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It is modern-day 1984. Five thousand years of recorded human history have passed, yet to this day, we continue to observe so many unfortunate events still taking place on our planet which sharply contradict the utopia so easily perceived within the realm of the human imagination. However, we who are high-minded, believe that with the practical application of modern technology and sufficient financial capital, that elusive constructive utopia can be translated from mind into reality, into today's living world.

Fortunately, there are now various movements worldwide that have as goals the preservation of nature in its plant and human life. Ours, Ix Chel, is a humanitarian dream, originally designed to effect the preservation of the natural life of the indigenous population now living in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, and northern parts of the country of Guatemala in Central America. As well as those populations mentioned above, we also wish to assist many individuals in the United States and Europe who are working on this project. They are those who hope to discover a way that will enable them to express their innate talents in an everyday release of their creative potential and as well as survive the modern high cost of living.

The buying of hand-woven fabric from the indigenous weavers of Southern Mexico and Guatemala and the production of high fashion apparel from this fabric in Los Angeles is the method with which we seek to make this dream materialize. Not only will hundreds of women in Latin America have a socio-economic helping hand reached out to them, but many talented clothing designers, tailors, and sewers in the United States will be offered this rewarding alternative career.

We who wish to live a full creative and purposeful life feel blessed at being able to participate in such a humanitarian enterprise while being at the same time enabled to make use of the special skills we personally and individually possess. Project Ix Chel answers this call for a down-to-earth solution to so many of the problems facing the women of today's competitive modern society.

The clothing industry as a business is difficult but lucrative, and even in the most depressing moments of the history of civilization, people are making and buying clothing. We wish to express this path of heart within its mask of human vanity. The core members of Ix Chel are dedicated and ready to walk this path, each of us individually and together offering our unique contribution to its success.

We are herein listed in alphabetical order:

Dina Chapman - United States citizen. Graphic designer - production manager, Canyon Studios.

Eduardo Ramiro Davila - Citizen of Mexico. Graduated from Massey Business College, Houston, Texas. Translator English - Spanish. Financial Sponsor from 1979 - 1983. Three years resident of San Christobal de las Casas, Chiapas. Four months of living experience in the Peten Jungle, 100 kilometers from the border of Guatemala.

Joy Farr (wife of actor, Jamie Farr) – Sponsor 1983. Business Correspondent 1979 – 1981. Design Department director.

Antonia Guzman – Indigenous citizen of Tenejapa, Chiapas, Mexico. Translator Spanish – Tzeltal. Teacher of weaving for 20 years in San Christobal de las Casa. Presently working as translator and buyer of cloth.

Cheryl Kalvin – United States citizen. Founder and director of Project Ix Chel. Responsible for the organization and development of the program. Four years of living experience in Mexico working with the weavers of the Highlands of Chiapas.

Renee Karger – Citizen of Austria. Tailor and pattern maker for Ix Chel in San Christobal de las Casa, from May 1981 to May 1982. Experience in living and working with the indigenous people of the Highlands of Chiapas.

Jennifer Rose – Citizen of Canada. Presently living in San Christobal de las Casas, working as a buyer of cloth.


Project Ix Chel was conceived and designed to answer the economic and psychological needs of woman weavers, sewers and clothing designers from various areas of Central and North America.

Northern America, Central America, and Southern Mexico are populated by a large group of indigenous people commonly known in the field of anthropology as the descendants of the Maya civilization. Their culture flourished as early as 2,500 B.C. Modern Maya civilization is comprised of what is left of this ancient cultural group.

Today, at least ten Indian villages surround the little city of San Cristobal in the Highlands of Chiapas (fig. 1.) There are about ten thousand inhabitants in each village. To earn an income sufficient to support their families, many indigenous men are forced to seek and find work outside their native areas. They may leave their homes for months at a time to work in far-off ranches and industries. Women and young girls also leave their villages in search of work as servants in the nearby cities of San Cristobal de Las Casas and Tuxtla Gutierrez to earn money to help themselves and their families. Although many are economically secure with their various trades and agriculture businesses, there are larger segments of the population still living a very meager existence. Sickness, such as tuberculosis and typhoid fever plague the people and alcoholism has risen in recent years. There is no running water, electricity, or toilet facilities in their one-room huts and there are no government agencies offering assistance to the fatherless and the aged. There are government medical clinics in each pueblo, however these are rarely used.

