otomi fabric

Explore Indigenous Textiles by State

Use the drop down box to enter each state and regional indigenous group

For every example here there are a thousand more in the field.

Mexican textiles have existed for more than 7000 years, but now in many villages’ traditional embroidered blouses, back strap woven huipiles, loomed quechquemitls and belts are worn only by the grandmothers. Mexico's indigenous textile culture is in danger of extinction. The embroidered designs on blouses and huipiles are particular to specific towns and ethnic groups. The textiles identifies the groups and villages that various textiles come from, sometimes it is ribbons or the way they comb their hair. The 7000 years old time line ends with these grandmothers.

These wonderful colorful textiles link the indigenous peoples with culture and cosmovison of their native culture. As grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters sit with other family members to make the garments they discuss style, techniques but something else more important, behaviors, customs of marriage, child birth, the herbs used for healing, how to make a tamales etc. These links are lost staring into the one eyed Cyclops that is the TV or washing floors in the DF.

When Cortez came to Mexico almost all the women wove cloth for garments and ceremonial use. It is natural that these talents gradually disappeared in the face of European machine made goods and now over time the Asian dynamo and its inexpensive clothing. However it is not natural that the long cultural heritage of Mexico indigenous textiles be abandoned to the scrap heap of history, not without some sort of attempt to conserve this incredible rich cultural treasure.

The Spanish in all their colonial institution drilled into the population that to be an Indian was the bottom of the heap. These conquered people have been passed down from the Spanish to the Mestizo population that now rules Mexico. This mestizo population has continued the discrimination of the Spanish towards the “indios” , It is no wonder that most Indians want to leave that part of them selves behind.

Below are some of the principal factors leading to the decline of the use and manufacture of indigenous textiles in Mexico. They are personal observations based on an intensive 6 year study of the pueblos de Mexico.

1. Globalization

Around the world indigenous cultures are under pressure from the forces of modernization and globalization. In Mexico, years of government neglect and a persistent racism have created an economic desperation which has forced generations of men and women to flee the poverty of their communities. These indigenous people immigrate to the big cities of Mexico and the USA. Traditional dress marks them as indigenous, and in a society where being an “indian” puts you at the bottom of the social ladder, that is not good. So for decades, as people leave the communities, they leave behind their ancestral knowledge of how to weave, embroidered and the social identity that the Mexican indigenous textiles and language provide.

roadbuilding

Road building has created a really fast way for the indigenous population to abandon their villages for a better life just about anywhere else.

With the introduction of the internet TV and printed material, into these small communities the spread of western fashion has been accelerated.

 

Immigration –

A steady increase in the indigenous population and the child survival rate has led to increased migration from the villages to the cities in Mexico and the US.

Recently in the Sierra Zongolica the operator of a ECO tourism center with support from the CDI and other government institution left to go the US to pick oranges for a year.

In every village, without exception, people migrate to the US out of desperation, true they sometimes send money back to support the town festival but they return with ideas of modernization. Traditional dress is viewed as a marker of the old ways. They almost never wear traditional clothing again and in some cases there wives give it up also to be modern.

In Santiago Mexquitlan this woman was photographed in traditional dress in January 2005 , when returning to deliver her photos 6 months later , she no longer was wearing her costume ( uniform) . When asked why, she said that she worked in Toluca and no one wore costume there and if she wore her costume, they ( the mestizos) would stare and laugh at her. immigration

2. Rebellion of youth

Who are the Cholos , no it is not another indigenous group, well not a historical one, they are young men and women who have left the village to work either in Mexico City or the US and return dressed as gang members who resent or hate their culture. They influence the younger kids by bad example. Recently in some Totonacan towns in the Sierra Norte of Mexico I obeservfed a group of 20, some with spiked hair, dressed in black with pierced tongues and noses, they seem like they landed there from another planet. A village elder said to me that they come home and act badly and “se sienten hombre” which means they feel like men.

