havana, Cuba sold to tourists in the pre-Castro era before the 1950s.

ED.2005.1.323 Handwoven cotton tzute (carrying cloth) from Guatemala. This was

made by Maya Indian woman in Guatemala using a traditional backstrap or body

tension loom. The warp or foundation yarns were tie-dyed before weaving to

produce the “fuzzy” looking stripes. This one is from the early 20th century.

ED.2005.1.335 Poster map of traditional dress styles and their locations in the state of

Oaxaca, Mexico.

ED.2005.1.394 Woman’s short sleeved blouse from Mexico of white cotton manta cloth

with bright-colored yarn embroidery in counted thread work in geometric


ED.2005.3.12 a-h UNICEF cardstock figures of children in traditional dress:

  1. boy dressed as “gaucho” (cowboy) from Argentina

  2. boy musician from Venezuela

  3. girl in festive dress from Puerto Rico

  4. girl in “China Poblana” outfit from Mexico

  5. Maya boy from highland Guatemala market town of Chichicastenango

  6. girl from Jamaica

  7. girl from Haiti

  8. boy from Cuzco area of Peru in Inca dress

ED.2005.20.2 Clay bead necklace of hand-formed terra cotta beads. This type of folk art

jewelry is sold to tourists all over Latin America from Mexico to Peru and Chile.

ED.2005.25.4 A-F Set of 6 low-fire painted clay children’s dishes of a type also used for

making miniature scenes in boxes. From Mexico- fragile

ED.2005.25.21 Wood “egg cup” incised with a beach scene and the words “Havana”. A

typical mass-produced tourist item of a sort rarely encountered now that Cuba is

closed to American travelers by order of the U.S. state department.

ED.2005.39.1 Bag of a type sold to tourists by the Kuna (alternatively spelled Cuna)

Indians of Panama. On one side is a mola or reverse appliqué picture of multi-

colored curved stripes. Traditionally these molas are used to form the back or

front of a woman’s blouse, but new uses have been found for them to appeal to the tourist market. The Cuna live on the San Blas Islands in the Caribbean Sea, on

the east coast of Panama.

ED.2005.39.2 Crocheted cotton shoulder bag from Guatemalan highlands in a multi-

colored geometric striped pattern on a black background. Men often crochet these

bags to use for carrying items while hiking to their fields in the mountains.

ED.2005.39.8 A hand woven table runner made of cotton on a traditional back strap

loom by Maya Indian women in Guatemala. The pattern is a brocade of geometric

patterns with birds.

ED.2005.51.135 Stuffed cloth body doll with button eyes and mouth carrying basket on

head- a typical way to carry burdens in many parts of the world which leaves the

hands free for other activities. Though ink writing on her inner leg states she is

from Honduras, other donor info stated Brazil and this type of doll is typical of

some in the museum collection from Guatemala!

ED.2005.56.1 Tapestry woven pillow cover from Ecuador with a stylized bird design in

wool weft on a cotton warp. The native Indians in the highlands of Ecuador are

well known for their weavings and make many things to sell, including ponchos,

at the weekly markets in the mountain towns.

ED.2006.1.21 Poster “Map of the Folk Arts of Mexico” showing a painting of Mexico

with figures in traditional dress making various types of folk art by Miguel

Covarrubias. He has also written descriptive text on the back.

ED.2006.1.259 a,b Cardboard game boards for “Juego de la Oca” (The Goose Game)

with a checkerboard printed on back. Attached to these is an English translation of

the instructions for playing the game. This game is played in Mexico and the

boards were purchased in Olvera St. in Los Angeles. The game requires 2 dice

and a marker/playing piece for each player. Two or more players can play at a


ED.2006.1.260 a,b Cardboard game boards for “Serpientes y Escaleras”

(Serpents and Ladders—also known as Chutes and Ladders) with an additional

game, “Corre Que Te Alcanzo” (Tag) on back side. Attached to these is an

English translation of the instructions for playing the game. This game is played

in Mexico and the boards were purchased in Olvera St. in Los Angeles.

ED.2006.1.302 A statuette of a man in Classic Era (around 500-800 A.D.) Maya

costume and headdress. Though the headdress is large, it probably did not weigh a

lot as they were usually made of cane basketry covered with feathers and other

light weight materials. The Maya Indians of southern Mexico and Guatemala

had a highly organized and stratified civilization in Central America long before

Columbus made his first voyage. While this is a figurine made for the tourist trade

(thousands of people a year go to see the ruins of their large cities), many

museums in the Los Angeles area own artworks from the Classic Maya

civilization and have them on display.

ED.2006.1.324 Model of a backstrap or body tension loom with a partially completed

piece of cloth woven on it. Larger versions of this loom are still used today by

many tribal women, especially in southern Mexico and Guatemala, to weave

traditional blouses called huipiles and carrying cloths called tzutes.

