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Masaya hammock chair /  Coral

This is our first project about Central America. The Caribbean is where the hamacas originated. "Hamaca Masaya" from Nicaragua is known as "the world's most beautiful hammock". Whichever places, a cafe, a selection store, the bedroom, the backyard, a camping site or a hostel, a beautiful Masaya hamaca makes a difference. It brings Caribbean Sea breeze to you.

Hamaca Masaya  / The Wave

Hamaca Masaya / Shell

Hammocks are the must-have, trendy item for superstars' vacation / Jake Gyllenhaal and Beyonce

Perfect for camping

The home of Hamaca Masaya

Making an authentic Hamaca Masaya is complicated. The complex one takes eight people to work together for at least a whole week.

Hamaca Masaya / Shell

The name of Masaya hammock comes from Masaya, a city in Nicaragua in Central America. There are many hammock workshops in the Barrio de San Juan area in the southwest of the city. Nearly all the families there run their own workshops. Walking on the streets of San Juan, you will see rows of low wooden houses built side by side. Behind each door, a whole family sit  in a circle and weave hammocks together. Home and unity are highly ​​valued in Latin American culture, which is also reflected in their hammock craftsmanship.

Workshops in San Juan (Source: oddviser)

Masaya, the third largest city in Nicaragua, is located between a volcano and a lake. It is also known as the "City of Flowers" and the "Cradle of Culture." In the 18th century, Spanish colonists established the city of Masaya between the valleys so as to connect Managua the capital  with the lakeside city Granada. Masaya has a mixture of Spanish colonial style and cultures and customs from different regions of Nicaragua. The small valleys  are dotted with many communities famous for their great handicrafts, such as the Barrio de Mominbo for shoemaking, and the San Juan area for hammock weaving.

Masaya in San Juan, and the nearby volcano
(Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Turismo)

Geographical location of Masaya, Nicaragua (Source: Sousoucorner)

The tree árbol Hamack, the Mayans and Columbus

The Spanish word "Hamaca" comes from the tree, árbol Hamack. Around the ninth or tenth century, the Mayans used the bark fibers from the tree to twist into strips and wove into the prototype of the modern hammock. Over the centuries, the weaving of hammocks gradually developed in the Caribbean. It was not until the 15th century that hammock finally left the first record in Western history, after Columbus assumed he was sailing toward Asia and accidentally boarded the Bahamas in the Caribbean Sea.

The hammock made from árbol Hamack (Source: mundo de hamacas, autoresvarios)

When Columbus traded with the local aborigines in the Bahamas, the local aborigines showed them their daily object, the hammock. Columbus and the other crew members were soon head over heels. This was because the sailors had been sleeping on the wet cabin deck during their long voyages. A hammock is the perfect solution of sleeping off the ground  and make a good night’s sleep possible. This magical, comfortable and simple invention quickly spread throughout Europe after the crew returned to Spain. It became a hot commodity during the Age of Discovery. (See more about the origin of Hammock,  from the Caribbean Sea)

Columbus saw the local aborigines  in their hammocks (source: History)

The three types: Mayan, Wayuu and Masaya

The Mayan prototype of the hammock was the first hammock, and it is now one of the three classic styles. The method of weaving a hammock was developed from fish nets weaving. In the early days, it was woven with Hamack bark or sisal hemp fiber. It continued to evolve over time. Nowadays, light, fast-drying, multi-color nylon ropes are used. The larger mesh pores make it more draughty.

The Mayan type of modern hammocks are made of draughty and colorful nylon ropes (Source: Pinterest, mundo de hamacas)

The second type is made by the Wayúu tribe ( They also make hand-woven Wayuu bags). The indigenous people living near the border between Colombia and Venezuela passed their weaving skills from mothers to daughters and granddaughters, making their weaving bags and hammocks world-famous. Different from the net shape, the Wayuu people make their signature cloth-weaving into the main body of their hammock, which is not only beautiful but also mosquito-proof. This is the prototype of military hammocks and canvas hammocks that can be seen in the stores nowadays.

Colorful Wayuu weaving ( Source: luloplanet)

Hybrid from Caribbean Sea and Europe 

Hamaca Masaya also evolved from the Mayan style. Since Spanish colonization of Central and South America, hammocks have gradually entered fishing villages. It is no longer just a bed to sleep on. People had begun to enjoy swaying in hammocks in the summer night. The comfort of the sea breeze also help created the birth of Hamaca Masaya.

 Gradually, hammocks were hung in cities and homes at the beginning of the 20th century. The weaving method was also updated. In order to let people lie comfortably on a hammock, without the effect of "rope tatoo" due to the Mayan hammock's large mesh, Masaya in Nicaragua developed a new style of hammock. They replaced the waterproof nylon ropes commonly used in Mayan hammocks with thick and soft cotton ropes. The threads at both ends of the hammock were tied with solid wooden sticks to fully unfold the bed surface. People can better lie on it  and enjoy the leisure of swaying. Hamaca Masaya became the mainstream of the hammock craft in Central and South America because of this major change.

And what makes the Hamaca Masaya the most beautiful one is its unique drapes derived from European embroidery techniques and embellishment styles, which was introduced into small cities in Latin America under Spanish colonization and adopted by local women. They incorporated the style into the knitting of the hammock with the hook and the thread, weaving their imagination and the memories of the family into the pendants. Each hammock has its unique appearance, which is not only cozy, but also gorgeous.

The crafts of Hamaca Masaya

Hammock making is usually a team work for the whole family. There are mainly three parts: bed surface, pendants, and hook and loop. First, the stronger brothers are responsible for the hook and loop. And then the skilled fathers are responsible for the main body of the hammock. Finally, the women in the family decorate the hammock. The set of exquisite hammock is completed.

[Step 1]
Put two wooden sticks upright, and erect them on the ground. Wrap the cotton threads between the two sticks to form wefts, which make the width of the bed.
[Step 2]
The main weaver stands in the middle of the two sticks and uses a shuttle to knit the cotton threads of various colors, layer by layer, forming a wide bed surface.
 [Step 3]
After weaving, the cotton threads are tied into knots at the ends of the bed surface and then extended into strips.
[Step 4]
Guide the hook and loop through the wooden stick, and tie them with the strips at both ends of the bed surface, so that the wooden stick can be fixed and the bed surface can be unfolded.
[Step 5]
Finally, weave and knit the embellishments on both sides of the hammock to complete the beautiful hamaca Masaya. (see more about the techniques)
Hamaca Colgante

No matter which style it is, every hammock is a work of art made by Latin American craftsmen, with their hands. It also represents memories passed down from generation to generation in each family. However, modern apartments have little space to place a complete hammock. The design thus evolves into a new form, "hammock chair". The hanging chair still keeps the comfort of the hammock and also takes space limitation into consideration.  With hamaca colgante, the hammock chair, urbanites can feel the joy of the swaying and enjoy the south wind whether they are on the balcony, in the living room, or in their own bedroom.



Sousou Project 06|Nicaragua Hamaca Masaya