KEKCHI and MAYAN CULTURE

Weaving Cohune Palm Fans

The Kekchi and Mopan Mayan techniques of Blue Creek
(Toledo District, Belize)

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY JEAN-PHILIPPE SOULE 1999

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The Cohune Palm Tree

The Cohune palm (Orbigyna Cohune) is one of the most abundant trees in Belize. It is found in forests from near sea level up to 2000 ft. in rich soil. Cohune trees can reach upwards of 100 ft. while the fronds can grow up to 35 feet long, and are commonly used for thatching. Many other species of palm can also be used in thatching such as Bayleaf palm (Sabal morrisiana), favored for its durability, and Silver Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata). To make a shelter in the Belize jungle, the most readily available is the Cohune palm. The fronds are long and linear. The Cohune palm is also edible. To see which part is edible and how to prepare it. Go to our page on Eating Cohune Palm.

Fan Weaving Technique

First, the Cohune palm needs to be roasted or boiled. Ignacio collected some palm from a slash and burn field. The ashes were still hot and smoking, but the Cohune palm didn't burn, it only changed color from green to yellow. In addition to the sun, the heat from the burnt field was hard to stand. Ignacio quickly made a fan. We returned to the shade of our shelter before I tried the technique. A section of a frond with only 6 leaves on each side is needed. The leaves are woven together until the end, then twisted with a half a turn and turned under. The operation is repeated until the fan is finished. It is nice to use on hot days, but it's also practical to aerate a fire.

Photos

Slash and Burn  ;  Making a fan  ;  JP is learning 1   ;  JP is learning 2  ;  JP is finishing his fan

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