Quechquemitl – a totally unique Mexican garment

Exhbiti - Museo Textile de Oaxaca

Even thought this exhibit ran four years ago (Spring 2011) at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca, it was a splendid opportunity to see MTO’s superb collection of historical, refined, elaborate, colorful, and precious little shoulder and chest covering garments. Please, don’t call them ponchos! The quech-que-mitl (I’ve broken the Nahua word into syllables) is a garment unique only-to-Mexico and has been in production for easily over two thousand years. The story told is that quechquemitles were first observed historically in temple frescoes and ceramics of the ancient Olmec and Oaxacan cultures and later in codices.

Quechques in Codices

Quechques in Codices

In pre-conquest times it was worn as an upper-body covering by the priestesses and high born women who had access to the most sumptuous textiles. After the conquest this garment became widely used in the indigenous communities who adapted it, embellished it with their sacred symbols and made it their own. Although currently it is seen in only a few communities of central Mexico – Nahuas, Mazahuas, Purepeche, Hustecos, it is thought to have been worn in most villages in central Mexico after the conquest and before the European peasant blouse became common. It was encouraged by the Spanish, so that women would be covered to enter the churches and their group identity could be recognized. It is one of the first garments worn exclusively by women along with the enredo (wrap around and tube skirt) which I will blog on later.

Pre-conquest garments were woven on the back-strap looms and the full web was used. A web could be woven in various widths and lengths specific for enredos (wrap skirts) quechquemitles (capelets)  and manteles (large coverings). These webs were then joined together. To cut a hand woven cloth was to destroy its integrity or soul and spirit that went into its making. I managed to photograph the exhibit on several visits to Museo Textile de Oaxaca and following is a slide show of my favorites. In future posts, I will write about the two areas that I’ve explored that still use the quechquemitl: the Nahua of Cuetzalan, Puebla and the Mazahua of the State of Mexico.

The shortened pronunciation “Quech-que” is acceptable but don’t call it a poncho!! That’s a larger and more blanket-like garment.

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Mexican Textile Presentation – March 13th, 2014 – Louisville, CO

I’ve been a bit tardy with my posts in 2013 and now March 2014 is here!

Collecting Mexican Textiles Presentation – March 13th – 2013 – Louisville, COLORADO

If you live near Denver/Boulder Colorado and want to learn more about collecting traditional Mexican Textiles and the excitement of finding beautiful clothing and textiles in Mexico …. you are cordially invited to Laura Lambrecht’s charming store BELLA FRIDA – on 924 Main Street, Louisville, Colorado. Come early and try on beautiful huipiles from Chiapas and Oaxaca as well as learn how to tie a REBOZO – the signature Mexican accessory shawl.

Trunk show opens at 6:30pm and the slide presentation around 7:15pm.

(720) 301-1645 – event questions


Aguatenango's huipi - Chiapas

Aguatenango’s huipi – Chiapas

Tehuana Women , Gala Outfits,  Isthmus of Oaxaca

Tehuana Women , Gala Outfits, Isthmus of Oaxaca

Amuzgo weaver - Florentina Lopez - Oaxaca

Amuzgo weaver – Florentina Lopez – Oaxaca

Textiles of Oaxaca / Remigio Mestes – Intern.Folk Art Market 2012 – Santa Fe, NM

The International Folk Art Market will be opening in Santa Fe, New Mexico on July 13th, 2012 with a previous week full of festivities, parties, concerts and related gallery openings. I’m looking forward to the arrival of Remigio Mestes, a friend from Oaxaca, who for the second year will be bringing the BEST textiles of Oaxaca to the market. Remigio works with about 250 artisans from remote Oaxacan communities, supporting their finest work, promoting the textile arts of Oaxaca and making sure the artist’s kids have the opportunity for higher education, by providing a home for them in Oaxaca City. It’s all part of his master plan for raising the level of Oaxaca’s textile artisans to the highest level of national textile ARTISTS. Remigio has been hard at work for at least 20 years making it happen and now has a store in Mexico City (see below), besides his Baules de Juana Cata store on Alcala street in Oaxaca (his flag ship) and a shop in San Miguel Allende. See my previous post Tres Colores – Indigo, Cochineal &  Caracol  an exhibit of Remigio’s artists’ work at the Museo Arte Popular in San Bartolo Coyotepec (near Oaxaca City) last year.

