Folklórico Meets Fashion Design (Part 1)

Many years ago when I was first began teaching folklórico, I mistakenly thought that all the costumes we danced with were once used by a community of people. I had no idea that many of our beloved costumes were created specifically for the stage by maestra/os. Even a fashion designer named Ramón Valdiosera Berman created a few. Valdiosera designed costumes to represent Veracruz Huasteco, Aguascalientes, Tabasco, Nuevo Leon, and Quintana Roo. In this writing, I will tell a little bit about his designs and his choice of symbols for the costumes of Veracruz Huasteco and Nuevo Leon. In my up-coming writing, I will detail his costume designs representing Tabasco, Aguascalientes and Quintana Roo.

Ramón Valdiosera Berman (1918-2017) was a fashion designer, artist, historian, cartoonist, illustrator, and collector. His most famous contributions are in the field of fashion design. His designs were inspired by the colors, sights, and sounds of Mexico. He is the first Mexican to have his fashion collection premier in New York City in 1949. He also presented his fashion collections in Chicago, Puerto Rico and Canada. He designed costumes for many Mexican movies (“Ramon Valdiosera Berman: Ejemplo de Amor por México” n.p.). However, it is his designs for Mexican folklórico dances that piques my interest. 

Please see video clip below.

Design of Veracruz, Huasteco

According to Rodolfo Carrillo Vazquez, Don Raúl Pazzi headed a committee in which the members asked Ramón Valdiosera to design a dress to represent Veracruz Huasteco. This costume was presented in the first Feria y Exposición Regional de Pánuco in 1961. The costume that he designed incorporated images of the four Huastecas. Here, he decided to include an apron, fan, and necklace to represent the jarocha from Veracruz.  The quechquémetl (indigenous blouse) and the many colores of the petob (headdress) worn on the head of the woman represent San Luis Potosi. Valdiosera decided that the fringe alongside the quechquémetl would represent the cuera Tamualipeca. Finally, the apron and quechquémetl are both adorned with an embroidered flower (retama) representing Hidalgo. The men utilize a dress shirt that is called a guayabera that is typically found in the Huasteca region. It has four pleats which symbolize the union of the four Huastecas. He wears a red bandanna and a hat of the area. Valdiosera chose to costume the men wearing white pants and a white guayabera to give the outfit an elegant look, as well as to symbolize the purity of spirit of the people of Veracruz (Carillo Vasquez 54-55).

The following are photographs of Don Raúl Pazzi and Dr. Patricia del C. Florencia Pulido along with a few other dance partners as they perform using the costume designed by Valdiosera. (All photos are taken from the internet.)

Designing a Costume Representing Nuevo León Central

Nuevo León has many costumes to represent its people. Yet, the costume designed by Valdiosera is very distinctive. Raúl Rangel Frías who was the governor of Nuevo León from 1955 to 1961 alongside the Cervecería Cuahtémoc organization insisted that Valdiosera create a costume to represent the state of Nuevo León.   It was presented during the celebration of the “fiestas de la cerveza” in 1956.  The committee of this fiesta was headed Raúl Rangel Frías (59).

Valdiosera designed a short, puffed sleeve blouse for the women. He took inspiration from the blouse worn by the peasant women which had a rounded neckline. Valdiosera designed a flowered band that adorns the edges of the sleeves and the neckline.  The shimmery, silk skirt has a gold colored waistband that ties with a bow in back. The upper portion of the skirt has a gold fabric sewn upon it. The gold colors of the fabric represent the arid soil. The rest of the skirt is white in color and has gold, green, and blue zig zagged ribbons in rows.  The hem of the white fabric skirt is jagged. Valdiosera designed this hem to form an “m” which is a symbolic representation of the mountains of Nuevo León called the Cerro de la Silla, as well as the Western Sierra Madre. Then, Valdiosera designed a layer of deep, blue silk fabric with a straight hem. The woman wears a fan and her hair is pulled back in braids with flowers and a cachiril de carey upon her head completes the look.

Valdiosera decided that the men would wear khaki pants alongside a cowboy shirt of a similar design to what is worn in that region. He designed the shirt to be made of cotton but with blue panels on the shoulders and a portion of the back. A strip of blue fabric is sewn alongside the front of the shirt where the buttons are located. Gold trim adorns the blue fabric. Valdiosera designed cowboy details long both sides of the shoulders. The men wear a bandana and a cowboy hat.

This costume was used by dance groups for the first time at the Confrontación de Danza Folklórica de los Centros de Seguridad y Bienestar Social del IMSS and at the national level in Mexico in the Teatro Tepeyac in June 1970. Afterwards, the Ballet Folklorico Magesterial de la Sección 21 del S.N.T.E. utilized this costume during a performance representing Nuevo León at the 8th annual Juegos Nacionales y Juegos Culturales del Magisterio celebrating the city of Victoria, Tamualipas in October of 1981. From then on, many folklórico groups have utilized this costume in to represent Nuevo León, Central (Guerrero Hernández 59-60).

