Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

Graduating Senior Jacqueline Morales Is Honored at Dean’s Research Reception

Fri, May 4, 2018
Graduating Senior Jacqueline Morales Is Honored at Dean’s Research Reception

Jacqueline Morales is one of 16 students whose work was chosen for display at the Dean’s Research Reception for the College of Liberal Arts, held on April 19. Morales, who majored in Latin American Studies and History, with a certificate from the McCombs School’s Business Foundations Program, will graduate later this month.

In her research poster, “Weaving Empowerment,” Morales posits a question: “How have Maya women in the western highlands [of Guatemala] utilized weaving and traje (traditional dress) as an instrument of empowerment in postwar Guatemala?”

A Mexican American native of Brownsville, Texas, Morales explains that she wanted to study women and indigenous culture in a place other than Mexico. She has always been interested in the significance of clothing, citing the Charro Days festivities of Brownsville and its Mexican neighbor Matamoros, in which people dress in a wide variety of traditional Mexican clothing as well as elements typical “western” dress associated with Texas.

Using secondary sources, Morales explored how, for Maya women in Guatemala, weaving and wearing traje are a means of reclaiming identity and cultural pride after suffering the violence, racial discrimination, and repression of the country’s 36-year civil war. “Indigenous women are much more powerful than society gives them credit for, and I wanted my research project to illustrate this,” commented Morales. Noting that many Maya women are illiterate, she explained that much meaning is contained and conveyed in the garments they weave, and that traditional clothing and symbols thus functions as a voice. “One huipil (traditional blouse) can portray an entire narrative about the weaver, her kinship, and the history of her community. Regardless of literacy level, Maya women have a mode to express themselves in a visually stimulating way,” she writes.

Morales used secondary sources for her research, and was also fortunate to be able to interview Manuel Tahay, visiting lecturer in K’iche’ Maya, and his wife, Isabel Tzaj Guarchaj, who dresses in traje. Her beautiful research poster is on display in the main reading room of the Benson Latin American Collection through May 12. On the poster, Morales acknowledges the encouragement and support of historian Pilar Zazueta, PhD, who teaches the LLILAS Capstone seminar for senior Latin American Studies majors, and serves as undergraduate faculty adviser.

After graduating, Morales plans to take a year off from school to work and apply to law schools. She is interested in immigration, appellate, and constitutional law.

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  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

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