ED.2006.1.366 a,b A gourd “bomba” for drinking mate, the national drink of Argentina

accompanied by the traditional perforated metal straw. Maté is an herbal drink

that is said to contain more caffeine than coffee. Though this is a simple one,

some bomb are quite elaborate with etched & carved designs and silver trim.

ED.2006.9.41 A laminated map of “Central America: Past and Present” from the

National Geographic Society.

ED.2006.9.43 A laminated map of “South America” from the National Geographic


ED.2006.9.44 A laminated map of the “Indians of South America” from the National

Geographic Society.

ED.2007.1.68 a,b Two travel posters from Colombia. (A) from San Agustin shows a

large pre-historic stone sculpture and (B) from Bogota with a pre-historic gold

pectoral (breast pendant). Colombia is famous for its prehistoric gold work, many

pieces of which are in the historic “Museo de Oro” (Gold Museum) in Bogota.

ED.2007.1.69 Travel poster from Mexico City showing a ceramic figurine of a pre-

Columbian warrior (Aztec?) seated on a bright pink brocade fabric woven on a

back-strap loom by contemporary Indians in Mexico.

ED.2007.1.128 a-j Amazonian Indian fire starting kit, probably from Brazil. A hollow

bamboo or cane piece holds 8 small sticks with cotton fibers wrapped around one

end (these are the fibers that will help start the fire) and keeps them dry. A hollow

round gourd is attached to this by wire and may have once been plugged to hold

accessories such as flint and steel to make sparks.

ED.2007.1.152 Laminated National Geographic map of “Central America Past and

Present” with Central American political boundaries on the reverse side.

ED.2008.1.31 This is a small painting of birds and flowers made on handmade paper

from the bark of trees. This type of paper is called amate and is becoming rare as

the trees it is made from are becoming harder to find. The Otomi Indians also use

this type of paper, to make cut-out forms of supernatural beings that they place in

their vegetable gardens as a form of magic in hopes of making the crops grow


ED.2009.1.70 This simple traditional toy from Mexico is a “finger trap” (sometimes

jokingly referred to as Mexican hand cuffs, though the Chinese have a similar

toy). To use it, insert a finger from each hand into one end of the tube. If you try

to PULL them out, which is the normal instinctive reaction, you will find that you

are stuck and cannot release them. However, if you PUSH your trapped fingers

towards each other (do the opposite of what you would expect would release you),

the diameter of the tube expands and you can easily remove your fingers.

ED.2009.19.1 An adult Maya Indian woman’s huipil (blouse) from the humid jungle

area of Cobán (capital of the state of Alta Verapaz) or the nearby town of San

Juan Chamelco. This modern piece from the 1990s still retains the hand

embroidered neck and arm opening trim and boxy shape of the older styles.

However, the base fabric is a commercially produced cotton and polyester blend

instead of a handwoven cotton gauze which is the more traditional fabric. It has

been cut in one piece and sewn at the sides so that the selvedge edge of the fabric

makes a “finished” hem that won’t run, yet saves the maker time in that she

does not have to sew a hem.

ED.2010.2.14 a,b A pair of dolls from Peru in the traditional clothes of the Inca Indians

from the mountain town of Cuzco, high in the Andes. The man carries a flute,

which is a popular musical instrument in the area. The native style of flute playing

has in recent years been popularized around the world by musicians such as Paul

Simon and his hit song “The Condor Passes”. The woman carries her baby on her

back, a typical way to leave the hands free for other activities while still keeping

an eye on the infant.

ED.2010.2.15 This handmade doll is typical of those from several different Caribbean

islands such as Jamaica, Bermuda, and others. She shows the old style of dress

worn by many women vendors in the outdoor marketplaces.

ED.2010.6.6 This is a mola made by the Cuna Indians who live on islands off the

Caribbean coast of Panama. They have made this type of sewing technique, called

reverse appliqué, world famous. In reverse appliqué, several layers of fabric are

tacked together and then cut to expose lower of different colors. A piece this size

would normally be either the front or the back chest panel of their traditional short

sleeved women’s blouses. However, tourists to the area have created such a

demand for this type of artwork that the Cuna women are starting to make unusual

sizes and shapes of reverse appliqué to meet demand. In past times, they often

took apart old blouses and literally sold the shirts off their backs. On many molas

in museum collections, it is possible to see remains of the actual stitching that

held the piece to the blouse.

ED.2011.1.8 This is an enlargement of a photo of the Great Plaza and Temple I at the

ancient Maya site of Tikal, located in the jungles of lowland Guatemala.

Archaeologists say that it was constructed over several hundred years, between

400 and 100 B.C. (or B.C.E.) and that there are layers of earlier temples located

inside the large stepped platform of Temple I that is now visible.

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