Valdiosera's Nuevo Leon Costume

My Thoughts

It truly amazes me the ways in which folklórico dance, costume, and music are in a state of continuous re-invention and creation. Don Raúl Pazzi was instrumental in formulating a new way of dancing the huapangos from Veracruz. He wanted a representative costume to accompany his choreography. Furthermore, the governor of Nuevo León wanted a distinct costume to represent his state at the “fiestas de la cerveza.” They both asked Valdiosera for his input and help in creating a costume to represent their state. These costumes were not worn by a community of people but overtime have come to represent them.

Written by: Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ph.D.

Works Cited

Carillo Vasquez, Rodolfo. “Veracruz Huasteco.”  28. Congreso Asociación  Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos en Veracruz, Veracruz, México del 30 de junio al 7 de julio de 2001. Veracruz: Asociación  Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos, 2001.

Guerrero Hernández, Jaime. ed. 2003. “Indumentarias de Nuevo León.” In Nuevo León: Textos del Folklore. Monterrey: Asociación Nacional de Maestros de Danza Popular Mexicana A.C.

“Ramón Valdiosera Berman.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqbbF8NC_9k

“Ramón Valdiosera Berman: Ejemplo de Amor por México.” Movimiento Cuidadano. Accessed on January 21, 2021. https://movimientociudadano.mx/federal/boletines/ramon-valdiosera-berman-ejemplo-de-amor-por-mexico

Further Reading

Dancing Throughout Mexican History (132-1910)

To learn more about Mexican dance history, please purchase the book Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910) written by Sanjuanita Martínez-Hunter and edited by myself. It is available for purchase at Amazon.com. Please see the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/author/gabrielamendozagarcia


Hidden Gems-Rare Folklorico Books

I am always on the hunt. I ask questions, visit used book stores, talk to librarians, look on-line all in my search to discover a rare gem—folklorico books. I began this quest about twenty years ago when my sister, a librarian at an elementary school, was removing books from her school’s library. She gave me a copy of Frances Toor’s book called A Treasury of Mexican Folkways (1947). The word DISCARD is stamped in big, bold ink on the inside cover of this book. The name of her school is blacked out with black marker. As I held this book in my hands, a feeling of excitement and joy filled my heart. Little did she know that this gift would inspire me to begin my life-long hunt of hidden gems.

I would like to share a few of my prized books from my collection.

Indocumentarias Ceremoniales: Indigenas, Mestizas de México by Marco Antonio Izquierdo Kuntz (n.d)

I don’t remember how or where I found this book but it is one of my favorite books in my collection. Inside Izquierdo Kuntz includes full color photos and descriptions of mestiza and indigenous outfits from his collection consisting of over 300 pieces. My copy is written both in English and Spanish.

Novia
Indocumentarios Ceremoniales

Rebozos de la Colección Robert Everts by Irene Logan, Ruth Lechuga, Teresa Castello Yturbide, Irmgard Weitlander Johnson, and Chloe Sayer (1994)

This book includes a brief history and descriptions of rebozos from the collection of Robert Everts. It is filled with brightly colored pictures and photographs. Robert Everts collected 21 rebozos dating from the 18th and 19th century when he lived in Mexico in 1902. This collection is now housed in the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City.  My book is a bilingual edition.

Rebozos
Rebozos de la Collecion Rober Everts

Costumes of Mexico by Chloe Sayer (1985)

Sayer digs deep into historical and ethnographic research of the clothing of the indigenous people of Mexico. She writes of their clothing before the conquest, after the conquest, and during the 20th century. Included are descriptions and photographs.

Costumes of Mexico

Crónica Histórica del Huapango by Dra. Patricia del C. Florencia Pulido (1994)

I remember reading about this book and wondering how I could acquire it for my collection. Then, as I was cleaning out my study I found it. I had it all along! What a great surprise! This book written by Pulido, a famous folklorista and promotor of the huapango. She writes of the history, geography, as well as the dance and music traditions of the huapango Huasteca.

Crónica Histórica del Huapango
Crónica Histórica del Huapango

El Mariachi by Jesús Jáuregui (2007)

This is one of the most recent books of my collection. Jáuregui writes of the history of mariachi music in Mexico. Most important are the historical photographs that chronicle the popularity of this musical genre from Mexico’s Independence to the 21st century. Included are the manifestations of mariachi music in the United States in the late 20th century.

El Mariachi
El Mariachi

Mexican Indian Costumes by Donald and Dorothy Cordry (1968)

I inherited this book from my aunt Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter. This book includes descriptions and photographs of indigenous attire as collected by the Cordrys during their fieldwork in Mexico.