Last year two of his master weavers, Nicolasa Pascal Martinez from San Bartolo Yautepec and Luisa Jimenez, who is Trique from the Mixteca demonstrated weaving on their traditional back-strap looms. Many beautiful blouses, long huipiles, rebozos/shawls and quechquemitles (triangular caplettes) were offered of very fine weaves, ancient patterns and sumptuous colors. Included are images of garments brought last year as well as the Tres Colores exhibit. I suggest heading over to the Banamex booth, Remigio’s sponsors, EARLY  for the best selection of Oaxacan textiles at the International Folk Art Market July 13 – 15th, Santa Fe, NM.

See Remigio in action in this slide show, at his store in Oaxaca and in the Mixe region with some of his weavers.

His new shop is called Los Baules at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca – near the Oaxaca Zocala and he has also opened a shop in Mexico City store at Isabella Catolica Street, 30-7 in the Centro Historico to broaden the knowledge of indigenous arts throughout Mexico.

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How to wear a Rebozo – Feria de Maestros – Lake Chapala, Michoacan – Nov. 18 – 20, 2011

A timely post for this coming weekend Nov 18th – 20th. 2011

The Feria de Maestros Artesania – Chapala Yacht Club, Lake Chapala, Chapala, Mexico

80+ Artisans, 15 Maestros, 100s of volunteers, 1000s of pieces of beautiful folk art, 50 pesos admission daily, Musicians, regional dancing, tequila tasting, raffle, Mexican cocktails and cuisine, sunshine and laughter — that’s the Feria! It’s the Feria’s 10th Anniversary! And it all starts on Friday.  Open 10 am to 6 pm Friday, Nov. 18th and Saturday, Nov. 19th.  Open 10 am to 4 pm Sunday, Nov. 20th., 2011

The last  two years I have volunteered at the Maestros de Artesania Fair de Chapala. Besides all the general excitement and wonderful opportunities to meet people and find treasures, the feria featured rebozo weavers from Michoacan, Oaxaca, and Malinalco (Edo.Mexico) in  2010. In 2009 Tenancingo, Santa Maria del Rio etc were included. I helped at some of my Tenancingo and Oaxacan weaver friend’s booth – a little selling here and translation for buyers there.  What I want to capture in this post is the fashion show that was held both Saturday and Sunday  2009 and 2010, featuring local Chapala ex-pat women wearing the beautiful rebozos/shawls of the Mexico.

Generally North Americans haven’t worn shawls in the way that Mexicans do – so it was time for a demonstration of the mired ways these sensuous textiles could be tied and arranged on the body. Following are some fine examples of the most beautiful rebozos offered as well as creative ways to wear them.

If you are in the area of Lake Chapala/Guadalajara this year, Nov. 18 – 20th be sure and attend the fair because although the rebozo people might not be featured this year, Ceclila Bautista, Purepeche/Michoacan weaver of (feather rebozos) is sure to be there as well as Camelia of Malinalco. There will also be so many other fabulous items you’ll be overwhelmed and delighted.

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Here’s the link for the show to check out artisans who  will be featured at the Feria- http://mexicoartshow.com/2011maestros.html

Huipil of Oaxaca -Tehuantepec/Juchitan – Hand/Eye e-zine article

So many ‘things happening’ before I left Mexico mid-May. First a ‘charla’ (chat) on quechquemitls at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca coinciding with their spectacular Quechquemitles Exhibit that month. Then the publications of the Arte de Mexico: Textiles Mazahuas article on the traje de Santa Rosa de Lima and the revival work of the Flores Silvestres. After that onto San Miguel Allende where I gave another talk on my Oaxacan and  Chiapas textile adventures at Patrice Wynn’s Abrazos store. Whew! I almost forgot that Hand/Eye e-zine decided to publish my article on ‘Huipil of Oaxaca’ – the costume Frida Kahlo wore and made famous, the outfit of Tehuantepec/Juchitan. The most extravagant and dazzling traje of Oaxaca and possibly Mexico.

So if you happened to have missed that article I’m putting in a link here with a few more photos to fill out the story: http://handeyemagazine.com/content/huipiles-oaxaca

I’ve always been fascinated and awed by the elaborate Tehuana costumes as I frequently see them on the streets of Oaxaca in Calendas/ processions around the Santa Domingo church. Women in full regalia and sometimes men in traditional costumes parade elegantly down Alacala street often with a band. I think they are social groups originally from the Tehuantepec/Juchitan area but I haven’t really found out the real story. They love to dress up to say the least.

