THE REBOZO; CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS

THE REBOZO; CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS

December 23, 2016

El Rebozo

traditional Mexican rebozo on the head in a Oaxacan market

Rebozo is a shawl used in the Central American tradition for many purposes, and it’s a vital companion of the woman during her whole life. The journey together with the rebozo starts in Mexico as early as in the womb, as the mother uses is e.g. to cover herself, to tie the belly and to receive some rebozo massages.

The rebozo that mostly is visible is the rebozo that’s used for everyday living. Usually it is used for covering the head from the sun and as a padding to carry baskets, to cover the shoulders from the wind and as a bag to carry products and children.

babywearing in a rebozo oaxaca

The same rebozo can be used also in ceremonial purposes or a more elaborated and finer rebozo can be used depending the event and cause.

When you see a traditional midwife walking on the street, she might have a rebozo hanging on the shoulder and a few moments after that she might be giving a rebozo massage to accommodate the baby inside a mother’s belly or to give a fertility treatment to a pregnant woman.

Celebration rebozos are also used and are made with beautiful silk threads and more complex weaves to achieve a piece of art that is folded on one shoulder as a part of the festive outfit.

 

Rebozo in the use of pregnancy, birth and postpartum:

traditional birth rebozo in use, a rose rebozo

Maybe the most common rebozo at the side of the famous “Frida Kahlo” Rebozos are the rebozos used in the birth processes. Thanks to traditional Mexican midwives like Angelina Martinez Miranda and Naoli Vinaver the rebozo was introduced as a cultural exchange element to European and North American midwives, doulas and active mothers specially in conferences led by midwives.

The wisdom of using a rebozo has traditionally been passed from midwife to apprentice, from mother to daughter, from grandmother to granddaughter and so on. It’s based on oral tradition and techniques, that’s been taught by observation and practice, by repetition and guidance.

A traditional way to use a rebozo during pregnancy is by tying it on the waist to support the beautiful growing pregnant belly. Women on rural areas do usually a lot of physical and manual work without machines and the rebozo gives a nice firm support to go on with the everyday living also on the mountain areas.
Keeping the body warm is seen as an essencial part of Mexican traditional medicine and cotton as a natural ingredient is usually preferred to be used as it at the same time warms up and guards the warmth of the waist, belly and womb.

bellybinding in a traditional mexican rebozo

Traditionally rebozos are used to massage the woman’s body by moving it rhythmically, during the pregnancy, in birth and at the postpartum period, to achieve positive effects on the mother and baby.

There are both simple rocking and shifting movements to help to ease muscle and joint pains in pregnancy and to ease the labor process, that are commonly used by doulas and parents. These are quite easy to do and fast to learn, however the practicant should be fully aware about the birth process and situation and to know which areas she is moving to achieve a complete help for the mother and baby.

Then there are more complicated and complex movements and techniques that are performed by midwives that are initiated to these techniques. These treatments are made to rotate the baby in the belly, to fasten the birth and to infertility treatments to name a few. These techniques should not be made at home or by doulas, that have not received the full authorization in doing so from a traditional midwife.

Some of the beautiful benefits of using a rebozo in the pregnancy are e.g. to balance and relax the pelvis, uterus and ligaments to allow more room for the baby to rotate into the optimal position for birth.

In birth it is also used to ease pain, to work with the pressure waves in birth, to relax and connect with the body and the baby and to build birth space and privacy in hospital.

A rebozo can also be used in postpartum period in the sealing ceremony, that consists of different parts, like a herbal bath, a full body massage and a rebozo massage. It’s made traditionally in Mexico to “close” the body of the mother and to help the intestines and womb to return on their correct places, to close a life and spiritual cycle and to give a moment of love to the body and mind of the mother. Rebozo is traditionally used also to carry babies, and can be done with the very same rebozo that accompanied the woman during the pregnancy and birth.

The social justice and cultural appropriations are themes that are talked about now more than before. We have also entered to the conversation with the traditional midwives here in Mexico. They have expressed the wish that the rebozo would not be taken all away from its cultural context. As the rebozo use has been transmitted from one generation to another, in the Mexican tradition giving honor to the ancestors and teachers plays a big part of the rebozo use as well. As the complete cultural context can never be transmitted to a new “audience” in a new culture, in another cultural heritage and context, the midwives wish a seed of the Mexican tradition and the most important part would be present, which is the honor.

Therefore the midwives wish that the oral tradition of honoring the teacher that transmitted the rebozo wisdom to the person would be expressed before using the rebozo. This can be done in a manner each person feels comfortable and connected itself. In the use and practice we remember the generations that came before us, mention our teachers name, honor and respect the wisdom received, the grandmothers and their wisdom that now helps us to support health and life on this earth in this moment and cultural context. Life is not same either in Mexico now and 100 years ago, but the ways of supporting life are in the essence equal.

