Maya Women



Women's Activities

In most villages in the Toledo District, women contribute significantly to the growth and improvement of entrepreneurship that relates to development. In the district, Mayan women are very active in selecting the type of venture they choose to pursue. In all Mayan villages, women group together to establish some type of development. Projects are drafted through the assistance of NGO's involved. These projects undertake to build centers for a corn mill, rice huller, arts and crafts, pottery, weaving, carving, thread making, calabash preparation, just to mention a few. The women are very successful in the search for funding.

Production is well on its way in many of the activities mentioned. Recently a craft center was erected in Punta Gorda Town to house production from various Maya villages for market. This center serves as a main outlet for these products. The Fajina Craft Center has opened for the marketing of baskets, clay pots, bracelets made out of threads, beads, embroidery, clay earrings, and other crafts made by the women's groups in the villages. The Fajina center is funded by donor agencies.

Maya women work hard to keep their household clean and also work along with their husbands in the plantations. Although a man maintains the family financially, the woman has a very important role to play. When the man is out working for money she ensures that everything goes well in the family. They work along with other women communally for the benefit of the village. They are serious, happy, and approachable in their home.


San Antonio Women's Group

In San Antonio they have five women's groups. The only group interviewed was the Tiger women's group in San Antonio.

Miss Teodora Castellano is the Chairlady. She has forty-six members. Due to rain, only twenty-three were present for the interview. Within the group, they decided to build a craft shop where they could market their products. The size of the land for the building is 14 x 20 yards. They also want to open a small restaurant, they said.

I interviewed the women who make the straw baskets, clay-pots, calendar-days and calendar-months. Some create toucan picture on cloth. According to Miss Teodora Castellano, she would like to see more development.

The first conversation was with Miss Ambrosia Bol from Crique Jute, who was embroidering a picture with jaguar picture on cloth. She said she did not do it all day, just half time. She will sell it for BZ[$40] [US $20]. She learned this skill with the group.

Miss Felicima Coc of Crique Jute was making a toucan picture on cloth. How did she learn? She also said from the group. She just does it part time, not all day. According to her, it takes three weeks to make one of the pictures. She sold it for BZ$20 [US$10].

Miss Jacinta Choc spoke about baskets. She said she gets the jipijapa from the bush and boils it, which is a lot of work. She sits down to weave. She said it takes two weeks to make one basket, not working all day. She also said that she did it part time, depending on the size of basket. A big one sells for BZ$85 [US $42.50].

Miss Amelia Coc works on clay pots. She makes them from clay collected from river or creek banks. It's a special clay, she said. She can make clay pots big and small as well as braclets. She sells a small pot for BZ$5 [US $3.50].

Miss Prudencia Coc, from San Antonio, works on embroidery. She learned it from her mother when she was young so she could do her own embroidery work, but she also sews for sale. She is member of a group. She does it part time also. An embroidered blouse costs BZ$45 [US $22.50].

Miss Maria Oh, Crique Jute, works on placemats to set dishes on a table. She makes them out of straw. Tourist buy them for BZ$5 [US $2.50] each. She said she works part-time and it takes one week to make one placemat.

Miss Adela Bolon of San Antonio makes belts and waist straps. She weaves them and it takes time. One belt takes two weeks. One women's belt costs BZ$5 [US $2.50] or more depending on the size. She learned this craft from the group.

Miss Angela Chun from San Antonio makes Mayan calendars. She does not know what it means. She learned it from Donatila Chun. One calendar costs BZ$20 [US $10]. She also works on them part time.

Miss Felicima Coc from San Antonio makes baskets from bay'l [Ke'kchi] or buyul [Mopan] obtained in the forest. Her husband also works on baskets. It takes him one week to make one, part time. It sells for BZ$20 [US $10], depending on the size.

Miss Clara Cum makes clay pots with a special clay mix. It takes one week to mold. She works for her use only. She sells a pot when it is ordered by someone. Depending on the size, a big one costs BZ$30 [US $25].

Miss Teodora was interviewed with the long dress she has used from the time she was engaged. It is the way the Mayas used to dress. It's very respectful to wear a long dress, she said. She would like to see the younger generation use a long dress instead of the modern style. But she said they have an excuse: the long dress costs more, is too heavy to wash, and takes more time to sew. Today some of the younger girls use pants, she said. She did not like to see it. She would prefer the longer dress. Everybody agrees on this.

The members of the San Antonio Tiger Women's Group were very proud of themselves to be interviewed and pleased to explain how they strive to improve their group.

 Analysis of Maya Women

We support the development and increased involvement of women leaders in our movement to preserve our land, culture and resources. Although women are nominated, they often decline to become leaders. We have identified the following obstacles to the meaningful integration of women:

  • Women do not have the same access to education, and often lack literacy required for leadership.
  • Women lack the experience of what role an organization plays in achieving goals.
  • Women are not exposed in their daily life experience to villages outside Toledo.
  • Women's husbands do not always support their efforts to become involved.
  • Women lack skills that would make it possible for them to market their arts and crafts effectively.


  1. Women leaders should be trained to be able to speak for the benefit of her group or community.
  2. The woman leader's family and community should support her so she can dedicate herself to attend all available training, workshops, and conferences, after which she will come back to the community to share what she experienced and was taught.
  3. Efforts to find funding locally and/or internationally should include women's activities and technical assistance for women's involvement. Women should participate in raising money for these activities.
  4. In order to promote better leadership skills among group members and make women leaders available to partake in community development, we support family spacing.
  5. The promotion and marketing of women's arts and crafts will be assisted through the development of brochures with pictures and cost of high quality items for sale to be issued both locally and internationally.

    In July of 1997 the Maya women came together to begin a Maya women's organization. The association would serve as a platform for women's development needs. Pulcheria Teul has been organizing the women to become active and to assert their voices in the development of Toledo.


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