The rebozo is an element of Mexican clothing that is born from the fusion between pre-Hispanic culture and foreign influence. Thus the rebozo as we know it today, would be a fusion between the Philippine shawl and the Spanish mantilla.
The origin of the Mexican rebozo per sei is not exactly known, although it is believed that it may come from the use of the “ayate” in the clothing of indigenous men and women before the Colony. The “ayate” was made up of two long fabrics made with maguey fiber and was used to transport objects and children.
In the Nahuatl language the rebozo is called ciua necuatlapacholoni: “what a woman touches or something similar” although among the Nahuas of the Mexican state of Morelos it is known as cenzotl: “cloth of a thousand colors”.
In Histories of the Indies of New Spain and the Islands of Tierra Firme, Fray Diego Durán mentions that mestizo women used cloth to cover their heads and shoulders before entering churches, perhaps inspired by the canvases that the Catholic friars forced indigenous women to wear when entering said enclosures.
At the end of the 16th century, mestizos, mulattos, blacks and indigenous people, already used the rebozo and the latter had already learned to weave them. Two centuries later, in 1855, the word rebozo appears for the first time in the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, whose meaning is “mantilla used by women to cover their chin”.
Symbol of rebellion and empowerment
During the stage of the Mexican Revolution, it became a symbol of rebellion and identity for Mexican women: some used it to carry their children while they followed their husbands or relatives into the armed struggle.
Others used the shawl to hide their weapons, which were later passed on to men, and thus participate in the Revolution.
Years later, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo proudly wore this garment of feminine liberation and independence.
During the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, many important actresses of the time such as María Félix “La Doña”, Dolores del Rio, María Elena Marqués, among others.
The shawl today
Today shawls are made in various colors and patterns, some have triangles, stars and are naturally dyed with fruits or plants. The classics are those made of silk, articela and cotton with the personal touch of ikat (dyeing and weaving technique). Each region that makes it determines the color, size and material; in some areas they combine techniques and materials and even add sequins and crystal beads. They are also known as shawls, scarves.
In some regions of Mexico, a shawl could be given as a gift instead of the traditional engagement ring. Nowadays it would not be so far-fetched for this practice to return, since due to the material (for example, silk), the process and manufacturing time (several months), we can find shawls whose cost can reach several thousand pesos.
Some places that are known for making the finest and most detailed rebozos are: Santa María del Rio in the state of San Luis Potosí, Tenancingo in the State of Mexico, San Andrés Chicahuaxtla in the state of Oaxaca, Michoacán and Puebla.
Undoubtedly, a garment full of history, tradition and identity that as a Mexican woman makes me proud to wear on any occasion.