Native dress takes a road trip

There’s a lot of eye-popping stuff here, lots in the textile category.

A few days ago the zocalo was jammed with activity, including a demonstration by indigenous people at the state capitol, many in traditional dress.  The colors are vibrant and may be from natural sources (the red below may be from cochineal, an insect*); they can be hand-spun fibers, hand-woven cloth, hand-stitched panels, and then hand-embroidered with age-old symbols of rivers, eagles, cactus flowers.** Besides the color and style telegraphing where these women are from (the state, but not the city, of Oaxaca), the colors of the ribbons on these garments indicate whether the wearer is married or single, and I’m sure there is much more meaning to the learned eye.  The menfolk are wearing a uniform as well, of jeans, collared shirts, boots and natural-fiber hats; but with a muted palette, and showing off no handiwork.

ImageZocalo, at a demonstration at the state government building

Later, the same day, I spotted this, and found myself equally fascinated about what this native dress could mean. In this case, the male character is all gussied up while the female is a little plainer, as is the case with so many birds in the wild. (They moved about together, like a mated pair.)

ImageSanto Domingo Plaza

Tribal origin and subtle meaning of this combination are unknown to me. My apologies if you know these people, or if you are these people, since I didn’t ask permission.

Though I have augmented by earlier two-skirt, two-blouse wardrobe with some Mexican shirts that do little to disguise me, I have to realize that I cannot for an instant think that my dress is neutral and doesn’t peg me as the age, sex, nationality, and economic groups of which I am a member.

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* A great book on this valuable commodity is The Perfect Red, by Amy Butler Greenfield.

** Maybe I could think of these as ‘logos.’

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