Origin of the hammock
In Mexico, amid hammock expansion, hammocks spread into the peninsula of Yucatan over 2,000 years ago. Since then, hammocks and the Mayan environment have been closely related.
The Mayan word “hayabil-kaan”, means “ropes to lie down”, which refers to the net extended between two walls, a familiar term for inhabitants of the Yucatecan peninsula as they lay down to rest.
Originally elaborated in Haiti, the hammock dates to 4,000 years ago. It stems from the word “hamac”, which means tree or from a tree. In Haiti, specifically, elaborated from the Hamack tree bark.
Hammocks from the Mayan region in Mexico have become known worldwide.
Today, hammocks are popular and stylish, and used in a variety of ways. Hammock sales have dramatically increased globally. As a trend, they are being used in a manner of community engagement. This trend has caught on with millennials, as a means of engaging. The trend has also been adopted by some corporations, as they include hammocks in offices and workspaces. Hammocks have also become popular in camping and glamping.
In many countries in Central America, such as Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and in South America, such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, hammocks are essential for rest, especially in regions with high temperatures in an extremely warm climate.
In some parts of Mexico, during a home visit, the hammock can be offered as a place to sit or a place to rest. The use of this aerial bed is a tradition and symbol in the Mayan region.
In Mexico, as time passed, tree bark was less used to make hammocks and was replaced by other materials. The sisal plant (planta cactácea) or henequén agave plant was abundant in the Yucatan peninsular. It was favored as the fibers are softer and more elastic. The plant material is shredded and the fibers are used to make thread and fabric.
Through the evolution of the hammock, adaptable materials have been used and new knots and weaves have been invented. Current materials are under constant improvement, as are the knots and weaves by creators who desire to create a comfortable net. Hammocks can be made of mecate or thread, of fine henequen thread, hemp, canvas, and canvas and row.
Cotton is one of the most used materials, as cotton and nylon blends allow for the hammock to feel more comfortable
Mayan artisans gradually perfected the technique of making a hammock. Traditional hammocks continue to be woven in the same manner to this day, the net is more closed and without knots. The Mayan type hammocks continue to be created in a way that integrates a demonstration of skill. The procedures and techniques a Mayan artisan uses, demonstrate talent, inventiveness and creativity. Presently, indigenous Mayans are skilled experts in the manufacture of hammocks.
The elaboration of a hammock is an art. It takes one to two weeks according to its size and characteristics. In addition, Yucatecan hammocks are usually made with a wide range of materials. The finest hammock that is woven in Yucatan, is made of canvas and row. It is woven with a finely corked thread of cotton or linen. It is woven with a variety of colors, combined in bands with white.
In the State of Yucatan, the most important municipalities in terms of the elaboration of hammocks are: Tixkokob, Chumayel and Teabo.
Note that manual corking continues to be carried out in some communities. Fortunately, there are Mayan artisans that receive support to carry out their work, in this way preserving traditional techniques of genuinely handmade Mayan hammocks.
The creation of a hammock consists of the hammock being woven into a frame consisting of two long wooden sticks, cylindrical and perpendicular, about two inches thick by about two meters long. The long sticks are placed parallel in front of each other, at the distance of the size of the hammock. The sticks are joined together by two horizontal stringers. They are secured and by approaching or removing them, the size of the hammock is scaled.
The process begins by surrounding the two sticks of the frame in the form of a mesh with the thread that will be used for the fabric. The thread is wrapped around and around the vertical posts. The rest of the thread is wrapped around the weaving shuttles. A reinforcement is first created on the edges, then the artisan interweaves the thread.
The “needle” (carved from strong wood or bone) is worked openly, such that the artisan intersects with the threads of the warp. A mesh is formed by a series of individual threads.
Once the artisan finishes weaving, “arms” are put on the hammock. These are a series of threads at the tip of the woven band, knotted at the ends. Using the same thread, a loop is formed at each end. These loops are then used to tie or “hook” the hammock.
Ultimately, hammocks made in Mexico are exported to different countries, all over the world. Mexico has a very important cultural inheritance.
Discover hammocks Made in Mexico here:
Museo de la Hamaca in Chiapas
Enciclopedia Yucatense, 2nd edition, Government of the State of Yucatán, Ciudad de México, D.F., 1977
Instituto para el Desarollo de la Cultura Maya del Estado de Yucatán, Government of the State of Yucatán
Secretaría de Fomento Turístico, Government of the State of Yucatán