In addition to cultural appropriation, there is a debate raging about what to call the hand-woven, back-strap loomed garments from Mexico that many of us know as huipiles. This is plural. The singular is huipil. (Some huipiles for sale below!)
How do you say it?
(or What do you do with a banana? We peel. — Thank you, Mary Randall)
Caftan (kaftan) or tunic is a misnomer. I am reminded of this via a text message this morning from Ana Paula Fuentes, who introduced me to Las Sanjuaneras some years ago and was the founding director of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. I promised her that you and I would have a discussion about Mexican clothing as a way to spread the word about culture.
I just want to set the record straight that I called these garments thus because it is what the American and Canadian marketplace knows and understands as a fashion definition. We’ve been acculturated since the 60’s when these garments came to us from Europe and North Africa and Asia as casual wear, beach and pool wear, loungewear. Now, with Covid-19, the idea is being reintroduced to the world of contemporary clothing as a perfect solution to comfort while we are homebound.
Let’s have the conversation: Clothing origins from Mexico deserve to be called by their true name. Huipil. Bluson. Blusa. Rebozo. Quechquemitl. Etc. And, we can spread the word about the quality of Mexico’s indigenous weaving by using the true name of the garment. People need to know these are huipiles. Not caftans or tunics.
Bluson: A short, cropped flowing version of a huipil, usually waist-length or hip-length.
Blusa: A blouse, more fitted than free-form; a universal term.
Rebozo: A shawl whose origins are from the Philippines via Spain.
Quechquemitl: A triangular pull-over shawl, scarf, cover-up that is pre-Hispanic and the first indigenous garment.
So, help us out here. When you wear one of these garments, call it a Huipil. Together, we can be influencers and talk about Mexico as being a fashion innovator rather than a follower of Euro-centric style. You give value to the weavers this way, too. Thank you.
Still some beauties from Las Sanjuaneras For Sale
To Buy: Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please be sure to select Send Money to Family and Friends! We also accept Venmo and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal.
Is Mexico’s Day of the Dead Like Halloween? Muertos Photos in Black and White.
Day of the Dead altar honoring our Dad, American Federation of Teachers strike for fair wages, 1960’s, Los Angeles. Selenium filter a la Ansel Adams.
We just finished a week of publishing a Day of the Dead Photography Challenge over at the Facebook site I manage, Mexico Travel Photography. You might want to jump over there to take a look at some amazing shots of this spiritual celebration of life and death. Consider joining and participating if you are not already a member.
Preparing the grave with flowers, fruit, nuts and prayers. Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.
What everyone loves about Mexico is her vibrant color. Everywhere. Dia de Los Muertos is a celebration of life and death. There is nothing more vibrant than the flowers that adorn altars and grave sites, market life and costumes.
But, this post takes a turn to Black and White Photography.
4 crosses on family plot where generations can be buried 10 years apart. Copper filter.
A friend asked me today, what is Muertos? Is it like Halloween? My answer is definitely NO … and SORT OF.
Cloth imprinted with Day of the Dead theme for decorating.
Here is my short-version explanation: When the Spanish came to Mexico in 1521, they co-opted an indigenous ancestor worship tradition (Day of the Dead) and overlaid it with All Saints and All Souls Day observations. All Saints’ Day begins with All Hallows Eve, or Halloween with deep Catholic religious and spiritual tradition.
At Amate Books on Alcala, a selection of titles on Muertos, Oaxaca city.
All Souls’ Day commemorates the faithfully departed and is most closely linked to the death and resurrection of Christ.
Skulls in the market. Most altars have some form of them.
The Spanish were very smart conquerors. Rather than obliterating the religious practices of indigenous people, they integrated observances to make conversion much more palatable. It is possible that Muertos was celebrated during another time of year. As with most other rituals, it moved to coincide with a Catholic feast day.
Sitting in mourning and reflection. Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Before the Spanish conquest, Dia de Los Muertos had no link to Halloween. In recent years the US images of pumpkins, witches on broomsticks, black cats and gauzy synthetic cobwebs have migrated across the border as Mexicans born in the USA visit their family in cities and villages throughout the country. We see this blending of commercialism and ancient tradition throughout Oaxaca.
Calavera (skeleton) sculpture, chiseling stone, San Pablo Cultural Center, 2015
I’m editing my photos first using Lightroom, a Photoshop editing tool. Then, I convert these photos to SilverEfex, a free black and white software editing tool now owned by Google. It’s easy to download. You can choose filters, film type and manipulate the histogram if you wish. I’m having fun with it and wanted to share what I’ve done with you.
Flowers in the form of a cross, covering a gravesite. Teotitlan del Valle. Intentional?
In case you are interested it takes me from 2 to 4 hours to make a blog post. This includes selecting and editing the photos and then writing the text (or vice versa!) Thank you for reading and following.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Photography, Teotitlan del Valle, Travel & Tourism
Tagged All Saints Day, All Souls Day, anthropology, black and white, culture, customs, day of the dead, definition, definitions, dia de los muertos, difference between, Halloween, history, meaning, Oaxaca, photography, pre-Hispanic