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Maya People of the Guatemala Altiplano

Copyright 2002 - Jean-Philippe Soule




Mayan women of Guatemala's Altiplano wear brightly hued and practically designed huipiles. The colorful cloth is hand-woven and embroidered and is then fashioned into a loose blouse that allows for ease of movement. Here a mother parts a fold in her huipil to breastfeed her baby. Although taboo in many western countries, it's a common sight in Guatemala. The simple act of a woman in traditional dress feeding her child is a natural celebration of themes that are important in mayan culture. The huipil is adorned with images of flowers and plants that represent life and fertility and the nursing baby completes the scene.

Zunil, Guatemala.



A group of women prepare large quantities of food for all the revelers. In their hands they squeeze and flatten little balls of corn masa (dough) to make tortillas. They grill them on a wood burning comal. Other women prepare huge cauldrons of soup and stewed meat.

Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala.



"No Mas Sed" No More Thirst ! The sign is an ironic backdrop to the scene of an older man passed out on the sidewalk from too much drink. Alcoholism is a problem in indigenous villages. Cheap liquor, un-pasteurized self-brewed corn beer and occasional binges on methanol cause countless health problems.

Nahuala, Guatemala.



Pearls of sweat trickle down this mothers face as she balances her baby on her back and struggles with heavy bags through the crowded market. She will sit for hours in the baking sun to sell a few cents worth of produce from the family fields.

Santiago Chimaltenango, Guatemala.



In the remote mountain village of San Juan Atitan, many men still wear home-made leather sandals. Often the skin of the feet and the leather of the sandals are indistinguishable from one another.

San Juan Atitan, Guatemala.



As in most third world countries, in Guatemala carefree childhood is mercilessly short. Families are large and all members must contribute. It is a common sight to see girls as young as six taking care of two or three smaller siblings, often carrying the youngest baby on her back.

Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala.



The market in Santa Maria de Jesus is very small, but the colorful variety of produce from nearby fertile fields is impressive. The narrow streets of the town are tightly packed with sellers and buyers making the market appear larger and more active.

Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala.



These two hands clasped together bridge three generations. In most remote villages, traditions are kept alive by women who pass them on to their daughters and granddaughters.

Santiago Chimaltenango, Guatemala.



This young girl with smudged cheeks and tousled hair may have not bathed in days but she is beautiful in her exquisite huipil and skirt. When women and their children come into town for market day they may journey on foot for a full day and sleep on the street for lack of a place to stay.

Zunil, Guatemala.



Best friends and budding models, these two love to show off for the camera. The youngest girl is the daughter of a small inn-keeper and revels in her role as tour-guide and ambassador.

Todos Santos de Cuchumatan, Guatemala.



Young boys in traditional dress work hard on an assignment in school. Education is relatively new to many of the mountain communities of this region. Few of their grandparents had any formal education. These kids are lucky to have a  teacher a room and basic supplies. Texts, books and other materials are scarce commodities.

Todos Santos de Cuchumatan, Guatemala.




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