Latin American

Man’s Hat (PIshalal)

Artist: Pascual Lopez Lopez
Culture/People: Tzotzil Mayan
Place: Mexico
Media: Palm fibers and satin
Dims: 6 x 15 (diam. in. (15.2 x 38.1 diam. cm).
Date: 2005
RTC No: LA0026
Gift of Edward J. Guarino, 2017


This wide-brimmed man’s hat (or pishalal in Tzotzil Mayan) was created by Pascual Lopez Lopez. He was the winner of the FONART Award (National Fund for the Development of Arts and Crafts, Mexico) for three years in a row for making Tzotzil majordomo hats in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico. The Tzotzil are the largest Indigenous group of the Mexican state of Chiapas. The piece was donated to the Coe by Edward J. Guarino, who has not only donated a large number of artworks to the Coe, including a wonderful selection of Indigenous Mexican textiles and hats but also was the lender for our exhibition Catch 22: Paradox on Paper in 2017-18. Hats like this one reflect the cultural adaptation and resilience of the Mayan people—the satin ribbons on this pishalal originally might have been feathers from local birds, and while this example is still made of palm fibers, many other examples are now woven from plastic strips. The form, function, and spirit remain the same.

Pishalals are worn by Tzotzil men on festival days or for celebrations, but the making of the hats is an everyday activity. The hats can be woven anywhere and anytime. While women typically weave other Tzotzil textiles, the pishalal is woven by men, both historically and today.

This hat was included in the 2019 Hands-On Student Curatorial Program exhibition Recollective Echo. It was selected by Roan Mulholland, who was a Hands-On curator with us for three years. As part of her curation, she delved into how pieces from the Coe collection triggered personal memories or feelings from her own life. As Roan explained, There are limits to words. This is why I chose to draw my pieces. I wanted to make some part of it my own, not by making it better or distracting from the beauty of the original, but to incorporate it more fully into my memories. However, like stories, memories change, and through our dreams, they change more. So I wanted to share how I see them, how my brain has changed a ceremonial hat from the Tzotzil Maya group in Mexico into a sunset, and a pineapple into a first meeting. By drawing them out, I unbind the limitations that physicality has set on them. I can make them into a dream.

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