Maria Cecilia Mendoza Coché, called Cecilia, is from the San Juan weaving cooperative Flor Juanera located on the shores of Lake Atitlán. She speaks two languages, Tz’utujil and Spanish. Tz’utujil is her local Maya dialect, one of 26 indigenous Maya languages spoken in the Guatemala. Tz’utujil is now taught in schools and Cecelia’s children are studying it because it is necessary to advance to the next grade in school. Cecilia was not wearing her tradition huipil on the day we visited. Instead she was wearing a machine made blouse. She describes her traditional clothing as a red huipil and the red belt, the white skirt with white fringe. Every piece of the outfit represents an aspect of Maya life and culture. The dress has 9 peaks around the collar, representing the 9 months of pregnancy. The red in the outfit represents the blood that the woman shares when she gives birth. And the 24 circles around the shirt are the 24 festivities of San Juan.
Though Cecilia only has a third grade education, she earns money weaving to make sure her children have more education and opportunity than she had. She learned to weave at 10 years old and married at 17. Her mother in law was in a weaving cooperative and helped introduce Cecilia to the benefits of cooperative participation. Together, they both are members of a cooperative that works with Maya Traditions Foundation.