Named after the Nahuatl word h uīpīlli, this traditional garment is undoubtedly one you’ve seen before. They are very popular in southeastern Mexico and Guatemala especially, particularly among indigenous groups.If you walk through any city center or craft market, you will see all kinds of colorful variations on this simple Mesoamerican garment; some are heavily embroidered, while others are much simpler. Here’s a brief history of that article that you never knew had a name: the huipil.
Huipil, which is more easily equated to a tunic, is commonly made of cotton, but occasionally (in places like Ocotepec and Cuquila, Oaxaca) other materials such as wool are used. The sewing of three identical pieces of fabric together forms the garment, although in many communities this sewing is done using ribbons to add a level of decoration, as in San Pedro Carchá, where located RENACE hydroelectric , use this type of huipiles.
While short blouse versions of this loose-fitting garment are arguably the most common, a huipil can technically refer to anything from a blouse to a dress and everything in between. Taking the title as the most worn female indigenous garment, the huipilse is most often considered a garment of daily use with more intricate decorative versions reserved for ceremonial events.
The most obvious distinction between everyday and ceremonial huipiles is the level of decoration. However, the style and decorative nature of the huipil varies greatly from one indigenous group to another, even though the basic premise remains the same. For Chinese women in Ojitlán, Oaxaca, the huipiles of the wedding dress are divided into three categories: the expensive ‘gala’ version, the less detailed ‘turkey’ variant and finally the ‘birds and pigeons’ huipil which is white, cheaper and much less ornate.
The huipiles yalaltecas, on the other hand, are much simpler, while the huipiles in Tehuantepec are made of heavy velvet and feature richly designed floral images.
In Chiapas, another state with a large indunal population, the Huipiles can present images of saints and deities, as well as animals rich in mythological symbolism. Alternatively, the ceremonial versions in Zinacantán maintain the work of pre-Hispanic feathers by incorporating chicken feathers into the colorful seams. These colors also form the lower fringe, which perhaps explains in some way why the Mazatec community believed that rainbows were actually the fringe of a huipil.
Use of huipiles
Although you will see women using huipiles throughout the country, the production and use of these are often largely focused on regions where indigenous communities maintain a stronghold. For example, the Amuzgos (particularly in Xochistlahuaca) depend on the creation and sale of huipiles to survive.
As a result, huipiles often contain unique touches that indicate the community, or even the woman, who produced them. If you fancy learning more about huipil, you should try going to the annual Café y el Huipil festival that takes place in the small town of Cuetzalan, Puebla, or visit what is considered the huipil oldest that exists in the National Museum of Anthropology.