Belize City, Mon. Oct. 11, 2021– The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) this week, through funding obtained from the Caribbean Development Bank, launched a new clothing line — the Xe’il collection — that is produced by a group of Mopan Maya women from San Antonio, Toledo, with the assistance of a local fashion designer. The purpose of the initiative is to empower Maya women and “showcase the dawn of a fashion era emerging from Southern Belize,” according to a press release published on Monday.
The Xe’il initiative was reportedly started in October of 2019 by SATIIM through the CDB’S Cultural and Creative Industries Innovative Fund (CIIF) and led to the development of pieces of clothing that reflect the unique stitching and garment-sewing techniques of the Mopan Maya residents, as well as the design concepts of fashion designer Ronelli Requeña from San Ignacio, Cayo. Xe’il which, when translated to English, means “True to our roots,” was chosen as the name of the brand by Maya stakeholders, such as Julio Saqui, the Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC), the Kekchi Council of Belize (KCB), the Ixk’äntz’iit Women’s Cooperative from San Antonio in Toledo and the Fajina Craft Center.
A press release from SATIIM further states, “Xokb’il Chuy, or counted stitches, is the name of a Mopan Maya embroidery that turns geometry into art. True to its name, patterns are sewn using a complex counting system. The designs depict motifs from Maya stories, such as the sun, moon and animals or plants found in their environment. Against the odds, Maya women have kept their language and culture alive, one stitch at a time. While the Mopan Maya language is anticipated to go extinct in a matter of decades, the counted stitches practice is a living gift bestowed by one generation to the next and has been transmitted from mothers to daughters for hundreds of years. Xe’il is a form of haute couture that has elements of ‘bespoke ‘ fashion constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high-quality fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques, also known as a ‘slow stitch’”
Ronelli Requena designed a premier collection of garments, labeled “Yahtz’il” (yasil), which means “beloved”, through consultations with the Maya women of the San Antonio Village in the Toledo District. Ronelli also reportedly trained women from the village to sew the garments as “ready-to-wear” items “created with the conscious consumer in mind”.
The collection, which officially was presented to the public on October 12, features four items for women and one item for men, available in three sizes. The items will officially become available for sale on Monday, October 18, and orders can be placed via SATIIM’s or Xe’il’s official facebook and Instagram pages or via WhatsApp.