The Revival of Traditional Practices as a Response to Outsiders’ Demands: The Resurgence of Natural Dye Use in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala

Modesto, Heloísa Speranza
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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.
Modesto HS, Niessen S. 2005. The revival of traditional practices as a response to outsiders’ demands: the resurgence of natural dye use in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 3:155-166.
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