Traditions of Mexico

Traditions of Mexico
The United States has always been known as "the melting pot" because of the many
different cultures it is made of. But oddly enough, when it comes to Mexicans, it is
little known that they are mostly mestizos, or of indigenous and European bloodlines.
And Mexico has long been influenced by the many different cultures that still exist
today: African, French, Spanish, Asian, German, Irish, Italian and more.
Just as in the U.S., where scenery and culture changes because of the different races
settling there, so does Mexico.
Jalisco (West)
The Spanish colonized this area for
an extended time. The men wore the
big sombreros and the traditional
Spanish charro suit with the silver
studs on the pants and a big bow.
The women folklorico wear is a
ranchero design dress with
unmistakable Indian influenced bright
colored ribbons. The typical dress
from Jalisco is what is called an Escaramuza dress. (Escaramuza
Charra is the name given to the female that participates in the
sport of Charreria).
It consists of a very wide skirt that makes waves with stripes in the
middle that forms a star, and more stripes at the bottom end. The
blouse is made out of manta (100% cotton) with a high collar, and
stripes of embroidery. This is the national representation for
Mexican dance as is the Mexican hat dance which comes from this
state. Jarabes, which means "sweet syrup," are best known as
many of the dances are those of courtship and very flirtatious. This
is also the birthplace of los mariachis -- the orchestras with
trumpets, acoustics, violins.
Nuevo Leon (North)
Nuevo Leon is a northern state that borders Texas. When the
Germans came, they settled mostly in the Texas hill country and
Nuevo Leon. Unlike the hill country Germans who were mostly
agricultural, the latter settled in Nuevo Leon to establish breweries.
Their influence in Texas country-western music and Tejano music is
unmistakable but often overlooked. In the folklorico costume for
Nuevo Leon, men wear the leather fringed vests or coats, boots,
bandanas and cowboy hats. The women wear clothes straight out of
"The Sound of Music". Their hair is braided with ribbons. The style of
dance: polkas, waltzes and chotize, or "schottische". The tuba sound
in Mexican/Tejano music was improvised by base guitars and the accordion was
introduced. The accordion in Tejano conjunto music was mostly used by the common
labor working people.
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12th grade
Veracruz (East)
Traditions of Mexico
There is Spanish influence in this eastern coast. It
was and still is an important trading port. The
Spanish costume shows the white guayabera
pants and shirts and red waist sash. The shoes
are white and the outfit is complete with a hat of
palms and a red scarf around the man’s neck with
an adjustable gold ring.
The women wear imported white lace dresses;
consisting of a white wide skirt with incrustations
of lace with great delicate borders.The blouse is without sleeves, the same color as the
skirt that is complemented with a shawl or rebozos, and an apron usually in black with
embroidery of flowers is a highlight of the skirt, it can be white, blue or yellow.
The shoes are white. The hair is pull back in buns and adorned with three flowers dressing
the head. Flowers on the left side mean the woman is single, and flowers on the right
mean the woman is married.
The final details are a fan with lace details, chain gold for jewelery and a rope tied in your
arms. The style of dance: bambas, and huapangos, which are greatly influenced by
flamenco steps. The music is mostly acoustical, violin and harp, which were influenced
during the conquest and also penetrated by elements of the Arab, African, German,
Dutch, and other European cultures. The African peoples who arrived during the Spanish
colonization period as slaves, mainly to the coastal regions in the south of the country
contributed greatly to the tropical rhythm. Spanish names mostly replaced indigenous
Nayarit (Southwest)
This is a small southwestern state
which was once a part of Jalisco. The
men wear the traditional white shirt
under a colored shirt that is tied in
the front and white pants with
bandanas on their heads. The women
dress in a small flower print ranchera
style outfit and use a Huichol fan
instead of a rebozo or shawl like the
Jalisco women wear. Interesting to
this state is the dance of the
matchetes, where men dance clanging and tossing their matchetes to the point of making
sparks. This is done while women dance through and arch of clanging matchetes. This
dance is originally of Moorish influenced, originating when Spain was conquered by the
Moors. The Moors influenced not only the music (compare Spanish falsetto to Arab
falsetto) but also the appearance of Spaniards as they introduced the olive skin and dark
hair and eyes into the European bloodlines. The women dance in the flamenco style with
their arms held high, arched upperback, low side bends and twists, coy shoulder shrugs
and saucy head tilts. There is also a Mexican folk dance honoring St. James that is in
reference to a battle with Moors.
