Fierce

Here’s What The Mexican Government Has To Say About A Venezuelan Fashion Designer Taking Indigenous Mexican Textiles

Latinxs are often calling out some gringo brand for appropriating our cultura to make a buck, but now it’s a Latina designer who is facing criticism for stealing cultural styles.

The Mexican government is accusing the US fashion house Carolina Herrera of cultural appropriation, CNN reports.

According to Mexico’s Culture Ministry, the high-end brand’s patterns used in the Resort 2020 collection steals designs created by and that are meaningful to the country’s indigenous communities.

“For many years we have been trying to stop big brands and designers, who, in this disrespectful manner, take elements of indigenous cultures without approaching the communities or working with them,” Susana Harp, a senator from the ruling National Regeneration Movement party, said on Twitter, using the trending hashtag #MéxicoSinPlagio — “Mexico Without Plagiarism.”

The fashion house has described the collection, which features traditional flower designs, as taking “on the playful and colorful mood of a Latin holiday.”

“Inspired by the House spirit of alegría de vivir that is synonymous with the resort season, this collection is about visceral reactions of delight-eclectic patterns, unexpected silhouettes, pulsating energy,” its description reads.

In response to the mounting criticism, creative director Wes Gorden, who took over the position last year when Venezuelan-American Herrera, 80, stepped down, said: “There’s an undeniable Mexican presence in this collection. It’s something that jumps out at you, and I always intended it to be something latent as a way of showing my love for this country and for all the incredible work I’ve seen there. My admiration for the artisanal work has only grown as I have traveled to Mexico over the years. With this new collection, I have tried to highlight the importance of this magnificent cultural heritage.”

The Mexican people are, understandably, unsatisfied with Gorden’s response.

In the past, Herrera, who has dressed celebrities and high-profile figures like first ladies Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama, has worked with the indigenous community on a bag collection, a history that Harp remembers and adds to her confusion as to why the house would now use these designs “without permission, without respect, without any economic consideration.”

“This is a matter of ethical consideration that obliges us to speak out and bring an urgent issue to the UN’s sustainable development agenda: promoting inclusion and making those who are invisible visible,” Mexico’s culture secretary Alejandra Frausto said in a letter to Herrera, as reported by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

He continued: “In these embroideries is the history of the community itself, and each element has a personal, family and community meaning,” he said. By looking at the collection, there’s no doubt that the designer takes Mexican heritage and flaunts it. They admitted it too.”

Often the target of cultural appropriation by the fashion industry, Mexico’s National Regeneration Movement party recently introduced protections for designs created by indigenous people.

The country’s public callout of one of the biggest global fashion houses is evidence that they mean business.

Read: 21 Times Celebrities And Brands Were Called Out For Appropriating Latino Culture

Meanwhile*, with everyone gearing up to travel for summer vacation, one Twitter user wants to give tourists an important reminder. Reyna Chabeli took to Twitter to stress the importance of paying Indigenous craftswomen what they’re worth.

Retweeting a tweet she made in November 2018, Chabeli shared a picture of her grandma Abuelita Chona and the gorgeous bordado she stitches by hand.

“As an Indigenous woman, she will only get paid $5 for this work, front and back.” Chabeli continued, “Most people can’t afford to start their own clothing business so they are literally the artists behind the embroidery. Natives return the finished pieces back to the merchants who pay them poorly.”

The bordados are as gorgeous as they are functional — combining skill and art in each piece. Craftswomen spend several hours working on each embroidered item; using a mastery that is honed over a lifetime. For Indigenous artisans, embroidery is just as much a connection to their history and heritage as it is their source of income.

However, the profit made on these Indigenous works often don’t match the labor put into creating them. Moreover, the artists themselves see even less of a payback.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

For example, Abuelita Chona is a Zapotec woman who lives in a small Oaxacan village three hours away from the nearest large town. It’s exceptionally expensive and difficult to regularly travel back and forth to sell her goods.

Instead, women like Abuelita Chona work for merchants, receiving garments, embroidering them and usually sending them back. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give these Indigenous artesanas much financial freedom. They’re only given a fraction of what their work is worth without regard for the labor they put in. These women also have no recourse to ask for more.

This isn’t the only way that the work of Indigenous artists is undervalued. Tourists play a major part as well.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

As Chabeli explains in her retweet, tourists who travel to places like Oaxaca diminish the income of Indigenous artisans even further. In haggling and attempting to get the lowest price for these wares, visitors cut into the take-home profit of the workers.

Worried about missing a sale opportunity, many artisans will just agree on that lower price. However, the merchants who initially provide the items are in charge of the money. Ultimately, they will get every cent they feel entitled to at the detriment of their workers. So, thrifty buying might save tourists a few bucks but it will do so by taking money out of artisans’ pockets.

Another layer to this conversation is the lack of value placed on Indigenous labor.

Twitter / @_levyana

As Chabeli and other Twitter users point out, tourists are willing to spend their money on luxuries and travel. It’s because we place value in these things. We feel like they’re worth the investment because we desire them. We never try to haggle at the airport or resort because we respect the value attached to these things.

