The History of Hammocks
Although to many people Yucatan, Mexico is the ‘home’ of hammocks they did not originate from there. It is believed that hammocks came to Mexico via the Arawak Indians in the Caribbean, in the 1300s.
So the Yucatan people, the Mayans have been weaving hammocks for over 700 years.
The first hammocks were made from the bark of trees but quite soon the fibre from the Henequen plant was used. It grows naturally in the Yucatan and the fibre is called sisal from the name of the port where it was exported from, mainly in the form of rope.
Christopher Columbus is believed to be responsible for the creation of the narrow, banana shaped hammocks that now predominate peoples ideas of hammocks. The navy needed to fit a lot of men in a small space so they narrowed the hammock and changed the direction of lying in it. Even these narrow hammocks were a great improvement on hard flea ridden bunks. Unfortunately it has given many people the wrong impression of hammocks and denied them the glorious experience of floating, fully supported, ah the bliss.
Mayan hammocks are now woven from either cotton or nylon (polypropylene).
Cotton is more comfortable, cool and soft and is the most popular. Nylon is not as soft but can withstand humidity and direct sunlight better.
The suspension arms (or end strings) are always made of nylon for strength.
Most of the population of Yucatan still sleep in hammocks because they are cooler than mattresses and they are easily removed during the day to free up precious space in the home. So hammocks are part of the Yucatan culture and are an everyday piece of furniture.
Some hotels provide rooms with hooks on the walls for hammocks and there are also public gazebos with hooks also, just BYO hammock.
Mayan Hammock Weavers
In the Yucatan women are the main producers of hammocks. Hammock weaving is an important source of income for many families if not their only one.
They usually work from home on a large upright loom in between caring for their kids and extended family. Their conditions are way better than working in factories or in the fields. Here they can work at their own pace. Some work on the beach, usually those artisans who are attaching the end strings and the hanging loop.
They are like small entrepreneurs though they do not have to invest any money. They receive the materials and are paid when the hammock is finished.
We source our hammocks from a Brisbane based Yucatan person.
She grew up using hammocks and regularly returns home to organize the manufacturing, quality control and shipping of these hammocks to you and I, thank heavens !!