Traditional Clothing

Mayan Woman with traditional clothing

Today we were walking down the streets of Mazatenango, which is a stark contrast to Antigua. The people around us were speaking something but it wasn’t Spanish. We later found out it was either K’iche’ or Tz’utujil, which are the two most common Mayan languages in the area. It was a different experience. I noticed that most of the people were walking in the same direction, so I told the group to follow.

After walking for about five minutes we came up on an open market. It wasn’t as massive as Chichicastenango, but it could be a smaller version of it. I looked around at everyone’s clothes and we definitely stuck out as the American tourists. Everyone’s clothes were bright and colorful. All the women were wearing skirts and the men had on older looking pants. I walked up to a woman selling clothes and asked her to pick out an outfit for me to wear around Mazatenango. And she smiled and started rummaging through her small stand.

Come to find out her name was Quatzij, which means truth in K’iche’. I also learned that Guatemalan clothing has a history behind them.  The different types of clothing represent the different cultures in the Guatemala.  There are two main types: westernized (or American) and Indian.  Westernized clothing is a symbol that the people want to be more modern, make more money, and become more educated.  Indian clothing is a symbol of respect for the heritage and tradition in the Guatemalan culture. In this town most of the people paid homage to their heritage and tradition. We were the only ones looking westernized.

Colorful blankets from Guatemala

I loved looking at the traditional or Indian clothing because of the intricate details.  The material looked heavier, and most often is made from wool or cotton.  It takes a lot to make the clothing because it is not only cut into its shape, but all of the detailing on the clothing is hand woven.  The Guatemalan people have a lot of patience because a lot of people in this culture choose to wear traditional clothing. I’d have to work day and night all summer for my new school clothes for the fall if I lived here.

The traditional blouse, or huipil, could take up to three months to make.  We are talking a shirt with buttons, sleeves, and a collar which might take our culture one hour to make at the most.  Quatzij was really sweet, ands she dressed me in the traditional clothing right there in the market. People laughed at me because I was obviously too tall for the clothing, it was made for a person about six inches shorter than me, but it was comfortable and beautiful. I paid for my new garments and said goodbye to Quatzij. It was an interesting day in Mazatenango, very interesting.

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Quince años

My friend’s sister Laura was about to celebrate her fifteenth birthday. At first, I didn’t understand why they were making such a big deal out of it, but after attending the “Quince años”, which means 15th birthday, I understood why this tradition is very important.

Most girls can’t wait to be 15 so they can celebrate with a Catholic mass and a big party. The “Quinceañera” (girl that is celebrating her 15th), is treated like a princess for that special day when she is going to be presented to society, to let them know she is not a little girl anymore; she is a woman now.

Quinciañera tiara

Laura started her preparations a year before the event! She picked her dress, the church where the service was going to be celebrated and the place where the party was going to be held. The invitations went out about a month before the celebration.

Following tradition on the special day, Laura got picked up in a limousine, and she and her parents were transported to a special church service in her honor. She was wearing   a beautiful dress, earrings, a ring, and religious articles. Each of these items has a special traditional and symbolic meaning.

Quinceañera girl

After church, we all went to the reception. There was live music and also a DJ that played while the band was taking a break, Laura danced the first dance with her dad, the second with her “Chambelán” (her official escort; basically, just a very good friend to dance with), then on the third song all of her “14 damas” (14 maids of honor) also danced with their “chambelanes” (official dance partners). The “damas” all wear matching dresses and the “chambelanes” wear black tuxedoes.

Everyone enjoyed the fiesta; it was great! I danced A LOT!!!!!

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Las posadas

Back in the 1500’s, the Aztecs held rituals to celebrate their gods “Quetzalcoatl” and “Huitzilopochtli” from the 6th to the 26th of December. When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, they introduced their own customs and traditions, one of them being the celebration of Christmas. One of these traditions is what is now known as “Las posadas,” which means inn or lodging.

Traditional Mexican Piñata

The celebration starts on December 16th and ends on Christmas Eve, December 24th. People wear costumes representing biblical characters. They all gather in a neighbor’s house and depart from there. Aditfra . They all walk to the first house to ask for shelter. While they are walking, everyone holds a candle and sings. Then, when they arrive at the house, the group divides in two; one goes inside the house, the other one stays outside. While singing, they ask for shelter, which is denied. The group inside rejoins the others and everyone start to walk again, and they do the same thing at the second house. After shelter is denied for the second time, they all go to the third and last house where, after asking for shelter, they are allowed to go in. People gather around the Christmas tree, pray, and sing. After that, everyone goes to the patio and kids get ready to break the “Piñata”. The kids get blindfolded, then hit the “Piñata” with a stick. When they break the piñata all the candies come out. Everyone goes back inside to enjoy a delicious dinner. And they do the same thing (at different houses) for the next EIGHT nights in a row!

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Las telenovelas (The soap operas)

Las telenovelas are very popular in Mexico; it seems like everyone in Mexico watches one! People talk about it every time they have a chance. “Did you watch la novela last night?” they say. “Any idea what is going to happen tomorrow?” “Please record it for me…. Don’t tell me what happened until I watch it myself!” I’ve never seen anything like it! I was wondering why Las novelas were so important for Mexicans, and I was surprised to learn more about it.

Just to give you an idea of the importance of these shows to Mexico’s economy, let me tell you that the industry of soap operas is compared with the movie industry of Hollywood! Every year the Mexican soap opera industry can generate more than 100 million dollars.

Telenovela Studio

A lot of countries in the world import Mexico’s soap operas, and this, too, has a huge impact on the economy. Las novelas from Mexico are being seen everywhere, including Russia, Japan, China, Africa, the USA, and all over North-, Central-, and Latin America, just to name a few! They are translated to other languages and the actresses and actors are recognized everywhere after participating in just one series.

