Culture

One Group Of Indigenous Mexican Women Is Using Their Fashions To Keep Their Culture Alive

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Fleeing drought, deforestation, and drug growers high up in the Sierra Madre, the Rarámuris, commonly known as Tarahumaras, are making new homes in the pueblos and cities of Chihuahua.

Many are making a new home for themselves in the pueblito of Oasis. It’s here that the Rarámuri people stand out while also facing hardships the generally Mestizo population doesn’t.

And despite the hardships, the Rarámuri women are refusing to give in to the pressure.

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Despite living in large towns and cities, the community continues to practice tribal traditions and wear typical Rarámuri dress.

For the Rarámuri people, assimilation is the same as erasure. They don’t want to face the same fate as other Indigenous groups across the country.

The women are typically dressed in colorful, bright, ankle-length dresses, which can take entire afternoons to sew. They do this despite the pressures from other residents to assimilate with a more Western style.

Across Mexico, the pressure to ‘assimilate’ is powerful.

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From Chiapas to Veracruz, Oaxaca to Chihuahua, there is a pervasive idea that progress is dependent on cutting your ties with your Indigenous identity.

One young woman leading the charge in Oasis is Yulissa Ramirez. In an interview with the New York Times, she admits she wants to challenge the notion that you must lose your Native roots to move forward in the country. She plans to attend nursing school after graduating from high school. She’d be expected to wear white scrubs but hopes that the school will allow her to wear her traditional white Rarámuri dress. She tells the NYT: “Our blood runs Rarámuri, and there’s no reason that we should feel ashamed.”

To some, the community’s unwillingness to conform to a ‘Western-style’ is costing them economic opportunities. But some are working to challenge that idea.

Ms. Ramírez, for example, believes that completing her nursing program in traditional dress will be an important statement that Rarámuri people are a vital part of Mexico’s future — and present.

Other Rarámuris are monetizing their craft.

For example, Esperanza Moreno, 44, embroiders tortilla warmers, aprons, and dishcloths with depictions of Rarámuri women in traditional garb, and sells them to Mexican nonprofits who then resell the items to shops and Walmarts throughout the country. Rarámuri women have begun sewing traditional dresses to sell, as well.

Ms. Moreno also works in a dress-making workshop which allows her to provide her family with enough money for food and utilities, but also to uphold Rarámuri traditions. Fabric and sewing supplies for a traditional dress can cost more than 400 pesos (approx. $20 USD), which is more than some families earn in a month.

For Rarámuri men, it’s a bit different.

Most who arrive in the city are looking for work in construction – a difficult but decently paid job so they can better support their families. The men are quick to ditch their traditional looks in favor of blue jeans and boots.

While women rarely trade in their dresses for the uniforms required by employers. “I only wear Rarámuri dresses,” Ms. Holguin told the NYT. And she’s not alone as Rarámuri women are dedicated to not only keeping their traditional dress but also their people’s way of life.

As an Indigenous community, like so many others across Mexico, the group has faced violence.

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To many, it would seem that assimilation might be a clear path toward economic liberation, protection, and safety. But to many Rarámuri women, making and wearing traditional dresses is part of their deepest identity and not something they’re willing to give up.

Even Rarámuri women brought up under the influence of Chihuahua’s urban culture, and who mix elements of Western dress like hoop earrings and plastic necklaces, continue to wear traditional dresses.

It’s their way of keeping their traditions, culture, and identity alive.

READ: This School Is Fighting Back Against Prejudice And Using Its Uniforms To Empower Indigenous Students

Cultural Appropriation Strikes Again: Mexico Calls Out Louis Vuitton Over Use Of Indigenous Designs

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Cultural Appropriation Strikes Again: Mexico Calls Out Louis Vuitton Over Use Of Indigenous Designs

Fashion brand Louis Vuitton is under scrutiny from the Mexican government after allegedly using indigenous designs on the cover of a chair that’s being sold for over $18,000. The Mexican government called them out for cultural appropriation and for taking the designs from an indigenous community. 

This comes only a couple weeks after the Mexican government called out fashion designer Carolina Herrera for appropriation as well.

According to the Daily Mail, “Culture Minister Alejandra Fausto sent a letter dated July 5 questioning Louis Vuitton’s use of a traditional Mexican pattern in the design of a chair that retails for $18,200.” Fausto states in the letter than the artistic pattern belong to the indigenous community of Tenango de Doria. 

“Each piece is unique and unrepeatable,” Fausto writes in the letter. “And at the same time, it is a result of the continuity of the work of many generations who transmit knowledge, skills, and creativity. 

On its website, however, Louis Vuitton writes, “LV partnered with award-winning designer duo Raw Edges, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay, to create this Dolls limited-edition chair. Sculptural in design, this avant-garde piece marries a deep green base and seat with a contrasting tropical-print shell.” 

Tropical print? Sounds suspect. 

“The designers took their inspiration from traditional crafts from all over the globe and the House’s rich travel heritage,” the statement on their website goes on to say.  

Days after receiving the letter from Fausto, El Universal reported that Louis Vuitton insists the brand was actually collaborating with Mexican artisans––despite that piece of information not being explicit on their website. The brand tells El Universal that they’re “currently in a relationship with artisans of Tenango de Doria in the state of Hidalgo, with the perspective of collaborating together to produce this collection.” They did not provide any further details. 