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12th grade
Traditions of Mexico
Guerrero (South)
Guerrero is a tropical state on the Pacific coast. It was not only
a haven to Asian influences that strayed and landed on its coast,
but also a haven for run-away black slaves. In a presentation
coordinated by the state of Guerrero, I witnessed a dance that
looked like an old cliché about Africans dancing around a fire
and being chased by a tiger. This was one of the folk dances
archived by African slaves. The Africans also brought us the
drum rhythms of
cumbias and salsas. The
Spanish slave trade
distributed the sound in
all of the Latin countries.
I also heard a very
Mexican sounding music from a line-up of
Mexicans dressed in the traditional white pants
and shirt, palm weave hat and huaraches. The
women wore a shift dress with embroidered
flowers, and their hair up in a bun. What was
different? One appeared European looking; one
black; one Asian; one Indian; and one was
mestizo... the Mexican melting pot.
Michoacan (South)
Michoacan is largely inhabited by indigenous
people. Unlike many of the Mexican Indian tribes,
women are allowed to dance. The men wear the
muslim white pants and shirts embroidered at the
legs and arms with a sash, a poncho, and
huaraches. The women wear a black skirt and
multi-colored apron with a white embroidered
shirt. They wear a long black head wrap tied
behind their head with a staw hat sometimes
adorned with multi-colored flowers. Most famous
to that region is El Baile de Los Viejitos or Dance
of the Old Men. This was a chance to mock the
Spanish ruling class by doing a dance hunched
over like old men with canes. They would wear a
mask looking like an old European (pink face with white hair). This dance is customarily
done during festivals like El Dia de los Muertos. This is a missionary influenced holiday in
which the padres allowed the Indians to celebrate their Indian rituals of honoring the dead
by combining it with All Souls Day. Indians believed that it would be a day when their
dead's souls would come back to earth to savor earthly delights. Therefore, they would
(and still practice) bring some of the dead's favorites and wait at the cemetery for their
loved ones. This has also become a day for family to customarily gather, pray, reminisce
and bond.
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Traditions of Mexico
San Luis Potosi (Central)
While the majority of the Mexican population is now mestizo, one
must not forget that there are still several different Mexican
Indian tribes. The more famous are the Aztec and the Mayan, but
there are numerous others like the Huichol, and the Chichimeca
Jonazj. Though Spanish is the official language of the country, in
Mexico there are 62 living indigenous languages. The centrally
located silver mine state of San Luis Potosi is one which has a
large percentage of Huastec Indians. It is well known for its silver
mines and textiles. Note the Indian colored ponchos the women
wear with the yarn woven headpiece. Marital status of women is
known by the length of the ribbons that dangle in the back of the
headpiece. If she is available, the ribbons are long and worn cut
short when married.
Michoacán (South)
Michoacán is the state of Mexico where Purepechas have lived for a long
time, in the land around Lake Patzcuaro. Women use sophisticated clothing:
A skirt with a pattern, a long blouse with embroidery at the bottom and
around the neck, a belt strapped on the back, and usually a rebozo. Blouses
with more embroidery are used in special celebrations. Aprons are also
typically used and they also have nice cross stit ch embroidery decoration.
Chiapas (Southwest)
The Chiapas typical dress is truly a
unique work of art; very different
from the dresses in other parts of
Mexico. It is made by hand my local
women originally from the town of
Chiapa de Corzo. It consists of a
wide skirt with a full decoration of
stripes with colorful and stunning
flowers usually embroidered in silk
or similar thread (articela). Some
people say that flowers represent the region diversity, and they are
embroidered on a black background which represents the dense
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Traditions of Mexico
Yucatan (Southeast Peninsula)
Yucatan is another Spanish trade port and Mayan kingdom conquest on
the Gulf of Mexico. The Spanish and Mayan influence on menswear is
again notable. The same white guayabera shirt and pants and red
bandana for men. The “guayabera” is a one-piece shirt made of rough
cotton fabric worn by Cuban and Mayan peasants. With time, these
shirts became more elaborate and elegant, including thin pleats,
pockets, buttons, and even embroideries of geometric patterns.
The women wear a Mayan design dress trimmed in white lace brightly
embroidered with flowers, wearing shawls. Their hair up in combs. The
music is acoustical and includes drums and tuba. The Mayan people are
still very visible in this state.
