Rebozos and independence

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Painting of woman in rebozo by artist José Julio Gaona

The rebozo is an iconic garment of Mexico, which was essential for Mexican women from the colonial period until some time after the Mexican Revolution. Essentially it is a modesty garment, whose name comes from an old Spanish word meaning “to cover.”

Most modern Mexicans think of the garment 1) as a sign of indigenousness and rural Mexico and 2) with the “Adelitas,” women aligned with the rebels during the Revolution. This give the garment a somewhat contradictory nature, associating anything it with “backwardness” but at the same time a symbol of national pride. For these reasons, most women do not wear the rebozo regularly, but have at least one that gets worn for certain festivals, in particular the celebration of Mexico’s Independence, September 15-16.

 

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During the days leading up to the festival it is not uncommon to see cultural events related to the rebozos. The Museo de Culturas Populares has a show starting this week called Tapame con tu rebozo (Coverme with your rebozo).

The town of Tenancingo, State of Mexico holds its annual Rebozo Fair (Feria de Rebozo) the weekend before Independence Day. The town is one of a number which specialize in the making of the garment, weaving it on backstrap or pedal looms and finshing with fringes with finger weaving. What distinguishes Tenancingo rebozos is the use of ikat dying methods, originally from Asia, to create patterns.

The purpose of the fair is to promote this particular type of rebozo and the people who make them. However, keeping the traditional alive is a struggle, both because of the fall of the use of the rebozo and the cost associated with hand weaving and finishing.

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The Feria also showcases innovations with the handcrafts associated with the ikat rebozo, principally the creation of new merchandise using hand-woven ikat fabric. One idea is to create new clothing items, ones that are easier to wear with modern outfits. However, it is important to keep the cutting of the handwoven fabric to a minimum and to waste as little of the precious materials as possible. Just about all scraps are used, often to cover small items from purses to shoes to even buttons.

Promotion of the garments at the Feria extends beyond vendors’ stalls to demonstrations on how to wear a traditional rebozos (both new and old ways) as well as fashion shows with new garments.

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The Feria is held once a year, but rebozos are found in Tenancingo year round, both at artistans’ workshops and at the weekly Sunday tianguis (market) which has a section dedicated to them.

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