Curtis Daily - ContrabassistSunday, March 15, 2015
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Curtis Daily - Contrabassist
I know a fair amount about rebozos, probably more than most men. I was involved with a woman for eight years, from 2000/2008, who is a well-respected Toronto based dealer in indigenous adornment from around the world. We met in Mexico, and during the time we were together we made many trips to Mexico, with me always driving the rental car, where we went to lots of towns and cities that are known for producing particular items of adornment, including rebozos.
It is said that one can tell where a woman is from from the weave of her rebozo. This is quite likely true, or was at one time probably not too far in the distant past. I can’t tell, but one of the most amazing things when driving into a small rural Mexican town is seeing all the women above a certain age (15?) wearing a very traditional dress and a rebozo. I always look forward to this.
I’ve visited weavers of rebozos in many towns in central Mexico. I have watched a silk rebozo from Santa María del Río, San Luis Potosí, be drawn through a woman’s wedding ring, which seems surreal, or at the very least, impossible, when watching it. Witnessing this alone may be worth the trip there.
The silk rebozos are pretty much only made in Santa Maria del Rio. They are very expensive and are sold mostly at shops on the two roads entering and exiting the town. We also visited the weaving school in Santa María. The silk rebozos are always sold with a nice wooden box, and are usually given as a wedding gift. I think that rebozos from other parts of Mexico are often given as wedding gifts, and probably quinceañero gifts as well.
I have watched women weaving rebozos on backstrap looms in many places in rural Mexico. I have seen the big frame looms in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. I’ve watched the weavers there set them up, which can take days or weeks. The weaving itself can also take months. I have visited the Thursday market in Tenancingo, Estado de México, many times. Thursday is the day of the week that most of the rebozo dealers are there. I have watched my ex-partner negotiate for hours to buy a quantity of rebozos, while I would eventually wander off to look for some excellent produce or a snack. The best ice cream I have ever eaten is near the Tenancingo market.
I even own a rebozo. It’s a gaudy black and green thing made of rayon. I don’t remember where I bought it, but at some point I decided that I had to have one of my own. Mine is attractive in its own way.
When Alex mentioned taking my photo wearing his mother’s rebozo, I had a lot of mixed feelings. For one thing, in Mexico, rebozos are always worn by women. I haven’t even seen cross dressers in the Zona Rosa wearing a rebozo, but I have little doubt that they do. I’ve seen rebozos used for every possible purpose, from sunshade, to baby sling, to grocery carrier, but never worn by a man. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be photographed with a rebozo, just because I consider it to be the exclusive property of women who, for the most part have severely constricted lives, and have little that they can call their own. The rebozo is one of these few things.
However, I had seen Alex’s mother’s rebozo in photos of other people wearing it, including several men. I also knew that it wasn’t like any rebozo I had seen in my travels. I know little of Alex’s mother, and the little I do know is only through his writings about her, and all I know about her rebozo is that it also says something about her. To feel it, it is made of relatively heavy material, most likely cotton. It isn’t from one of the weavers in the indigenous places that I am familiar with because they use much finer thread. I think it was purchased in Mexico City for its practical warmth (el D.F. gets cold!) and for its fashion value. It is a beautiful deep and lustrous red, and would look good with any number of clothing choices.
Alex told me that the color comes from cochineal. Cochineal is an insect, native to Mexico that resides on various cacti. It produces carminic acid that deters predators. When the insect is dried and combined with an extractive material, carmine dye is produced from the dried carminic acid, and this is certainly what Alex’s mother’s rebozo is dyed with. It is a beautiful shade of crimson that could not be duplicated except by the crushing of these insects. Writing ink is also made from carminic acid.
When the time came to pose with the rebozo, I was happy to drape it over me. I could also feel the weight of who had worn it before me. I couldn’t wear it in any way that a Mexican woman would, because to me that is hers alone. The session was rushed because of my time schedule so I only had time to pull it over my left side like a banner. I hope that we will have time to do another photo shoot with it where I might have more time to think about what to do with it.
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