I had the honor of being invited to a wedding earlier this year and the brides family was from Juchitan. It was a huge affair held in the groom’s village of Santa Ana near Tlacolula in the Valle Central of Oaxaca. The wedding parties sat in their assigned sides of the huge airplane hanger-like event room. 700 people had shown up! But the groom’s side was all navy blue, beige and black while the brides side was a riot of color. It was like the documentary film on the Juchitan culture…”Blossoms on Fire”, a perfect description. Afterwards my friend said – “Oh those Juchitana’s are such SHOW-OFFS!” Well it was worth sitting through many wedding games and rituals just to get up-close and personal (BEST in the bathroom) with so many sumptuous textiles.

If you want to know a little more of the history of these elaborate outfits and the many embroidery techniques developed over the the years read the Hand/Eye article. Oaxaca’s Istmus of Tehuantepec was a transportation route for moving exotic goods from the Phiippines to Spain, so there were many outside influences on the women’s clothing in this area. Hand-Eye is a wonderful e-journal of world hand arts that publishes weekly stories on traditional artisan crafts and contemporary artists etc. Don’t miss it! You can subscribe, I think, for free. I’ll be writing more articles in the future


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Oaxacan Textiles: Tres Colores, Natural Dyes – Indigo, Cochineal and Caracol

In January/February 2011 at the Museo Arte Popular Oaxaca – in San Bartolo Coyotepec (south of the city of Oaxaca) there was an exhibit of the very best textiles that the state of Oaxaca has to offer. We might even say – the MOST exceptional textiles of the highest quality. These were commissioned and collected by Remigio Maestas, who has been working with 250 indigenous Oaxacan artisans for many years, throughout the state, to encourage and support development and production of fine textiles. The theme of this exhibit was ‘Tres Colores – Indigo, Cochineal and Caracol” since the textiles, which were hand-woven on backstrap looms, demonstrated the natural dyes of the state of Oaxaca. All the textiles; huipiles, some in lienzos (woven strips), garments, shawls were traditional in design – but each artists interpreted her/his traditional textile using the three natural dyes in a very personal and creative way. The outcome was an outstanding exhibit full of beauty and grace and even some surprises! Remigio’s goal is to elevate traditional textiles from artisania (hand-craft) to ART…well demonstrated by this exhibit.

Attached is my YouTube slide show of the exhibit listing the village from which the textile came. I will also provide the artist’s name if you contact me. Enjoy the fine textiles and the Tres Colores de Oaxaca!

If you are in the city of Oaxaca you can visit Remigio’s store Los Baules de Juana Cata inside the entrance to Las Danzantes’ Restaurant on Alcala #403 – 2 – near Santo Domingo church. Also Remigio has a Los Baules in the Museo Texitle de Oaxaca. A wonderful textiles museum shop.

Santa Fe Folk Art Market – NM – Visual Feast

A little after the fact – but worthwhile never the less – I wanted to mention a most extraordinary event that I attended this summer – July 9 – 11, 2010 – in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of the largest international artisan festivals in the United States, the International Folk Art Festival is about 6 years old now and draws almost 25,000 people to the 3 days event.

Having some very good jeweler friends from Ecuador participating as artisans helped me feel the pulse of the event more deeply as I answered questions in their booth. Talking to attendees is fun – especially the awe in the faces of the children attending on Family Day – Sunday.

Of course as a textile junkie – I try and visit every artisan presenting textiles and I’m never disappointed. The traditional clothing worn is worth the price of admission alone.The quality of products is first class. Entertainment by the various cultural groups is always mesmerizing  and energetic. Every group wants to share their culture  through music and dance and about 360 different artisans from about 150 countries are invited.

http:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQS5JeV7lTE

For your enjoyment I have created another ‘Event Slideshow- Video’ for YouTube- another skill I’m developing with the help of the Apple Store (One on One tutorial program)  Albuquerque and my new MacBook Pro. Now you can click on my link and view a 3+ minute video slide show of the most fabulous textiles of the International Folk Art Festival 2010. Also a few pics to get you started…..

Also visit the International Folk Art Market website for more information:


Next years dates are July 8 – 11th  and make sure you are THERE !

Uruapan Artisans Fair – Palm Sunday TEXTILE FEAST!!!!!