Project Ix Chel had its beginning in the summer of 1979 in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. This is when one Indian woman named Dominga (her Spanish name), from the neighboring village of San Juan Chamula, was befriended by a member of our group.

Dominga and her two children visited our home in San Cristobal daily. Because of the language barrier, there was virtually no verbal communication at the time, but it was apparent that her husband was not present in their home. To enable her to have an activity to perform while visiting for hours on end in silence, she was encouraged to bring along her weaving. She eventually brought her weaving project and it was clear to all of us who observed her that weaving acted as a psychological centering for her. This allowed her to participate in an activity that gave her self-respect, rather than to work at menial chores that would have immediately categorized her as a member of a lower class. This was important to us as we wished to continue a relationship with her based on an equal status. Upon occasions, her husband would return for the space of a few weeks. Delighted, she would leave us for this time, later to return to us again lonely and emotionally distraught. Thus, we again observed the important role weaving played in her life. With its need to apply mental concentration and manual dexterity, she could be busy behind the loom with a practical skill and artful purpose. Gradually as the days passed, her continence would transform and her life was centered once again. And so, through this interaction with Dominga, we came to comprehend just how significant weaving can be regarding its effect as a psychological tool for healing.

Following this in 1980, Project Ix Chel offered work and assistance to a small group of women from four of the ten surrounding mountain villages. Most of these women were highly skilled artists of the back-strap loom, while others embroidered clothing. Hand-woven fabric and hand-embroidered machine-made cloth were purchased and sewn in our shop into modern apparel which sold at good prices in the neighboring tourist businesses. Ours was a successful experiment, our sales were sufficient to fund our expenses. In this manner, we understood that an answer to the great need for these people was indeed real and possible.

The weaving of hand-woven fabric for commercial purposes will make it possible for these indigenous woman to have a means of income that can be performed in their own homes. They are already highly skilled at this task, as weaving is so much a part of their traditional lifestyle. Thousands of women weave daily to clothe their families to make blankets for warmth. The opportunity to sell hand-woven cloth on the public market while working within the confines of their village, assures them that cultural heritage will not be lost entirely. The artful method of weaving textiles on the ancient back-strap loom will be preserved and appreciated as the hallmark of this unique but fading culture.

Today in our modern society there is a movement to return to the use of natural fibers for the making of wearing apparel. Synthetic fibers are becoming less popular as the major garment industries take up the task of promoting 100% wool, cotton, linen, and silk. Ix Chel desires that not only should the natural fibers be reintroduced and recognized for their good qualities, but that the method with which fabric is woven should be considered important as well. The back-strap loom is noiseless, nonpolluting to the environment, and free from metal and plastic parts, as it is made solely from wood (fig.2). The loom itself is inexpensive to produce and it is run by human energy. This method of textile production can contribute significantly to the world's search and need for a constructive commercial industry.

From 1979 to 1983, Ix Chel lived and worked among these people. We did not wish to exploit or convert their skills into rote performance for our aggrandizement. We worked rather to act as a spirited force dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of a profound and extremely creative race of people.


Maya civilization in the present era is an anthropological/archaeological world center. Its ancient masses of people did not mysteriously vanish, as it is commonly proclaimed by uninformed authorities, rather its governmental hierarchy no longer exists in its original form. Their ancient pyramids and temples have long been abandoned, yet the multitude of the Maya live and govern themselves today in Chiapas, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Guatemala, carrying with them still many of the traditions of their profound historical past.

The present-day Maya are a religious people. Their beliefs are a mixture of their ancient doctrine and modern-day Christianity. Written in more recent times the Po Pol Vuh and Chelam Balam are testaments of their spiritual background, history, and legend. Most of their original written scriptures were destroyed in the 16th century by European conquerors who believed their religion and customs to be superior to the Maya pantheon.

