The Mexican culture is so rich and vibrant. It’s the result of the mixture of its ancient civilizations with Spanish influences. Mexican culture has undergone an incredible transformation during the last centuries, creating an identity that is recognizable all over the world.
Though, nowadays, and especially in this touristic area of México, is sometimes difficult to buy authentic Mexican textiles. The area is quite full of piracy and if you are not an expert on the Mexican textile techniques, you could be paying for something made in China. That´s why we decided to create this guide to help you with your Mexican shopping.
This is one of the most common mistakes we make when buying Mexican textiles without recognizing the techniques. As we mentioned earlier, Chinese pieces in this tourist area of Mexico are everywhere and there are many embroideries that might look like Mexican but are really made outside of the country and do not contain any indigenous textile identity. It may seem a bit complex to distinguish these pieces from the originals but it is only a matter of reviewing the products and making the right decision.
1) Hand Embroidery
Hand-embroidered techniques are highly recognizable from those made by machine, from cross stitch techniques to the most famous Otomi Tenangos, the hand-made stitches are distinguishable if you check the inside of the garment. Finishing knots are very easily distinguishable when they are made by hand and machine-made pieces generally have an interlining on the back to give more rigidity to the stitches.
2) Machine Embroidery in the communities
However, there are some communities in Mexico that also work with machine techniques. These embroideries are distinguished by their originality and colorful designs, mainly you can distinguish a non-original piece from a Mexican original elaborated with this technique thanks to the designs and the high degree of complexity. Although you may think that by not being an expert on the subject it will be very difficult to recognize the difference in these pieces, we will give you a tip, try to pay attention to the details since piracy pieces have very low quality in textiles and embroidery.
3) Waist loom
The backstrap loom is one of the ancestral traditions of this culture, although there are different tool techniques, the result is very similar. They are elaborated thread by thread, literally, and the result is the textile that is used to create the garment, in order to add the embroidery and bronzing adorn figures that represent the history and meaning of their indigenous community.
The vast majority of you can find in the Riviera Maya pieces made in the state of Chiapas or Oaxaca, such as blouses, dresses, or table runners. These pieces are made approximately in a period of 1 to 3 months depending on the size of the canvas and the complexity of the fabric design. The vast majority of these pieces contain the animal, floral and triangular graphics representing the mountains or valleys from which the artists originate. The problem in these pieces is that the consumer does not manage to value the time and effort of work and that is why day by day they are scarcer for consumers since most of the time they do not pay even $5 pesos a day for this work, and in the most extreme cases, even represents a loss for the artist since this technique is made by weaving thread by a thread on the loom and the amount of material used becomes more expensive for the craftsman than what the client is willing to pay and value the work.
As we mentioned if you do not know the techniques hand in hand depending on the region, the Riviera Maya can be quite misleading if you are looking for original pieces but we recommend "Textiles Mayas Chiapas" in Playa del Carmen to find an authentic Mexican piece. Otherwise, you can follow this short guide and look for traveling artists so that they can earn more directly from your consumption.
Try to make a conscious decision when making your purchases, not only let yourself be guided by the prices and the false Mexican folklore since you will surely be spending your money on some pirated or low-quality piece.