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Just like the CIRCUS promoting itself as the BIGGEST SHOW on EARTH, Uruapan likes to bill itself as the biggest artisan show in Mexico! Held every Palm Sunday Weekand and lasting over two weeks, it appears to me to be the most colorful, diversified show I’ve been to. Since I’m primarily interested in what people are wearing and the textiles they are making, the Uruapan show never disappoints. Four distinctive indigenous groups are the  participating artisans from all corners of the State of Michoacan, so you have the opportunity to see the best traditional Otomi, Mazahua, Purepeche and Nahua costumes – and you’ll also see their wonderful handcrafts in the form of pottery, baskets, toys, rebozos, embroidered blouses, copper vessels, musical instruments, etc etc.

The show starts off with an Artisans Parade and you can see this on my YouTube slide show called Uruapan Artisans Fair – click here if you want to get a 3 minute impression of the event with lively music. These artisans wear their regional costumes and represent their particular craft in some way while parading.


Another part of the Feria is the Concurso  ‘BEST of Show ‘Artisania. It is held in the Fabrica San Pedro, an old textile mill, a few blocks south of the Central Square where the main Feria is and  it’s definitely worth visiting. There you will see the artisans presenting what they consider their best work for the chance to win a prize. It’s the best shopping experience and luckily this year it was open on Saturday as the prizes had already been awarded.

Now my particular TEXTILE REASONS for going to this show: 1) Magnificent costumes- all day and in the streets- on the women, everyone wears their ‘very best’ to this event.2) ‘Textile Pavillon’ in the main exhibit plaza of the Fair. Here you will see all the best embroidery and deshilada (pulled thread) work. 3) ‘Textile Court’ in the courtyard of the La Huatapera building (across from the main square) where…4) the  Indigenous Costume Show happens around 1pm Saturday. This is the best of the regions ceremonial and daily costumes worn by the different ethnic groups of Michoacan. Darling young children are also part of this. Photo opportunities!!!! 5) Concourse BEST of Show-Competition in the Fabrica de San Pedro, where you will have a chance to purchase what the artisans consider their best work.

BEST Textiles:  Gauze-like, superfino rebozos from Aranza; Deshilados de San Felipe de los Herreros  (super-fine white pulled thread embroidery); Embroidered blouses from the region (many many beautiful designs)…beautiful heavier cotton rebozos (Purepeche).

The whole event is a Textile Junkies Wonderland – and all you need is about two full days to see and do everything – Palm Sunday Weekend, Saturday and Sunday events are the best. There is also a ‘Indigenous Food Court’ with specialties of the region on the Palm Sunday weekend and music concerts such as the ‘Sones’ of Michoacan by the  famous traditional group ‘Erandi’ . HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!

Inter-Artisan Exchange – Zapotecs and Mazahuas

“Mazahua Week’ at the Museo Textile Oaxaca was very dynamic time for Regina Torres, revitalization project coordinator for the Santa Rosa de Lima, Edo.Mexico. Besides a full schedule of presentations, demonstrations and teaching a small workshop at the museum, she also visited the Bii Dauu weaving co-op in Teotitlan del Valle, several times. While sharing natural dye recipes and weaving methods she also brought her spectacular wool skirt enredo and quechquemitl (cape like top). The skirt alone weighs 7 lbs. and is 16 feet long. These garments are made with hand-spun wool yarn, naturally dyed with indigo, cochineal, and wild marigold, woven on a telar de cinta (back-strap loom) and finished with fine wool embroidery, taking almost a year to produce.

Several young Bii Dauu Co-op member tried on the costume apparently enjoy its warm thermal quality. Santa Rosa de Lima lies at 9000 feet above sea-level so it’s climate is very different than warm Oaxaca. Regina’s visited the Bii Dauu Co-op’s huerta (country plot) where they are growing the dye plants and mordents crucial for the natural dye processes they use on wools yarns for their beautiful carpets.

Mazahua Week at Museo Textile Oaxaca – Jan 20 – 24th

At last the Mazahua ladies of Santa Rosa de Lima the Edo de Mexico will be visiting Oaxaca. Specifically they will be staying in the Teotitlan del Valle weaving town in the Valley of Oaxaca. At the Museo Textile de Oaxaca they will be visiting and demonstrating some telar de cinta techniques for finish braids from their brilliant quechquemitles and perhaps the weaving of one their heavy woolen skirts. Because their village project of revitalization is about preserving their traditional traje their visit is about cultural information exchange, specifically natural dyes information, with other indigenous artisans. So we hope  their visit to the Oaxaca Textile Museum and Teotitlan will be interesting for  them as it will be for us. Stay tuned for more details about their adventure in Oaxaca!