The cofradía has its roots in medieval Europe, where it began as a voluntary brotherhood whose main purpose was to render homage to a saint and provide mutual assistance at the time of death. In the 16th century the Spaniards introduced the sacramental cofradía in their territories of the New World in order to propagate the Christian faith among the native population. In the Indian towns of Guatemala, the cofradía became an institution of a syncretic nature, since it combined both religious and civic functions originating from the Spanish and Mayan cultures
At the present time, the cofradía is still a vital institution in many Mayan communities of Guatemala, where traditions have survived despite the vicissitudes of history. In those towns, cofradía members usually can be identified by the elaborate ceremonial garments they wear during ritual celebrations. The cofradía has in fact been a fertile source of religious and cultural expression, and the textile tradition is but one of the aspects it has substantially enriched.
This catalog provides an introduction to the historical and ethnographic bakground of the cofradía in Guatemala, a general historical perspective of Guatemalan Mayan dress, and technical descriptions of twenty selected cofradía garments from the exhibit “Cofradía: Mayan ceremonial clothing from Guatemala”. Guisela Mayén’s article offers a synoptic view of her research on the cofradía. Linda Asturias de Barrios’ essay compares the pre-Hispanic and the European textile traditions and explains how features from both have been retained in cofradía clothing. The technical descriptions written by Rosario Miralbés de Polanco provide information on provenance, approximate elaboration date, weaving techniques and materials used on those garments.
The contributing authors of this catalog are: Anthropologist Guisela Mayén; Research Director of the Ixchel Museum, Linda Asturias de Barrios; and Curator of the Ixchel Museum, Rosario Miralbés de Polanco.