Women's wear from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
Most North Americans get their first exposure to the
traditional Mexican embroidered, or woven huipil/blouse, from the
artist Frida Kahlo with her exotic style of dressing in Mexican
indigenous clothing. Frida’s collection was recently discovered in
her sealed closet at the Casa Azul—her home and current museum
in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City. It had been hidden away for
fifty years upon request of her husband, the Mexican muralist and
painter Diego Rivera. What was discovered were a wide range of
colorful huipiles—mostly from the southern Mexican state of
Oaxaca—that Frida wore daily. It was also
a time when the identity of modern Mexico
was in formation, showing the strong
feminine persona of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec women.
What we see in these elaborately embellished huipiles is
the culmination of many influences that came through the area of
the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Here the local Zapotec women were
exposed to the beautifully embroidered floral silk shawls of China
and by the late 1890s, with the arrival of the special Singer
chain-stitch machine; the women soon mastered the floral
patterns. Later these machine embroiderers, on regular treadle
machines, took to creating overlaid geometric patterns that are
almost electrically optical in effect.
Before the arrival of the Spaniards, Huipiles were used in
the whole Mesoamerican territory. Nowadays, the huipil is used
on the South area of Mexico. It consists of a rectangular piece of
fabric, folded with an opening for the head and generally stitched
on the sides. It is made of cotton and/or wool. Sometimes silk
and feathers are added as decorations.
A garment can then be embellished with lavish handembroidered flowers, the punch-needle technique, the chain
stitching or with the straight sewing machine. All have been
employed in various combinations for the sake of creating the
most dramatic impact possible.
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Traditions of Mexico
The origin of the charros dates back to the colonial period of
Mexico. The Spaniards brought the horse and the art of riding. In
the establishment of haciendas, the horse was indispensable for
herding cattle. The cattle needed to be nurtured and carried from a
pasture to another. These hard working generations of Creole
riders were formed, and over time the Mexican Cowboys became
famous for their skills in the field.
In Mexico, charro is a term referring to a traditional
horseman or cowboy of Mexico, The Mexican charro tradition has
derived from Spanish horsemen who came from Salamanca and
settled in Jalisco
During Colonial times and for several more centuries, the ranch workers and
musicians wore white cotton trousers and shirts with huaraches (woven sandals) and big
woven hats with pointed crowns.
Fine fabrics, dyes and buttons were reserved by law for the use of the Spanish
landowners who wore riding costumes from the Salamanca, Navarra and Andalucia
regions of Spain. Their sumptuously elegant short, tight
pants and jackets were adorned with silver ornaments and
worn with richly embroidered shirts; boots and flatbrimmed hats.
In 1619 the laws, forbidding Mestizos and Indios to
ride horses under penalty of death, were lifted and workers
eventually also gained the right to wear better fabrics and
to adapt their clothing to be practical for riding.
Even in difficult conditions of lack of time and lack of
materials, the Creoles began to create their unique in the
beginning of cotton and wool clothing. Eventually the suits
were perfected in its unique style and beauty of great
renown. Charro clothing is strong and practical for
operations in the field and elegance for the celebrations.
The rancheros first developed suits using available coarse
fabrics, making the pant legs wide and adjustable with
pleats on the sides. They buttoned on chivarras (goat hide
chaps); and developed leather tapabalazos (bullet
protection for chest and legs) to use in battle). For
weekends and competitions, they decorated their plain
clothing by appliquéing suede designs and adding
embroidery and leather buttons to shirts, pants and
jackets. The typical Mexican rider uses tight pants, shirt,
jacket, boots and hat. Aristocratic families later adapted
colors and other decorations for special occasions. Emperor
Maximilian used Mexican costumes, and he was the first to
use the color black.
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Traditions of Mexico
There are two vestments sights always used by Cowboys
which are using buttons (metal buttons) and other facts with
fretwork designs. The Greca is the word used to describe a
Mexican design of embroidery on suede. The most expensive and
luxurious costumes are made with buttons and ribs. The charro
suit has the following components:
Jacket: The jacket is generally short with a narrow waist and flap
broadband with metal and three buttons brooches.
Vest: Vest, similar to the jacket, has a narrow waist, and also is
decorated with buttons. Greca-style jackets are also embroidered.
Pants: pants are adjusted, decorated on the sides with double lines of buttons of gold or
silver. They can also be embroidered with suede trim. For the ladies, a long skirt is used
up to ankle height.
Shoes: short boots made of skin glossy black or white color for special
Belt: The belt is wide with ornaments on the side, and a clasp oval
shaped saddle or horse head.
Bun: the bow is colorful and ornate that it gives formality to the suit.
Buttons: shiny metal buttons come in a variety of designs such as
bulls, eagles, and head of horses. They are made of a metal alloy of
silver and nickel, known as alpaca, but they can also be made of gold
and silver.
