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The word serape (sarape in Spanish) comes from how the Spaniards heard the sound of the pre-Hispanic word tzalanpepechtli (tzalan ‘interweaving’ and pepechtli ‘thick blanket padded’).
The Mexican serape, a kind of blanket, a distinctive garment of the folkloric Mexican dressing, is usually made with cotton or wool. Serapes are usually made with two rectangular canvases, decorated with geometric motifs of colorful figures, the two pieces seamed joined, with an opening in the middle of the two canvases, where the owner introduces its head.
Mexican serape is a mix of two cultures, the Mesoamerican “tilmas” and the sixteenth century Spanish capes. Before the arrival of the pedal loom machine serapes were completely weaved by hand. The Serape is still icon of the Spanish colonial period in Mexico. Later, in 1910 wearing a serape and a Mexican hat became one of Mexican Revolution icons, a unifying symbol of pride of national identity for the people of Mexico on its struggle for liberty and democracy.
On the last decades of the nineteenth century, with the appearance and presence of the “charro” figure adapting horsemanship sports practices and the “jaripeo” arts, the serape shape and colors were also influenced by French dressing modes. The serape became smaller and stood bent over the shoulder. A variety of serapes also appeared with multicolored stripes, national domestic figures and characters.
The serape formerly worn by men in certain parts of Mexico, has a woman’s version in a colorful dressing garment called the shawl “rebozo” or “hupil”.
This blanket has often been used in American films as Mexican icon, however today the serape in Mexico is mostly used by peasant men and women, of small populations and villages. Serape is also marketed as souvenir in shops and craft markets of tourist places, and used as a decoration piece for their bright colors in homes, walls decor, furniture covering or as rugs.
At men’s fashion week in New York City, fashion designer Ricardo Seco inspired in the serape for his collection show in 2016.
In the Franz Mayer Museum Mexico City you can find a vast collection of serape.
The singer Justin Bieber caused controversy when he uploaded to Instagram some photos were he was wearing a jacket that looked as a serape.