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Saturday Art: Woven Drapery Artwork of Mexico


Rebozo from Quintana Roo, near Tulum


(Picture courtesy of  Vamila at

In the territories of Mexico, several kinds of wraps are used as decoration and as art done by hand weaving.

The rebozo usually is considered the most gentile of wrap, the serape and poncho more for the working class.   While we call these shawls, or wraps, they are definite costumes and have separate forms and functions.

rebozo is a long flat garment used by women mostly in Mexico. It can be worn in various ways, usually folded or wrapped around the head and/or upper body to shade from the sun, provide warmth and as an accessory to an outfit. It is also used to carry babies and large bundles, especially among indigenous women. The origin of the garment is unclear, but most likely derived in the early colonial period, as traditional versions of the garment show indigenous, European and Asian influences. Traditional rebozos are handwoven from cotton, wool, silk and rayon in various lengths but all have some kind of pattern (usually from the ikat method of dying) and have fringe, which can be finger weaved into complicated designs. The garment is considered to be part of Mexican identity and nearly all Mexican women own at least one. It has been prominently worn by women such as Frida Kahlo, actress María Félix and former Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala and still popular in rural areas of the country. However, its use has diminished in urban areas.


Rebozo colors and patterns vary widely and traditional designs can usually identify where it was made.[14] For example, a tightly woven black and indigo version is identified with the mountains areas of the state of Michoacán .[13] Designs are generally classified as “classic” and “indigenous.” Classic rebozos come in various colors with designs based on the pre Hispanic art of plumaría, or creating images with feathers. Some of these have their fringes knotted to form images of animals and stares. However, almost all are created with the ikat technique.[11][13] The most famous classic rebozo style is called “de bolitas” whose name comes from little knots of string tied onto groups of threads used in its production.[15]Among indigenous groups designs and colors almost always indicate with group the woman belongs.[7] While most rebozos use more than one color, monochrome versions are called “chalinas.”[16]

The tourist trade offers a variety of glamorous and eye-catching weaves, but traditions in Mexico are often rather restricted to a particular area or culture.

A poncho or serape will have an opening for the head, and are more often worn in working life such as shepherding and farming.

The serape usually reaches to the knees, and sometimes has a separate hood.

Available in various colors and design patterns, the typical colors of serapes from the highland regions are two-tone combinations of black, grey, brown, or tan depending on the natural color of the sheep flocks grown in the area, with large design patterns utilizing traditional Mayan motifs.

A poncho is probably best known of the Mexican wraps, and is most closely associated with peasant life.

poncho (Spanish pronunciation: [?pont?o]punchu in Quechua;Mapudungun pontro, blanket, woolen fabric)[1][2][3] is an outer garment designed to keep the body warm or, if made from a watertight material, to keep dry during rain. Ponchos have been used by the Native American peoples of the Andes since pre-Hispanictimes and are now considered typical South American garments.

The work that goes into the garment is often painstaking, for function as well as appearance.

Bands of color are the most common choice for artisans of all these wraps, and the colors are quite often bright and festive.   The society encourages women to cover their heads, so these are artful in more ways than one.

(Picture courtesy of AlejandroLinaresGarcia at wikipedia commons.)

Weaving a rebozo

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.