Traditionally also before touching or doing any kind of treatments to a person, (adult or child) we ask permission to enter the space of that person.

The midwives have not seen the rebozo use in other countries as a problem, as long as the honoring part is present. They see the ancient traditions are here to help the humanity, and the rebozo is a good example of it. Therefore also the use of rebozo for carrying children is accepted by them.

 

blue birth rebozo

Culture:

frida kahlo with her rebozo

Rebozo is declared as a Mexican cultural heritage and symbol of Mexican identity. The use of rebozo was somewhat disappearing in the city cultures but there has been a large movement inside the country to take back the rebozo use also among the people living in cities. However, if you walk a little outside from Mexico City and especially in the rural areas, you will find out that the rebozo never disappeared and is strongly alive. Mexican fashion has also taken the rebozos as a part of the production and beautiful traditional rebozos with new designs and ideas are introduced to the public around the country.

There are many types of Rebozos in Mexico and each region has their own style of weaving their rebozos. The region and climates have also affected on the traditional materials used in different region; for example in Oaxaca's chilly mountains rebozos are traditionally made out of warm sheep wool, on the valleys they are made out of cotton and in towns with silk worms the rebozos are made out of beautiful silk combinations.

babywearing a toddler in a traditional rebozo, traditional Mexican clothes

In the pre-hispanic tradition Aztec people and other tribes used to weave rebozos from local materials with a back strap loom. Back strap looms are widely used around Mexico. After the Spanish came the use of a pedal loom was also introduced among the people, and is nowadays part of the Mexican culture. By rebozo weaving many of the ancient techniques have stayed alive to the present day culture.

It is said that Rebozo came also from the necessity of the women to have a fabric to cover themselves to enter a temple.
Rebozo is a word coming from Spanish, in Mexico there were/are other words used for rebozo type of fabrics in the indigenous culture and languages. At the old days rebozos were made from different materials like ixtle, wool and pre-hispanic cotton.
The traditional words in different indigenous languages mean like : "woman's veil" and "fabric of thousand colors".

 

Nowadays it gives a sustain for many hundreds of local families that have preserved the skills of weaving. Rebozo is a big part of the Mexican culture and has inspired many painters, musicians and poets throughout the history. Rebozo festivals and exhibitions are organized in different parts of the country.

Our Rebozos:

Weaving of a traditional Mexican rebozo in Oaxaca

The rebozos we provide are authentic traditional Mexican rebozos produced by hand with Doña Socorro and her family in Oaxaca. Thus family has dedicated their living in making rebozos for the last 45 years. Rebozo weaving is a tradition passed from one generation to another and consists of grandfathers, mothers, uncles and grandchildren (that are already in full age. We have no products made with child labor). Like the use of rebozo, also the weaving is taught by repetition, practice, observation and oral tradition.

These 100% full cotton rebozos in a shorter length are used also by Mexican midwives for their special work and are easy to wash and durable. This artisan family makes also cotton curtains and clothes, and is happy and delighted to be able to spread their work and art for the people in birth work and babywearing communities.

oaxacan rebozos in a pile, stash shot

How to take care of your rebozo:

 

When working with a rebozo it's important to always provide clean service.
This means that your rebozo should also be clean before giving a treatment with it to a woman. A rebozo is made with hundreds of threads woven together. Each artisan put their heart in the process. We put our heart in the process of giving a treatment. Therefore as we clean our own space before touching a woman, also the rebozo should be clean. It's an extension of our heart. Midwives recommend active birth workers to get at least 2 rebozos which they can use in their work to have always a clean one on hand.


Here are basic washing instructions for cotton rebozos. They can be washed both by hand or in the washing machine.

Washing instruction:

Wash at least once before use.

  • Preferably 40 Celsius Degrees
  • Soft program/Delicate wash
  • Mild Soap
  • Dry in Shade
  • Tie the fringes together to avoid tangling/ Use a wash bag (Or use a sock to protect them)
  • No bleach, Preferably no tumble dry


stash shot of hand made labor rebozos, earthy colors and violet

This article is made in honor and gratitude for my teachers that share their wisdom and midwifery secrets with me.

Honoring my midwife Godmothers Ela Carolath, midwife in tradition Cristina Galante and traditional midwife Suely Carvalho. Honoring my teachers Angelica Martinez Miranda, who is a traditional midwife and also shares her wisdom about the rebozo use, and midwife in tradition Araceli Gil. Thank you <3

This is an all time transforming article. Sometimes I'm correcting typos, sometimes I add information or edit already written phrases. It's transforming due what we feel is important to describe or go deeper with the rebozo.

 



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