Wednesday, September 15, 2010

El Zarape

The zarape (pronounced "serape" in English) cloth is used in Mexico. It is similar to a poncho. A long blanket-like shawl, often brightly colored and fringed at the ends, worn especially by Mexican men.
The traditional zarape is made in the Mexican state of Coahuila in north-eastern Mexico, near the city of Saltillo. The Saltillo zarapes, blankets, and numerous other textile products often consist of a dark base color with bands of yellow, orange, red, blue, green, purple or other bright colors. The ends of the textile products are usually fringed. New products can be purchased or vintage products collected for their beauty and craftsmanship. The Saltillo textiles are made by local residents of Saltillo. Their descendants trace back to the early Chichimecs, who migrated from northern Mexico (Chihuahua and Casa Grande area) to central Mexico (San Luis Potosí area to the Gulf Coast).
The word "zarape" also can be used to refer to a very soft rectangular blanket with an opening in the middle for one's head. Some zarapes are made with matching hoods for head covering. The length varies but front and back normally reach knee height on an average person. Available in various colors and design patterns, the typical colors are two-tone combinations of black, grey, brown, or tan—pertaining to the natural color of the sheep flocks grown in the highland regions, not requiring tint. Most design patterns are large with traditional Mayan motifs. The zarape is not, however, a typical garment for the Mayan highland people, who wear different clothing in cold regions. The zarape is more of an imitation of the Mexican poncho with a Mayan twist and their elaboration is specifically for sales to foreigners or city dwellers who feel attracted to the garment than as a useful warm souvenir of the Guatemalan highlands. The sale of zarapes goes through a broker process, where the Mayan families, who depend mostly upon agricultural work, manufacture small quantities for additional income. The brokers display the zarapes at a higher price on local markets or the sides of highland roads in improvised huts. The brokers are typically Mayan. The appeal of the zarape may consist in the fact that these are woven by Mayan families, normally women, in their traditional house looms, giving the zarape a "handmade" look.