A "recycled" huipil is the term that is being used by middlemen in markets referencing secondhand huipiles. In some cases, there are specific days and places where you can buy the recycled huipiles. The perk? Well you buy the huipiles for much less than what they are really worth. So far, it seems like a great deal no one could resist, but what is the real reason these Mayan blouses are being sold for so cheap?
First, we need to comprehend that something that is being recycled is something that has already been discarded or thrown to the trash, and from that point salvaged for better or more use. In this case, most “Recycled huipiles” have another background. There is a huge chance that these huipiles were sold in desperation, someone who really needed the money and was forced to selling it for just a few dollars, disregard of the effort, complexity and symbolism. Most Maya women weavers are part of the vulnerable sector of the Guatemalan society with few opportunities for education, health, work, not to mention professional development; they carry with them the legacy of 3,500 years of culture. Their acquisition capabilities are so low that they are no longer able to even continue weaving, so this means that with the little money they got for the huipil, they are most likely to get a regular blouse, leading straight to one of the main reasons of extinction of culture.
It is a fact that these colors, patterns and mysticism combined with modern day accessories or clothes look beautiful, but there is a smart, conscious, and better way to fuse it. When done correctly, everyone should wear it with pride, knowing it represents a legacy that’s being carried on correctly assuring its persistence and development and that whoever elaborated the huipil or textile is going to be able to inherit the weaving culture, avoid migration and receive an income that allows them to afford a decent diet, education, and achieve community development; but mostly to be able to keep weaving.
Hopefully the reality of doing it right is not far from being true, many social enterprises are providing a fair income for sustainable weaving and do not engage in cutting or tearing apart a magnificent and meaningful huipil. Last year the Women's Association for the development of Sacatepéquez (AFEDES) brought Initiative 5247 to the constitutional court and are seeking the protection and acknowledgment of the collective intellectual property of their cultural heritage, the bill is yet to be accepted and if passed it will guarantee a necessary change in working with Maya communities in today's fashion industry. Much more empowerment, transparency and recognition is definetely needed.