Have you heard of “Ugly Betty,” the TV series? In Mexico it was originally a very famous soap opera that lasted about a year, and it even holds a Guinness world record for being the most successful telenovela of all time.

There are soap operas for everyone: for kids, teens, and adults. Las novelas are broadcast all day long! The themes vary, and there are some related to culture, history, society, teen drama, musicals, etc.

A lot of people watch them during lunch or dinner, kids watch them after school, and the ones that are shown at night are usually the most famous. Who knows—I may start watching one while I’m here…even though someone will have to record it for me when we go off to the next country!

Some Mexican telenovelas

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El Sarape de Saltillo

Today we went to the city of Saltillo. Everyone was wearing these things called  “Sarapes.” It is not very well known where the Sarape originated, but it is definitely a fusion of indigenous and Spanish elements.

A Sarape is a rectangular cloth with or without an opening for the head. A Sarape has a variety of bright colors and it is very representative of Mexico. Some people associate Sarapes with the Mexican Revolution and icons like “The Charro” and “The Mariachi.”

I remember seeing one hanging up in my favorite Mexican restaurant back home. I thought it was just for decoration, but it turns out that people actually wear them. A regular Sarape is generally about 1.3 yards wide by 2.5 yards long, but they also come in a wide variety of sizes, from very big to very small. Usually they hang to about a person’s knees. The main motif in a Sarape design is either a diamond or a medallion shape. Often, the ends are fringed. Bayer . Sarapes look kind of like ponchos, but they are so colorful!

traditional Mexican Sarapes

During the 17th century, Sarapes went from being a simple garment used by travelers and vendors, to an original and very expensive textile. Only rich people had Sarapes. During the revolution, they became more accessible to other people, and were even often fabricated illegally in “Los telares” (looms) so they could be sold more cheaply.

The people here tell me that with tourism growing in the north of Mexico, and with Americans and Canadians passing through in their travels to the south of Mexico, the Sarape became a souvenir; a collectible article. The city of Saltillo became famous thanks to Sarapes! More and more people started to appreciate the fine and detailed work on each Sarape, which are often made by hand. I can’t wait to buy one, but I can’t seem to decide which one I like the best; they are all unique and so beautiful!

¡Hasta pronto!

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Coahuila

¡Hola, amigos! I’m having a great time in Mexico; I’ve visited several states since arriving. México is a bigger country than I thought before I came here! It has 31 states and one Federal District.

The most impressive thing about Mexico so far has been the welcoming atmosphere. It is truly a country with many traditions and customs, delicious foods, and friendly people that are willing to show you around!

A country’s culture is sometimes best understood and appreciated by traveling to some of the less “touristy” places. These places can show you history, folklore, and traditions. Oh, and the natural beauty of this country makes things even more enjoyable.

Coahuila water spring

One of the states I’ve visited here was Coahuila, in the north of Mexico, with a population of 2.5 million people. Saltillo is the capital city. Coahuila is one of the 3 biggest states in the country and it borders on Texas to the north. The Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains run from north to south through the state, and as you can imagine, the view is wonderful! The colors of the mountains are beautiful.

There are also desert plains with sand dunes. The climate is so nice—actually, the capital city, Saltillo, is known as ”La ciudad del clima ideal” (The city with the ideal climate) because it has good weather all year round. How lucky!

Mexican Fire mouth, lives in the Coahuila springs

In Coahuila I visited a town called “Cuatro Ciénegas.” It is BEAUTIFUL! It is now mostly a desert but strangely, it has lots of water too, and because of this it is home to a large number of animal and plant species that are unique to the area. It has more than 200 “pozas” (springs) of different sizes. Unfortunately, in recent years much of the marshland has dried up, leaving only desert.

Coahuila was amazing! I hope you get to visit soon!

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Mexican muralist

Today I was walking by a government building and saw the most beautiful mural. There were so many bright colors and the people really looked real. I was so impressed that I stopped to talk to a girl selling jewelry nearby to get the history of this beautiful art. Her name is Lola and she is from Juarez, Mexico. Juarez is on the border between the United States and Mexico. To my surprise, she spoke English and Spanish. She’s bilingual too!

Lola began telling me about the Mexican revolution. It began in 1910, and it transformed society in Mexico. An artistic movement called “Muralism” was born during the Mexican revolution and lasted until the 1960’s. my ip . The idea of Muralism was to connect all people with art. Before the revolution, only people with money were able to see and appreciate art, so the government’s idea was to make art accessible to everyone in the country. They contracted artists to paint murals on both the exterior and interior walls of public places like schools or government buildings, so that all Mexicans could appreciate art.

Diego Rivera Mural

I was completely fascinated by her knowledge of history. She started telling me about the artists of the movement. The first mural to start this movement was painted by Gerardo Murillo from Guadalajara. His work was based on the idea that Mexican Muralism should reflect Mexican life, just like in the time of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, who also painted daily scenes on their walls. I was excited to learn that I’d heard of the three most important artists in this movement, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
After about ten minutes of talking Lola’s mom came up and introduced herself. Her name is Maria Eugenia and she made all of jewelry that Lola was selling. How talented! When Lola told her mother what we were talking about, her mother was happy to tell me what she knew. She said that both José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros did work in the United States. At one point both were jailed for their open criticism against the Mexican government during the Revolution. Siqueiros even had to wait until after he was released to finish his uncompleted murals. Talk about fighting for what you believe in.
We continued talking for about an hour until I realized the sun was going down and I had to get back to the hotel. Diabelli . I thanked Lola and Maria Eugenia, took a long gaze at the wall again, and headed for the hotel. I’ll never forget my new friends or the wall that sparked our newfound friendship.

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