Hat: charro hat comes with a high Crown and a very wide brimmed
made of wool. The hat may also come with a wing made of suede with
embroidery designs.
There is a Union between the charro and his horse who cares with
dedication and affection. El charro horse has a wide chest, is strong
and at the same time it is agile. The variety and originality of saddle
depend on its decoration. It is also classified according to their function
and intrinsic level. The chair can be decorated with gold, silver or an
embroidered maguey fiber. Among the tools of slaughter, are the
machete, knife, and his weapon. Saddlebags and sarapes of various
colors are very ornate.
The charro rider embodies a
romantic ideal, the brave and
gallant, is at the same time
possessing elegance in dress and
behavior. The represents the best of
the best impulses of the Mexican. In
1933, the charreada (Mexican rodeo
version) was recognized as a
national sport and sits in second
place after soccer as a spectator
sport. Cowboys compete in front of a
panel of judges who have an
unalterable ethics code.
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Traditions of Mexico
Mexico's history, complexity and contrasts are vividly
illustrated in the tradition of this suit that pays homage to and
demands the respect of the men who wear it. This suit reflects
the nation's pride, passion and respect for heritage, custom
and tradition.
While the same style suit is sold to Charros, Mariachi
groups, politicians, folkloric dance troupes, bridegrooms and
popular singers, it is only truly a Traje de Charro (Charro suit)
when worn by members of the prestigious Charro
organizations. The suits may look identical, and even
merchants may see it as the same suit. But, the men who wear
the suit know the differences that have caused a 70-year bitter
controversy over the wearing of Charro clothing by non-Charros.
Today's connection between the clothing of the Charro and the Mariachi didn't begin
until the early 1900's when Groups playing Mariachi music adopted the Traje de Charro
and groups began dressing alike.
When Mariachis and performers vary the color, design and accessories of the
Charro, they challenge over 400 years of custom. The Charros have complained that
others are wearing the Traje de Charro casually and as "totally
deformed, outlandish and grotesque costumes." The Mariachi
continually varied the outfit, until the Charros exploded in a fit
anger at the misuse of the national costume of Mexico. They
argued that the Charro suit belonged to the horsemen of the
country, and that musicians and others should be forbidden to
wear it. From this attitude has evolved a saying among the
Charros. A Charro whose outfit does not comply with the rules of
the organization, is said to be "wearing only the suit of the
Mariachi, not that of the Charro."
Charros are extremely offended if mistaken for Mariachis,
although today's musicians follow more standards and rules to properly represent the
suit. While they know it is not acceptable to ignore the
Charro's regulations, some musicians admit to
wearing an ensemble that is a little "different" than
the Charro. A mariachi costume is all about style, the
elegance of the suit and the decoration with
embroidery made sometimes with silver or gold
threads. Sometimes it also includes silver or gold
ornamental buttons and instead of a bolero tie, a man
might wear a large red bow on his chest.
Mariachis often wear vividly colored, custom
embroidered, permanently tied monos, the Charro is
required to tie his corbata from a silk rectangle of
specific dimensions. A Charro is excluded from
competition if he does not wear a precisely cut and styled shirt with leather, wood or
silver buttons on the cuff-less sleeves. Mariachis often wear "civil" dress shirts.
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12th grade
La China Poblana
Traditions of Mexico
Puebla (Central)
Another well-known costume for women is La China
Poblana; a silk/satin skirt with an embroidered or sequined
Mexican eagle that pays homage to a woman whose legend tells
of a Euro-Indian princess. Although not actually Chinese, the
princess was rumored to have been born in Mongolia. She was
said to have been attacked by Pacific pirates and sold to a
marquis in Mexico as a slave. Legend notes that he paid a high
price for her and although originally bought her as a "trinket" to
decorate his palace, he grew to treat her as a daughter.
Originally of Hindu faith, she embraced the local customs.
According to the story, she would always wear a head scarf and
covered her face, thus gaining the respect through her loyalty,
modesty and beauty both from the pueblo and the clerics.
How did her dress spark a fashion craze? Historians say
Mirra continued to wear her native saris over the years, but
little by little adapted their designs to the culture of Mexico.
Soon, her bodices were sporting colorful flowers and even the country's classic eagle on a
prickly pear cactus clutching a snake.
Her saris eventually morphed into what would become an
outfit typically consisting of a short-sleeved white blouse with
vibrant silk embroidery, a billowing skirt decorated with sequins
and beads, a white, lace-trimmed slip that dropped below the
skirt's hemline and a shawl woven from blue and white thread.
