What is a Rebozo?
When I was a little girl, I had an American Girl Doll, as did so many other girls born in the 1990s. Mine was a doll called Josefina. She represented the history of New Mexico under Mexican rule, from the early 1800s. I loved Josefina’s gorgeous dark hair, her soft moccasins, and the pretty colors and patterning on her clothing.
In particular, I loved her rebozo—a long, rectangular woven scarf with ikat-like patterning. I loved styling the rebozo in dozens of different ways, and I used to style scarves on myself to match her.
From reading the books that came along with my Josefina doll, I learned that the rebozo was more than just a fashion accessory. What is a rebozo? The rebozo is a long scarf used to protect the wearer from the sun. It can also be a way to carry heavy objects (including children!) tied to the body. The color and patterning of each rebozo identifies the community that makes it.
Worn primarily by women, but occasionally by men, the rebozo is a major symbol of Mexican identity. It is prominent in literature, music, poetry, art, and more. The rebozo arose from a pre-Hispanic indigenous garment, the mamatl. The mamatl was adopted by mixed race communities and combined with the Spanish mantilla to create the rebozo. The fringe, called el repacejo, is named for an Oriental garment that also influences the tradition of the rebozo.
Today, there are still artisans crafting rebozos in the traditional way—with carefully prepared and dyed ikat warp threads, beautiful handweaving on a backstrap (pre-Columbian) or pedal loom (post-colonial), and elaborately knotted fringe. If you ever get the chance, it’s worthwhile to travel to see these artisans in action!
If you’d like just a taste of the rebozo-weaving experience, you might enjoy weaving one of Handwoven’s handpainted warp scarf kits. These shimmering scarves are far from the utilitarian rebozo (although many rebozos are purely decorative!). However, you will learn to work with handpainted yarns and get the effects you want in in your finished cloth. You can weave the scarf in either a blue or an autumn colorway. Then it’s time to give hand-dyed ikat a try!