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Typical Guatemalan Dress

by Diana Pastor

Surely many of our readers have by now admired the diversity of indigenous women’s dress and the way it changes as you move throughout Guatemala. The huge range of colors and designs are not just things of beauty, but also say something about each of the individual cultures they represent.

Unfortunately, in some places like Xela it’s very rare to see men wearing traditional dress. Why? In Xela’s case, there never really was a traditional men’s outfit. In others, the tradition has been lost over time. These days, there are only eight communities in the country where men dress traditionally and only two where the majority do so.

One of these communities is San Martín Chile Verde, about 30 minutes from Xela, The men there wear white pants and shirt, adorned at the edges with red and orange trim. It’s very common to see men dressed like that in the market of that town, proudly wearing their traditional outfit, accompanied by a hat.

The men of Todos Santos Cuchumatán (famous for its drunken horse race on the 1st of November) wear red or purple striped pants. The outfit is completed with a long-sleeved shirt in the same fabric, and a hat with a brightly colored band.

In Santiago Atitlán the outfit is even more complete. A highly original jacket, made from tipica fabric, red pants and a type of skirt or tunic make the Santiagueños believe they have the most distinctive masculine outfit in the country.

But I would give that honor to the men from Nahualá. They use a type of cloth or poncho rolled at the waist and hanging straight to the knee very much like a skirt. Their shirts have embroidered cuffs and necks. The color is always earth-toned, usually brown.

Other communities where men still use traditional dress are Sololá, Santa Catarina and San Antonio Palopó (all municipalities of Sololá) and in San Juan Atitán, Huehuetenango.

Every day fewer men use this type of dress. This is partly to do with the cost (a pair of traditional hand-woven pants from Santa Catarina Palopó cost around Q1000) and partially to do with the discrimination faced by people who choose to wear what their communities have traditionally worn.

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