Yet, when it comes to locally made goods — especially goods made by Indigenous folk — we think we can get a better deal. We desire the products for their beauty, uniqueness but don’t always want to pay a fair price. In trying to get a lower price for those souvenirs, we’re showing Indigenous artisans like Abuelita Chona that we don’t value them.

Of course, not every tourist is out to lowball Native artisans when they hit up local markets. Still, Chabeli’s reminder is justified.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

We can support women like our talented Abuelita Chona by buying local and. buying Indigenous. Also, by following Chabeli’s example and calling out problematic treatment of wage distribution. What we are given in return is definitely worth price.

*The last portion of this article was reported on by Samantha Chavarria

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This Mexican College Student Is Going Viral For Breeding the Largest Bunnies In the World

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This Mexican College Student Is Going Viral For Breeding the Largest Bunnies In the World

Photo via yakinkiro/Instagram

Look out Bad Bunny. There’s another breed of bunny in town that’s taking the internet by storm. A college student in Mexico recently went viral for the oddest thing. He has genetically engineered a strain of rabbits to be the largest in the world.

21-year-old Kiro Yakin has become a viral sensation after internet users have seen him with pictures of the giant bunnies he genetically engineered.

Yakin, a student at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla on the Xicotepec campus, is studying veterinary and animal husbandry. He began his experimentation by breeding two unique rabbit types together. The Flemish Giant rabbit and other, longer-eared bunnies that Yakin happened to notice. As a result, his monster-bunny was born.

According to Yakin, his experimental bunnies grow up to 22 pounds  Flemish Giant, while the average Flemish giant weighs 15 pounds. But make no mistake, Yakin’s bunny experiment was no accident. “It takes an average of 3 to 4 years to reproduce this giant species,” he told Sintesis.

Yakin’s ultimate goal is to breed a rabbit that can grow up to 30 pounds. “I am currently studying genetics to see how to grow this breed of giant rabbits more,” he said.

Yakin, who has had a soft spot for rabbits since he was a child (pun intended), now cares for a whopping fifty giant rabbits out of his parents’ home.

Luckily, his parents are supportive enough of his dream that they support their son (and his bunnies) financially. “I have the financial support and support of my parents to buy food a week for all 50 giant rabbits,” Yakin told Sintesis.

But he also admitted his project has a long way to go. “So far I have not set aside the time or budget that is required to start the project more seriously,” he said.

The only thing that’s preventing Yakin from committing all his time and energy to creating even bigger bunnies is–what else?–money.

Photo via yakinkiro/Instagram

Although he already submitted a proposal to his university to try and expand his research, as of now, he is self-financed. However, Yakin makes a bit of extra cash by selling the giant bunnies to private customers.

His ultimate goal though, is to open up a large, professional farm where he can breed and cross-breed his bunnies to his heart’s content.

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Mexicans Travel To U.S. For ‘Vaccine Tourism’ Say It’s A Matter Of Survival

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Mexicans Travel To U.S. For ‘Vaccine Tourism’ Say It’s A Matter Of Survival

The United States is one of the world’s most successful countries when it comes to rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine program. So far, more than 200 million vaccines have been administered across the U.S. and as of this week anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible.

Meanwhile, in many countries around the world – including Mexico – the vaccine roll out is still highly restricted. For many, who can afford to travel, they see the best option at a shot in the arm to take a trip to the U.S. where many locations are reporting a surplus in vaccines.

Wealthy Latin Americans travel to U.S. to get COVID vaccines.

People of means from Latin America are chartering planes, booking commercial flights, buying bus tickets and renting cars to get the vaccine in the United States due to lack of supply back in their home countries. Some of those making the trip include politicians, TV personalities, business executives and a soccer team.

There is an old Mexican joke: God tells a Mexican he has only a week left to live but can ask for one final wish, no matter how outrageous. So the Mexican asks for a ticket to Houston—for a second opinion.

Virginia Gónzalez and her husband flew from Mexico to Texas and then boarded a bus to a vaccination site. They made the trip again for a second dose. The couple from Monterrey, Mexico, acted on the advice of the doctor treating the husband for prostate cancer. In all, they logged 1,400 miles for two round trips.

“It’s a matter of survival,” Gónzalez told NBC News, of getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. “In Mexico, officials didn’t buy enough vaccines. It’s like they don’t care about their citizens.”

Mexico has a vaccine rollout plan but it’s been too slow in many people’s opinions.

With a population of nearly 130 million people, Mexico has secured more vaccines than many Latin American nations — about 18 million doses as of Monday from the U.S., China, Russia and India. Most of those have been given to health care workers, people over 60 and some teachers, who so far are the only ones eligible. Most other Latin American countries, except for Chile, are in the same situation or worse.

So vaccine seekers who can afford to travel are coming to the United States to avoid the long wait, including people from as far as Paraguay. Those who make the trip must obtain a tourist visa and have enough money to pay for required coronavirus tests, plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars and other expenses.

There is little that is fair about the global race for the COVID-19 vaccine, despite international attempts to avoid the current disparities. In Israel, a country of 9 million people, half of the population has received at least one dose, while plenty of countries have yet to receive any. While the U.S. could vaccinate 70 percent of its population by September 2021 at the current rollout rate, it could take Mexico until approximately the year 2024 to achieve the same results.

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