Maya religious thought centered around its many gods and goddesses. One figure stands out among them carrying an influence much as a savior, and that god is Kulkulkan, more commonly known by his Aztec name Quetzalcoatl. His mission in essence was to guide his people toward an appreciation of life’s arts and sciences. He is credited with the development of the Maya language, and most importantly he was respected as their teacher of the religious concept of regeneration and spiritual enlightenment. All over Mexico and Guatemala, there is reference to this legend/reality of the earthly serpent who took to the sky and came to be known as the feathered serpent.

There were other important figures, Itzam Na, the Creator, Ix Chabel Yax, his wife and creator of weaving. Also, the sun god and his wife Ix Chel, the moon goddess of fertility, weaving, and medicine. The cosmology of these people was a way of life lived daily.

The ancient Maya wrote, painted, and carved their beliefs in books and on animal skins and stones. The practice of spinning thread and weaving began, and references to their earliest cosmological symbolism could be seen embroidered on cloth. Ceremonial garments worn by priests of ancient times were covered with elaborate geometric designs (fig.3, 4.) These designs told stories through a celestial language expressed through the medium of mathematical symbolism (fig. 5, 6.) This language of spirit remains still with the people here and now in the modern day. It reveals itself to all who view the native costumes worn daily by all members of this ethnic group. However, its meaningfulness in terms of religious thought is overshadowed by an emphasis on the appreciation for it in terms of overall designs and pattern beauty, and unfortunately, only a few of the elderly weavers recall any of the ancient meanings of these magnificent symbols.

To this day it is said that a woman has a dream. The next day she sets up her loom. She uses the mysterious geometric Maya language to tell her story. She weaves her dream into the material world of cloth, which will later become a vestment of protection, beauty and warmth for the wearer. This blouse or costume of today is called a huipil (we-peel) (fig.7). It is rectangular, with a square hole in the center for the head to pass. When the woman places the huipil over her head to come to rest on her shoulders, she considers herself to be at the center of the cosmos. The ever-present diamond pattern of brocade called the Grand

Design surrounds her. The four points of the diamond shape represent the four corners of the heavens; North, South, East, and West. In essence, the huipil is a map of the universe itself.

These lady dream weavers have used for centuries and continue to use these elaborate symbolic patterns of finger brocade which cover almost their entire garment. This style of weaving consumes so much time that it has become one of the reasons that it is now very popular to make larger patterns which take away from the classic beauty of the smaller and more delicate designs. Also, many of the women when making articles to be sold on the tourist market, tend not to put the same effort and conviction into their work as when they are making something for themselves. Although still a dormant resource, the famous collection of weaving on display at the Museum of Na Balom in San Cristobal de Las Casas is at the disposal of all weaving co-operatives wishing to examine the handy work of their more recent antecedents.

It is hoped that by the study of these well-made costumes, the weavers will be encouraged to maintain the beauty and elegance of their heritage. It will inspire them to return to the smaller and more intricate pattern structures.

During the years we of Ix Chel worked with the weavers, we helped them refine their techniques and adjust their products to meet the demands of the commercial market. Each weaver and embroidery artist was considered individually, to see what was her particular talent or skill. We worked together to mold her abilities into a more marketable form. We encouraged her to share with others of her village who also sought employment with us, the detailed procedures she was learning with us. In this way, we needed only to work with a few village members who could later return to family and friends and begin to help them develop in like fashion. Our attitude toward these people was as it should be, helpful and desiring to enlighten and assist them with respect. As a result, we produced many fine relationships along the production of fine garments. The Mexican people as a whole were happy with our presence and we received encouragement from local government officials and agencies. However, our remote location and budget forced us to fold our enterprise for a time. We are now located in the Los Angeles area, where we have sought out and gathered more professionally skilled individuals with whom we are now working.

With sufficient funds, we will be enabled to return to work in Southern Mexico where the weavers wish us to stay and continue to offer them financial and moral assistance. And so accordingly we call ourselves Ix Chel, the Maya Moon Goddess of old, who brought and still brings solace to the woman of ancient and modern-day Maya.

© Sarah Cheryl Kalvin 1979