Things That Matter

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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Google Paid Tribute To Mariachi Music With A Doodle And Break Out The Mezcal Because It’s Gonna Give You Tears!

Things That Matter

Google Paid Tribute To Mariachi Music With A Doodle And Break Out The Mezcal Because It’s Gonna Give You Tears!

ULISES RUIZ / Getty

Mariachi is officially getting the search engine clout it deserves!

Google Doodle’s latest feature celebrates the musical genre of mariachi. As an ode to the anniversary of the week that UNESCO inscribed mariachi on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The genre of Regional Mexican music goes back to the 18th century.

Google’s latest Doodle features an animated video of mariachi serenading.

Remote file
Google

Singing “Cielito Lindo,” which is a song that encaptures Mexican pride, the doodle features a band of mariachi members.

Together they sing the following lyrics”De la Sierra Morena/cielito lindo, vienen bajando/Un par de ojitos negros/cielito lindo, de contrabando/ Ay, ay, ay, ay/Canta y no llores/Porque cantando se alegran/cielito lindo, los corazones.”

The lyrics translate to “From the Sierra Morena/Lovely sweet one, is prancing down/A pair of little black eyes/Lovely sweet one, is sneaking by/ Ay, ay, ay, ay/Sing, don’t cry/Because singing makes rejoice/Lovely sweet one, our hearts.”

For the doodle, the mariachi band wears traditional trajes de charro (charro suits) while strumming the traditional instruments of the genre.

Plucking away at the guitarrón, vihuela, and violin, other members use a trumpet and harp. According to Newsweek, “The tradition of mariachi originated in west-central Mexico around the turn of the 19th century, though its exact origins are murky. The musical genre began as entirely instrumental, made up of the sounds of stringed instruments, before vocals and the trumpet were eventually added.”

No doubt Google’s latest Doodle has won over the hearts of various searchers.

“What a beautiful tribute… thank you!” one user wrote.

“The Google doodle for today is a tribute to mariachis & it’s a little video that plays cielito lindo I am not okay, cielito lindo is my favorite mariachi song, it’s too cute,” another commented while another user wrote “I was so shocked when I clicked on this last night. What a wonderful surprise.”

Sweetly, the doodle really seemed to hit home for so many. “The Google Doodle today nearly made me cry,” one very happy user noted. “It was so unexpected and made me miss home for the first time since I moved.”

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Former Nickelodeon Star Drake Bell Has Rebranded as a Latin Artist and People Are Confused

Entertainment

Former Nickelodeon Star Drake Bell Has Rebranded as a Latin Artist and People Are Confused

Photo by John Sciulli/WireImage

When you think of successful Latin music artists, the name “Drake Bell” probably doesn’t come to mind. In fact, the name “Drake Bell” probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of any musician–the man hasn’t been on the radar much since his Nickelodeon went off the airwaves in 2007. But recently, the former teen star has been making headlines for his unexpected career pivot.

Fans were confused when Drake Bell posted a video to Instagram advertising his services on the celebrity “shout out” app, Cameo on Saturday. While the message was run-of-the-mill (find me on Cameo! Pay me money!), the content was what was surprising: Bell relayed the message in both English and Spanish. A deeper dive into Bell’s social media history quickly explained the perplexing post.

Last November, Bell announced on his Twitter page that he would only be posting in Spanish on his social media pages from that point forward.

Shortly after, he changed his profile name from “Drake Bell” to “Drake Campana” (get it?). He also reps a Mexican flag next to his name.

As of now, Bell has released a dual Spanish-English language album called “Sesiones En Casa” with songs named “Fuego Lento” and “La Camisa Negra”. According to Spotify statistics, Bell’s strategy seems to be working. Out of the dozens of songs he’s released over the year, two of Bell’s Top Five streamed Spotify songs are Spanish-language ones.

It seems that Drake “Campana” Bell is truly committing to becoming a full-time Latin pop star.

Bell described his decision in a July interview with Esquire Mexico. ““I wanted to do something with Latin rhythms for my fans in Mexico,” he said. “I wanted to do something like what I have heard on my tours and visits to Mexico. I love writing in Spanish, it is a beautiful language.”

He explained that his love of Mexican culture comes from growing up in Southern California, which is geographically close to the Mexican border. Growing up near Mexico made him “fall in love” with the culture. He also posted a picture to Instagram of his own Mexican ID with a Mexican address, suggesting that he’s made the country his new home.

Photo: drakebell/Instagram

Some fans are skeptical of the timing of Bell’s image re-brand.

Earlier this year, Bell’s ex-girlfriend, Jimi Ono, took to TikTok to accuse the singer of abusing her while they were together from 2006 to 2009. Ono outlined the accusations in a disturbing TikTok video.

@jimiono

This is my truth. I hope this message reaches young girls, and that no one has to go through what I did. #2020survivor

♬ original sound – Jimi Ono

“When I started dating Drake, I was 16. I was homeschooled. I moved in with him,” Ono said. “It wasn’t until about a year when the verbal abuse started, and when I say ‘verbal abuse,’ imagine the worst type of verbal abuse you could ever imagine, and that was what I got. It then turned to physical–hitting, throwing, everything.”

Bell publicly denied the accusations, calling them a “misguided quest for more money or attention”. Other observers have noted that Bell began his re-brand about a year ago while Ono’s accusations become public just a few months ago. So, it seems like Bell’s decision to focus on his Mexican fans had been in the works for a while.

It’s likely we’ll never know the true reasons behind Bell’s decision to become a Latin artist, but it’s most plausible that his sales were simply doing better in Mexico. And if his re-brand was simply a stunt for more attention, well…it’s working.

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