The name, Convento de Santo Domingo, is a popular one in southern Mexico. In the history of European arrivals in Mexico, some of the earliest were Dominicans from Spain in 1526. The order’s efforts were ultimately centered in Oaxaca and Chiapas, the Franciscans elsewhere.
Their church in San Cristóbal de las Casas, and a number of others I saw in the area, was closed because of damage from earthquakes in 2017 and 2018, but the church, the Templo de Santo Domingo is not the only attraction in the large ex-convento complex. The west side is occupied by 2 museums, on the ground floor the Museo de los Altos de Chiapas and the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya above.
Museo de los Altos de Chiapas
I did a quick tour of the ground-floor gallery containing archeological objects and displays of items from Spanish colonial times in Chiapas. But I was really there to see the textiles museum. During my second visit to Oaxaca in 2017 I’d visited the attractive Museo Textil de Oaxaca in a colonial building, small with well-done displays and was hoping for something like it again here in San Cristóbal, a city of 170,000, about half the population of Oaxaca. I was in for a surprise. The Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya is to my eye a world-class museum, sophisticated displays both beautiful and functional and, to this non-expert, the quality of the collection seems superb.
Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya
Arriving on the second floor into the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya, I was directed into a room to the left where a video is shown (above), then out onto a wide hallway, open to the the large courtyard below. Galleries are entered from the hallway, one side showing traditional work, the other side for contemporary weaving.
I was most interested in the traditional work and the enormous variety of the fabric patterns and clothing styles of the Maya region, now Yucatán, Chiapas and Guatemala. Below display cases were drawers containing more examples of the art and craftsmanship of the Maya weavers and embroiderers. When a drawer was opened to reveal the work inside, a light came on, a system I hadn’t seen before and a wonderful way to examine the beauty of the work up close and well lit, and not exposed to damaging light when not being viewed.
Over 500 handwoven pieces make up the permanent collection of the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya and, in addition, an adjacent building has facilities for study and conservation. A visit to this museum underscores the fact that Maya culture is a living way of life, seen every day in towns and villages of Chiapas and beyond.
Items from the display of contemporary weaving, below.
Beyond my budget, fine examples of Maya weaving
are available in the museum shop, below.
Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya:
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