The “China Poblana look,” as it came to be called, first
captured the women of Puebla and then spread 80 miles
northwest to become a hit in Mexico City and then in other parts
of the country.
Typical Outfit: According to some descriptions this typical outfit is
made up of the following garments
 A white blouse, with fringing and embroidery work of silk
and beads, in geometric and floral designs in bright colors.
 A skirt called castor, named after the material it was made
from. It was decorated with sequins and shrimp that formed
geometric and floral shapes. In folkloric dances groups have
their own version that has the coat of arms of Mexico.
 A white slip with enchilada stitching and zigzag lacework.
 A loop that held up the castor and the slip to the waist.
 A shawl, made it with white silk.
 Satin shoes embroidered with silk thread.
 The china completed the outfit with beads and jewels that
adorned her ears, her cleavage and her hands.
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12th grade
Traditions of Mexico
Craft Activity Option 1
Mexican Tissue Paper Flowers
Making colorful paper flowers is a tradition in Mexico.
Tissue Paper
Pipe cleaner, twist ties or floral wire
Dowel or stick (optional)
1. Cut 6 to 8 sheets of tissue paper to approximately 7 x11 inches.
You can use a single color or different colors of tissue paper. *The more
sheets you use, the fluffier your flower will be.
2. Pile the sheets together. Make a ¾ inch fold on one short side of
the rectangle. This will define the width of the folds in the succeeding
3. Fold the paper accordion-style (back-and-forth folding).
4. Trim off any excess paper after the last fold.
5. Round out both ends of the folded paper.
6. Tie a pipe cleaner around the center of the folded paper.
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Traditions of Mexico
7. Spread open one side of the folded paper so that it opens up like a
8. To create the flower petals, slowly separate each layer of tissue
toward the top center of the flower.
9. Work your way one layer at a time until you've separated all the
layers on one side of the pipe cleaner.
10. Next, open up the opposite side like a fan.
11. Separate the tissue and bring it towards the center one layer at
a time, just as you did in Step 9.
12. Once all the layers of tissue have been separated,
you'll see how pretty and fluffy your paper bloom is.
Different colored layers of paper can be used to make
multi-color flowers.
13. If you wish to add a stem, coil the ends of the pipe cleaner around a
dowel or chopstick. Further wrap a tape around the pipe cleaner to hold it in
place. Put several of these stemmed flowers in a vase or basket for a lovely
flower arrangement
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12th grade
Traditions of Mexico
Craft Activity Option 2
Mini Tissue Box Piñata
Tissue Box, poster board cube template, or other small square box
Crepe paper, crepe paper streamers and/or tissue paper
Sweets and treats, of course!
To Make Fringe:
First you need to cut your fringed crepe paper. You’ll need a lot, If you’re using crepe
paper or tissue paper sheets, leave it folded and simply cut off the bottom end (about
an inch or less wide) and fringe that. Figure 1. If you’re using regular crepe paper
streamers, unroll and fold in half than cut it in half, width-wise, and fringe. Then cut
the two fringe pieces apart into long strips. Figure 2. Tie a large knot in the center of
your decorative ribbon for the bottom. Then tie a knot, forming a loop, in your ribbon
handle. With your scissors poke a hole in one top corner of your tissue box, then poke
another hole in the opposite bottom corner.
Figure 1 Fringe from sheets
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Traditions of Mexico
Tie a large knot in the center of
your decorative ribbon or yarn
for the bottom. Then tie a knot,
forming a loop, in your ribbon
or yarn handle. With your
scissors poke a hole in one top
corner of your tissue box, then
poke another hole in the
opposite bottom corner
Pull your ribbon through the
holes you created, making sure
that the knot is large enough
not to slip through each end.
Now it’s time to fill your pinata
with treats! Once filled, seal it up
with kraft paper or computer
paper. Since my tissue box had a
very bold design, I covered the
entire thing in paper to prevent it
from showing through.
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Traditions of Mexico
To adhere your fringe, start with
the sides of your box. Run thin
lines of glue around the box and
gently wrap the fringe around
and around. Make sure each
layer of fringe is very close to
the previous layer so you
prevent any of the box from
showing through.
Keep wrapping!
Once the sides are completely
covered, you’ll want to add fringe to
the top and bottom. Do this in the
same manner as before, but instead
of wrapping you’ll cut your fringe at
the end of each line.
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Traditions of Mexico
Let dry completely and then you are done! And as quickly as it was made, it will be
destroyed… but all in good fun!
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12th grade