Some years ago in Santa Anna Hueytlalpan, Hidalgo I noticed a black wrap skirt hanging on a cloths line. Inside the compound there were young women washing and chattering, we struck up a conversation. The conversation gradually drifted to the black wrap skirt, it turned out to be their grandmothers. I asked if they had one, with a tone of ridicule in their voices they said they would never wear that since it made them look like grandmothers.

In the embroidery town of Zoatecpan, Xochitlan de VS, Puebla I was shocked to see the rapid transition among the younger women. Only 4 years ago it seemed the 80% of the people in town wore a traditional blouse. This Christmas at the town’s festival the number was down to 50% or less.

The daughter of the head of the textile co-operative was wearing modern clothing, why I asked. She replied that she didn’t like it. On the floor in the living room was a magazine of TV stars. rebelion

3. Media

On any given day there is not a word about indigenous communities or their customs in main stream media. TV is almost entirely filled with reasons not to wear indigenous clothing as can be seen on almost all Telenovelas, Just imagine a woman , who after 35 years gets a TV and watches “Rubi” all they can think about is how ugly, fat, poor and forgotten they are and how much they want to be someone else. .

Outside of Channel 22 and 11 both public educational channels there is not a word about indigenous people, almost nothing about indigenous dress and sometime the only visual hint that there are 15 million indigenous people in Mexico is a vase or some sort of handicraft as a prop on the studio set.

In the Casas de Cultural we can find a smattering of presentations dedicated to indigenous peoples and there crafts and the Museum of Arte Popular does a reasonable job of presenting these forgotten people.

As with many other social and cultural events in Mexico the presence of these shows that occur all over Mexico City and beyond are under reported. Some times take the metro and get off at every stop to see what notices have been posted.

5 Garment substitutions based on costs

– In the early 1970 during the heyday of hippie Peasant wear fad, I exported 10000 garments a month. These were gathered from all over Mexico and shipped them to Nuevo Laredo where my friend Caesar would consolidate and drive the goods into the US. One day I arrived to do my customs entry and he had on the most stunning Guayabera shirt. Since I was buying Gauyabera shirts wholesale at $15 from the Yucatan it peaked my interest.

“Hey Caesar , where did you get that amazing shirt. “

He replied “got it in Laredo for 7 dollars, it is made in Taiwan”

I will never forget that and what it meant for textiles from Mexico, this was 1972.

shirt

In the town of Huehuetla Hidalgo , Maria a Tepehua weaver makes 4 quechquemitls a year they sell for 1000 pesos. That is out of the reach of all but a few people in the town. Compounding the issue she is the only weaver left that can weave a quechquemitl.

A recent survey of Tepehua women who wear the quechquemitl had the count at 80 women, by the time I saw the survey 2 had died…azatlan

In the Totonacan towns along the Trans Serrano highway, an embroidered blouse cost $70- 150 pesos, the Totonaca belt cost $600 and the skirt and slip cost 250 . In the Tuesday market 2 blouses, a skirt and a sweater made in Asia cost 250 pesos. I have seen jeans for as low as 70 pesos.

6. Loss of heritage skills like weaving and embroidery.

In the town of Huehuetla Hidalgo , Maria a Tepehua weaver makes 4 quechquemitls a year they sell for 1000 pesos. That is out of the reach of all but a few people in the town. Compounding the issue she is the only weaver left that can weave a quechquemitl .

Marias daughters wear western cloths, spea Tephua and do not know how the weave the quechquemitl. Maria says that it is to much work for them to weave.

quechquemitl

In San Miguel Ameyalco , Lema , about 30 minutes from the DF , there are a small number of weaver that use ancestral skill to produce no indigenous crafts for sale. Some years ago the town was famous for ayates used for agricultural purposes. When I first met Maria de Jesus she lamented the she knew 750 designs on the back strap loom but her daught was taught in some handicraft scool how to make pictures from colored straw. So when Maria passes away those designs will pass away also amealco

In the Mixtec weaving communities along the coast, traditional costume is confined to the oldest generation. Weaving skill have been past on and there is a large number of women dedicated to weaving , using traditional methods but not no many traditional garments. There are also garments made to look like traditional but were never worn or used before.

