Hidden Messages in Mexican Textiles

Tales of traditions told through threads

By Google Arts & Culture

Madeline´s Tlàmachtēntli (fragment from the bottom edge of a huipil) HUI0513 (1650-1710) by UnknownMuseo Textil de Oaxaca

Behind each Mexican craft there are many stories related to culture, nature, language, the past, and the artisans themselves. Let's dive deeper to discover some of the hidden messages you can find in Mexican textiles.

Sierra Zongolica in Tlaquilpa, Veracruz, Mexico (2023-08-27) by Manuel de Jesús Pérez GarcíaSecretaría de Cultura

1. Using natural dyes comes from pre-Hispanic techniques

In some communities, such as Tlaquilpa, Veracruz, Mexican artisans produce their own natural dyes using the raw materials they find in the nature of their community. For example, this muicle bush is used to release a purple blue color.

Works of the Tekimalaktl Collective, in Tlaquilpa, Veracruz, Mexico. (2023-08-27) by Manuel de Jesús Pérez GarcíaSecretaría de Cultura

The use of these techniques for dyeing is inherited from pre-Hispanic knowledge. Generations have passed down this process of using insects such as cochineal, flowers such as indigo, seeds such as annatto, and many more.

Embroidery from the Alabel Dhuche Collective, in Tamaletom, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. (2023-08-30) by Hugo Martínez ToledoSecretaría de Cultura

2. Communities use patterns to communicate their identity

The clothing of each community is a very important element that defines its identity. In each garment, various symbolic elements coexist that explain the thoughts of the wearer, in addition to being a record of their history and traditions.

Teenek artisan from the Alabel Dhuche' Collective, in Tamaletom, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. (2023-08-30) by Hugo Martínez ToledoSecretaría de Cultura

An example of this is the embroidery of the Teenek community, which is used in rituals or special events such as patron saint festivals. Each patron is linked with nature and the vision of the passage of time and life.

Purépecha embroidery in the community of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, Mexico. (2023-09-08) by Samuel Piñón FloresSecretaría de Cultura

3. Embroidery is used to chronicle daily life

Mexican textiles are sources of information that allow us to better understand communities and their cultural environment.

Purépecha embroidery in the community of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, Mexico. (2023-08-23) by Iván ContrerasSecretaría de Cultura

For example, in communities such as Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, embroidery is used as chronicles of daily life; on each piece of fabric you can find trades, nature, and even significant events represented.

Loo’l Pich Collective in the community of X-Pichil, Quintana Roo, Mexico. (2023-09-02) by Antonio MuñozSecretaría de Cultura

4. Techniques represent generations of traditions

One of the characteristics of Mexican textiles is that the knowledge and traditions generally pass down from one generation to another. Many of the people who make them begin to learn techniques in childhood through living with their grandparents.

Loo’l Pich Collective in the community of X-Pichil, Quintana Roo, Mexico. (2023-09-02) by Antonio MuñozSecretaría de Cultura

Even in communities like X-Pichil, Quintana Roo, there are embroidery methods like Xmanikté that are in danger of disappearing and due to contact with elders, younger generations are rescuing these techniques.

Embroidery from the Masehual Cihuamej Collective, in Cuetzalan, Puebla, Mexico. (2023-08-24) by Manuel de Jesús Pérez GarcíaSecretaría de Cultura

5. Craft communities are transforming lives

In several towns in Mexico, groups and workshops have been formed to help change community problems and improve living conditions, such as seeking fair trade in the products they produce.

Embroidery from the Masehual Cihuamej Collective, in Cuetzalan, Puebla, Mexico. (2023-08-24) by Manuel de Jesús Pérez GarcíaSecretaría de Cultura

An example is the Masehual Cihuamej Group, located in Cuetzalan, Puebla, and led by Rufina Villa. This group has become an emblem of female empowerment, progress, and living tradition.

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