Mexican Indian Costumes
Mexican Indian Costumes

Trajes de Danza Mexicana by Rafael Zamarripa Castaňeda and Xochitl Medina Ortiz (2001)

I bought this book from Maestro Zamarripa himself at the Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos Conference in Riverside, California in 2002. I was taking a master class with him. He graciously signed this book. It has his own drawings of costumes of Mexico with brief explanations alongside it. It is a great resource for folkloristas.

Trajes de Danza Mexicana
Trajes de Danza Mexicana

Mexico: Leyendas, Costumbres, Trajes, y Danzas by Jesús Medina (1970)

I first found this book at my local library and photocopied a few pages. Then, I inherited this book from my aunt Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter. Medina, the editor, compiles a series of articles about many aspects of Mexican culture. For example, this book includes writings on the Mexican flag, the heroes of the Independence, and research on the dances of Mexico. 

Mexico: Leyendas, Costumbres, Trajes y Danzas

My Thoughts: I am always on the hunt for hidden gems. Who knows where I will find one next. These are just a few books from my collection. I have so much more to share but I will leave that for another day. Please share with me favorite books from your collection.

Written by Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ph.D.

Further Reading:

Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910) written by Sanjuanita Martínez-Hunter and edited by myself is available for purchase on amazon.com. In this book Martínez-Hunter writes a history of Mexican dance from pre-conquest to the Mexican Revolution. She lists important chronological events as she narrates the role of Mexican dance throughout history.

https://www.amazon.com/author/gabrielamendozagarcia

Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910)
Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910)

Works Cited

Cordry, Donald and Dorothy Cordry. 1973. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Del C. Florencia Pulido, Patricia. 1994. Crónica Histórica del Huapango. Mèxico: Universidad Autónoma de Tamualipas.

Izquierdo Kuntz Marco Antonio, (n.d) Indocumentarias Ceremoniales: Indigenas, Mestizas de México. México: Comercializadora Greco.

Jáuregui, Jesús. (2007). El Mariachi. México: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Logan, Irene and Ruth Lechuga, Teresa Castello Yturbide, Irmgard Weitlander Johnson, Chloe Sayer. 1994. Rebozos de la Colección Robert Everts. México: Museo Franz Mayer-Artes de México.

Medina, Jesús. Ed. 1970. Mexico: Leyendas, Costumbres, Trajes, y Danzas. Mèxico D.F, n.p.

Sayer, Chloe. 1990. Costumes of Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Zamarripa Castaňeda, Rafael and Xochitl Medina Ortiz. 2001. Trajes de Danza Mexicana. Colima: Universidad de Colima.


Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ballet Folklorico Juvenil

A Note to Folkloristas–We Will Persevere

I could never have imagined the position that we are in–never in my wildest dreams. It began with me seeing all the postings on Facebook of my colleagues in California cancelling their concerts, classes, and even events. I noticed my friends in other states began to do the same. In Texas, Governor Abbot declared that all public schools would be closed until April 3rd. That is when it hit home! I suspended all my dance classes. I began to share warm-up exercises, zapateado techniques, and even host a few Facebook live on-line classes just so that we wouldn’t completely stop dancing folklórico entirely.  I had to re-think this entire situation. And these are my thoughts.

Aztec Codex Borgia
Aztec Codex Borgia

We come from a very strong people. Our people have overcome conquest, colonization, and even genocide. We adapted and survived the European colonization of the Americas, the Spanish inquisition, the War of Independence from Spain, the Reform Wars, the Mexican-American War, the Mexican Revolution, etc. In the United States, our people are both native people and immigrants to this country. We struggled and fought in many wars such as the American Revolution, American Indian Wars, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the Gulf War, etc. We protested and fought for our civil rights during the Chicano Movement. We continue this fight even today. Our music and dance traditions continuously transform. They are inspired by the political events around us. We did not stop dancing in times of hardship. During the Spanish Inquisition, our people were punished with three hundred lashes with a whip, fined, and put in jail for singing and dancing the jarabes. This did not stop us from playing our music, singing our songs, and dancing.

Jarabes during the Colonial Era
Jarabes during the Colonial Era

Our people survived small pox which killed millions of indigenous people throughout the Americas in the 1500s. In Tenochtitlán approximately 150,000 died of small pox. We are the survivors of the measles, syphilis, influenza, etc. Throughout this decimation our ancestors continued dancing. Perhaps the reason we express so much joy in our dances is because our people turned to music and dance as a survival mechanism. Think about it, for a few hours they could leave their problems behind them while they danced. We should do the same

So, we shall too overcome this pandemic. As Folkloristas we are the storytellers, the shamans, the bearers of our cultural dance traditions in the twenty-first century. We will adapt, change, and continue dancing just as our ancestors before us. We will persevere!

Written by: Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ph.D.

To read more about Mexican dance history, please purchase the book Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910) written by Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter and edited by myself. It is available on amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com/author/gabrielamendozagarcia

Dancing Throughout Mexican History (1325-1910)