By the end of the 18th century, the Maya communities in the Yucatan were, at least nominally, under the control of the colonial Spanish state but they retained their traditional language. This will, one of a collection published by the historian Matthew Restall, gives us a close up view of the social relationships and possessions of one such community. Restall, like other contemporary scholars, uses wills to shed light on the neglected history of indigenous peoples in the Americas.
Visual Culture
Pasguala Matu came from a family that the historian Matthew Restall calls "powerful commoners"--they were well off, but not the political elite of the community. Most of her worldly goods are property or clothes. She likely made the clothes herself, from the spinning of the cotton to the weaving of the cloth, and so they represented a large investment of her time and weaving skills. In the will, Matu carefully itemizes the clothing that she leaves to her husband, sons, daughters and daughters-in-law. From it, we can see that Maya men would wear shirts and belted trousers, and the Spanish-loan word used for shirt (camisa) signals their colonial origin. In contrast, the women wear the huipil (written as ypil in the will), a loose dress that has been worn from pre-Hispanic times to the present. From wills like this and eyewitness accounts, we know that indigenous women continued to make and wear indigenous-style clothing--which differed region to region--throughout the colonial period.

See a woman wearing a huipil in the Vistas Gallery.

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