Although Louis Vuitton hasn’t yet addressed the letter, they did remove the chair in question from the website. All the other products from the partnership with Raw Edges are still available for purchase.

The chair in question is still on the Raw Edges Instagram account. A quick scroll through the comments and one will find many users calling them out for stealing these designs from indigenous communities from Mexico. 

Earlier in June, Mexico News Daily reported that Fausto reached out Carolina Herrera accusing the fashion designer of using designs of indigenous communities in three states.

Fausto accused Carolina Herrera of liberally copying several articles of clothing that were featured in Herrera’s 2020 collection–not giving credit where it was due. 

“This pattern comes from the community of Tenango de Doria in Hidalgo. Contained in these patterns is the very history of the community, and each element has special personal, familial, and communal significance,” wrote Fausto in the letter sent to Herrera. 

Reuters also reported that “Mexico’s ruling leftist National Regeneration Movement has been planning legislation to protect indigenous communities from plagiarism and having their work used by others without receiving fair compensation.”  

According to a new report from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, “Traditional cultural expressions ‘are undeniably’ forms of intellectual property but are largely excluded from existing protections offered by the World Intellectual Property Organization.”

This is all part of a larger movement from organizations working toward tougher intellectual property laws in order to protect indigenous communities from cultural appropriation. During a time when fast fashion is so prevalent in the fashion industry and when high profile designers have the means to appropriate from other cultures without facing repercussions, it’s important to protect indigenous communities and artists from having their work stolen, repurposed, and sold for more money without seeing any of that profit.

According to Mexico News Daily, Susan Harp who heads the Culture Commission in Congress, said, “These communities are asking for respect, they’re not [necessarily] asking for money. They want designers to come to them and ask for their permission.” 

The letter that Fausto sent to Louis Vuitton read, “We feel obliged to ask, in a respectful manner, if for the elaboration of the chair you mentioned you sought and, in this case, worked together with the community and its artists.” 

This isn’t the first time that major designers, fashion designers, and clothing lines have been found copying and appropriating indigenous Mexican designs.

For example, Zara, Mango, Etoile, Michael Kors, and Isabel Marant have all been criticized for this in the past. 

While high profile fashion designers have a history of appropriating and incorporating indigenous patterns and designs into their collections and products, it’s important and necessary that cultural institutions from other counties are calling these brands out in efforts to stop this from happening again. 

This New Facility Cost $12 Million And It’s All Designed To Stop Rampant Avocado Theft

Culture

This New Facility Cost $12 Million And It’s All Designed To Stop Rampant Avocado Theft

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So avocado theft is one of the reasons that our beloved aguacate has been getting more and more expensive. According to Mexican authorities, the industry loses more than 12 tons of avocados to theft each day! That’s a lot of missed guacamole potential.

So together with the USDA, one Mexican group is creating a new facility and identifying new shipping routes to help cut these losses which are spiraling out of control.

Avocado growers have teamed up to build a facility that helps prevent theft.

Credit: @poandpo / Twitter

The absolutely depressing rise in avocado prices has left many of us nearly penniless but our problems pale in comparison to those being faced by the agricultural industry in Mexico.

Each and every day nearly 12 tons of avocados are stolen between the orchards and packing plants.

Between 2017 and 2019, Mexico reported 440 avocado theft investigations, and because Mexican-grown avocados made up 78 percent of the U.S. market last year, this spells trouble Stateside as well. Producers lose an average of four truckloads of avocados per day because of organized crime intervention. The majority of Mexican avocados that make their way to the U.S. come from the state of Michoacan, in a city called Uruapan, which accounts for 92 percent of Mexico’s avocado production last year,

I mean, apparently, avocado theft is a legit thing.

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And we’re not talking about shoving that $1.99 avocado in your pocket at the supermarket or “forgetting to pay” for a few that may have fallen into your purse.

Back in 2017, three men in California were arrested on suspicion of grand theft of avocados after the disappearance of $300,000 worth of the creamy fruit.

Police believe the men were stealing and selling avocados to unsuspecting customers for at least several months. 

The new $12 million facility is meant to finally address the issue of widespread theft.

A new $12 million facility will be built; a venture between the Association of Export Producers and Packers of Avocado from Mexico (APEAM), the Mexican Department of Agriculture and Agrarian Development (SADER), and also house the local offices for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Casa APEAM, as the facility is called, will also be part of Mexican officials new strategy to find safer export routes for avocados out of Mexico.

Silvano Aureoles, the governor of Michoacán, said he is working with avocado producers to plot new trucking routes to avoid the theft of trucks and merchandise. Part of these new actions could be exporting the avocados from the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas instead of the Port of Manzanillo, putting surveillance cameras on the road to Lázaro Cárdenas and increasing surveillance of truck shipments out of Michoacán.

And this news couldn’t come soon enough because prices for avocados continue to skyrocket!

Credit: @wdsu / Twitter

Avocado prices have been soaring recently, with a recent report revealing that the national price of Hass avocados has risen by 93 cents since last year.

On the wholesale side (think restaurants, markets), last year a 25-pound box cost $37 but that price has risen to $89 in 2019. That’s a huge and unfortunate increase for lovers of aguacate.

READ: 24 Ways To Use Avocado That Aren’t Guacamole

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