Tamazulapan Mixe – there has been a rapid decline in the peop0le wearing the white huipil and the dark blue wrap skirt, this in turn as reduced the number of weavers who make these items. Some have turned to making rebosos for resale.

tamazulapanmixeweaver

Quality degradation – When I lived in Ocotlan De Morelos Oaxaca in the 1970 many Zapotec women work the famous San Antonio wedding dress, but not as a dress it was used as an undershirt. During the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s the style of embroidery was made into a dress. The Zapotec embroiderers of the day had a polish skill and the dress actually had some cultural meaning. Today the sad quality of these dresses leave a person that has seen and knows the classic blouse or dress when only a glimmer of its past glory. They continue to sell but the younger generation no longer uses them. From time to time an older woman will make one for her daughter to wear but the classics are not history.

sanantonio

The quechquemitls from Chachahuantla, Puebla, were originally a hand knotted lace, they then moved to a commercial material with heavy machine embroidery, recently the women have been switching over to a solid store bought gauze quechquemitl.

chacahuantla

Changes in materials

It is almost impossible to find 100% cotton material in any indigenous blouse and even in traditional huipil synthetic fiber is slipping in. There are a few reasons for this cotton cost more than cotton / synthetic blends and colors are faster in the synthetic yarns.

The yarns can also be embroidered 2 or 3 x faster than the traditional cotton thread and this makes the blouses easier to commercialize.

In many cases the quechquemitl is a key indicator of how things are going , among the Totonacan women of the Sierra Norte of Puebla , hand woven or knotted quechquemitls have been entirely replace with store bought lace. Only 10 years ago the quechquemitls of store bough lace had embroidery on them .

zapotitlan

In the municipality of Zongozotla I noticed a fashion transformation happening, instead of the white store bought lace some women were using colored lace for their quechquemitls. The thing is that the white lace was a direct descendent of the back strap woven cotton quechquemitl which is also white. The quechquemitl made from colored machine made lace losses that connection.

zongozotla

The church –

In the Sierra Zongolica of Veracruz, road building has help people to escape the poverty of the region, recently in a village outside of Xoxocotla I found no women wearing traditional costume, apparently the church had been telling the women for years that it made them look Indian.

xoxo

Summary – The movement of indigenous people towards the main stream of Mexican Society is well underway, the education system, government programs, road building, TV and immigration all play their part. The long history of discrimination and marginalization plays a large part in the desire NOT to be viewed as indigenous by the younger generation. These young people relate more to modernism as an escape, than to ancestral duties and customs.

So they gladly change from poor Indians to poor Mexicans, they do this by not speaking the ancestral language, not dressing in indigenous specific ways and denying thier heritage.

Bob Freund

www.mexicantextiles.com

 

 

During the extensive study among the Mazahua villages of the State of Mexico I picked up this wool wall hanging with the Mazahua tree of life. The wool base is woven on a treddle loom while the wool embroidery thread is died with natural colors and embroidered in the traditional "guia " stitch.

Mazahua

info@mexicantextiles.com tell me which item you are interested in .

Collectors Table runners

Otomi tablerunners

WHY are traditional costumes disappearing?

The Mexican Indigenous Textile project documents the traditional dress of Mexico’s Indigenous people. This effort began in 2001 and is on going. The idea is to leave a solid field based photo ethno- historical work of the first 15 years of the 21 st century.

 

Mexico's vanishing textile tradition

Huachinango Pueblas traditional costumes.

In Huauchinango Puebla, there are 28 Nahuatl speaking villages and 2 Totonacan. With the help of the municipal authorities I was able to visit and document them. There are three distinct types of costume in the region. The first type is from the lower regions and is considered the “Huauchinango type” the second occurs in the highland villages and is very similar to the traditional costume from Naupan. The third type from the 2 Totonacan villages is in very limited use.

Xilocuatla - Nahuatl

Huilacalpixtla- Nahuatl

Tepetzintla - Totonaca


Click the on the picture above to enter the indigenous world of Mexico. These are all the villages that are currently documented. Just pick any one to start the adventure.

