For the last four thousand years, the Mayan Indians have grown what we now refer to as "naturally-colored cotton" in the altiplano of Guatemala. The two native color sused for centuries are the white, blanco, (sa b 'oj in Mayan dialect) andthe brown cafek'azo'j. Historically, the natural cotton has grown in abundance in Guatemala; but,only as of late has it been difficult to cultivate due to factors related to the need for perfect soil conditions and purity of the cotton boll at production. The Mayan Indians didn't and currently do not use artificial chemicals in order to deter pests which may invade their cotton crops. Instead, they take advantage of nature's deterrent by introducing insects whose job it is to consume the harmful ones from destroying their cotton .
Currently in Guatemala, the naturally-colored cotton crops are producing the natural beige, "ixcaco", brown "cuyuscate" and light brown "moka". There are also various shades in natural green and the newest color, a lightrose, which is due to produce its first crop this year. It has been researched that the Russians have cultivated natural cottons in 200 varieties including a light-blue and violetstrain.
As a natural fiber, the naturally-colored cotton must compete with synthetic fibers inthe industry. The cotton, however, can be used not only for textile but in the home, medical industry, in cosmetic products, in the making of paper and evenin creating explosives.
Guatemala's leading natural cotton producer, Horacio Villavicencio, has raised his natural cotton for over 15 years. It is astounding to hear his storiesof while preparing to cultivate his fields he unearthed hundreds of relics of early Mayanancestry! As he dug, priceless Mayan water pots would appear.To this day, whenever Don Horacio works the fields, he finds items which belonged to his early ancestors .
The natural cotton is grown without the use of harmful pesticides. This is another reason people look to the natural cotton when choosing clothing pieces.Many people suffer from allergies to the skin that worsen when wearing cotton which has been sprayed with pesticides. Naturally-colored cotton, which has no orlow impact pesticides, comes as an incredible relief to these people who much watch carefully what they wear.
This natural Mayan cotton, is wild and has not been genetically crossed.The fiber is rich in iron from the earth's soil and thus produces a natural warmth and color. These properties were highly esteemed by the Mayans, who considered this cotton a "cosmic energy". Nowadays, this warmth has been shown to alleviate and even prevent rheumatism. It has been woven sinceprehispanic times. The color is natural and does not fade but actuallydeepens with washing.
As of present, the naturally-colored cotton is produced for world export inGuatemala.The Mayan Indians still, to this day, pluck the cotton by hand, prepare the strands of cotton for weaving within their small communities. This age-old cotton tradition is not only a piece of their priceless heritage; but, it has become the symbol of the Mayan tribes themselves. Each tribe weaves a specific pattern that is "owned" by them. It is their pride and stamp which at times becomes their calling card. The number of hours they must spend to design, spin thread and weave is beyond comprehension. It may take a Mayan woman close to 30 days (8 hours a day) to create a blouse which she or her young daughter may exclusively wear. I have seen thetedious weaving by the Mayan Indians; yet, to them it is not tedious atall. It is a rhythmic, relaxing, expression of their thousand year history which is still alive and breathing today in Guatemala. I treasure my naturally-colored cotton clothing pieces grown in the rich, clean soils ofthe alturas of Guatemala with their beautiful weave. I see them, as gifts of a culture so unique that it is only real to the person who is for tunate to experience it firsthand.
Guatemala is not the only country which maintains their indigenous art and culture and shares it with the world. Costa Rica, one of our most environmentally conservative countries, has preserved nearly one-third ofit's green, natural country as national land preserves. To maintain the theme of preservation of the rain forests, one company in particular,Naturis/Bioland out of San Jose, has created a line of all natural bath and beauty products produced in a solar energy only factory. Their fields of sustainable, organic fields supply the fresh aroma the rapeutic formul as created for the Costa Rican nationals. The Arenal active volcano, sharesits sulfuric earth in the making of the Arcillas Naturales (clay volcanicmud masks and soaps) which are a natural blemish remover and deep skin cleanser. The rosemary shampoo has been an age-old indigenous formula forthe stimulation of hair growth and anti-dandruff agent. Naturis has taken the next step and bottled all of its products in recycled bottles and labeled their products with paper made of recycled banana leaves!The Costa Ricans know these products and use them daily. Visitors fromcountries outside of Costa Rica make it a point to bring these products back to the USA as gifts and reminders of the naturalness of this tropical country. One needs not to go to Guatemala or to Costa Rica to take advantage of these excellent products. Fair Trade Naturals has secure online buying of both the Ozone Care natural cotton clothing line and the Biol and Costa Rican bath and beauty products. Call for a free catalog.
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