These are just a few examples of the situation all over Mexico.

Los textiles indígenas como huipils, quechquemitls, blusas bordadas y trajes típicos estan rápidamente desapareciendo. Este sitio Web contiene ejemplos de algunos grupos étnicos y sus trajes, los presento aquí como un Museo Virtual. El propósito es educativo y para ayudar a un mejor entendimiento de los Pueblos y sus tradiciones. Los Pueblos con hyper link ( sub rayo azul) son listos para visitar. No son todos pero estan un buen ejemplo :Los textiles indígenas mexicanos son reconocidos en el mundo por su belleza y colorido; éstos son vendidos frecuentemente en mercados de artesanías en Mexico sin que exista alguna descripción o contexto que ayude al consumidor a entender sus orígenes. Esta es una de las razones por las que la colección de textiles y el sitio Web se crearon, para intentar mostrar más a fondo el origen de estos testimonios culturales, quiénes las elaboran, sus costumbres y de donde provienen.

Why are textiles disappearing

Around the world indigenous cultures are under pressure from the forces of modernization and globalization. In Mexico, years of government neglect and a persistent racism have created an economic desperation which has forced generations of men and women to flee the poverty of their communities. These indigenous people immigrate to the big cities of Mexico and the USA. Traditional dress marks them as indigenous, and in a society where being an “indian” puts you at the bottom of the social ladder, that is not good. So for decades, as people leave the communities, they leave behind their ancestral knowledge of how to weave, embroidered and the social identity that the Mexican indigenous textiles and language provide.

This project began based on a textile collection of over 400 pieces and has as its purpose the identification of Mexican indigenous textiles and costume. Each village or region has distinctive clothing, both embroidered and woven. The documentation of these textiles includes pictures of the communities, women and men wearing traditional clothing, examples of the different textile patterns from the specific village and example from the collection.

This project has gone beyond the documentation of the collection and now has over 225 villages documented. The Mexican Indigenous Textile project is presented as an on line museum which provides graphic evidence of the locations and type of traditional clothing worn in the villages, in addition in many cases an we make an evaluation of the extent of the extinction. As you browse the website you will notice a great number of grandmothers, in many communities they are the last.

It is not only indigenous dress that is under pressure but all sorts of other customs which provide the rich cultural base that is formed by Mexicos over 60 ethnic groups. Pottery, woven palm and other grasses, medical healing and shamanistic practices, that have serves these communities for thousands of years are rapidly passing into extinction. In some of the northern Mexican groups on three of four people still speak the indigenous language.

There are many areas of Mexico where traditional cultures are still strong, however they are more and more like islands rather than regions.

 

Home / Indigenous Women / Textile Patterns / The Collection / My Blog / My Facebook / Email Me / My Flickr /

Textile Villages / Videos / Volunteer / Museum Store / © 2010 Robert E. Freund - All Rights Reserved

test link

Buy Otomi Fabric

Otomi_fabric

latest posts
30 Village in Huauchinago , Puebla , Nahuatl and Totonacan speakers2010
Mazahua of El Oro, State of Mexico
Mayan of Calkcani, Campeche
Las técnicas textiles y la historia cultural de los pueblos otopames
autror- Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg
Jardín Etnobotánico y Museo Textil de Oaxaca

Guía textil de Los Altos de Chiapas

Morris Jr. Walter F.
1a Edición, Asociación Cultural Na Bolom A. C., 2010

Mayan crochet petticoats
Mayan use of rebosos
Rap song song in Nahuatl
Otomi of Ixtenco, Tlaxcala
Textiles of Cacuilla and Xaltepec Puebla from The Freund Collection
Preliminary Mazahua fo State of Mexico
A video of Mexican Indigenous costume and peoples .
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Home / Indigenous Women / Textile Patterns / The Collection / My Blog / My Facebook / Email Me / My Flickr /

Textile Villages / Videos / Volunteer / Museum Store / 2009 Robert E. Freund - All Rights Reserved