Why do Mexican women sew their own dresses?
And is it true they’re uninhibited?
Dear Mexican: I am an Anglo intruder in New Mexico. When I moved to Albuquerque from Virginia, I fell in love with Mexican culture. I was impressed at what I called “Southwestern hospitality.” I have had so many second dinners when I go to people’s homes that I gained a few pounds within the first few months. To me, the words “laid back” or “easy going” describe perfectly the people I’ve met, here in New Mexico. My question has to do with being laid back. My family (white people from the East Coast) are rather neurotic types who complain easily, and I am glad to have moved to a place where survival matters more than mere appearances. But, as I have read a little about the history of the women in this state, I have come to appreciate that they had a role, sometimes bigger than the males, in making this state what it is today. They were ranch owners, healers, and keepers of the faith. They also had a lot of freedom that today’s women may envy.
What I want to know is how come Mexican women are so comfortable with their bodies? What makes white women so uptight? I think one of the reasons for New Mexican women’s uninhibited nature is the fact that it was women who ran things, who delivered babies, and they only had each other to talk to and seek help. So, it translated to women who now are untrammeled by silly hang-ups, and they have more natural beauty, both inside and out, than women elsewhere. Am I reading too much into things? Am I just another gringo who said the wrong thing? What do you think?
—Curious in Albuquerque
Dear Gabacho: You’re a modern-day Charles Fletcher Lummis, you are! Short response: mujeres no son that uninhibited—check out usage rates of tampons versus maxi pads between mexicanas and gabachas. Long response: Catholicism.
My wife is a gabacha and she frequently asks me why hefty, older Mexican women seem to wear crudely sewn printed bed sheets for dresses. Having slept with a plain blanket next to my brother and visiting relatives in the living room for much of my youth, I can’t really tell the difference between a print floral dress and a printed bed sheet. So is it true? Does la comadre Concha have to make a tent dress out of flower-print bed sheets bought at the 99 Cent Only store because dresses from Walmart will not fit her?
Dear Sleepy Wab: Tell your esposa gabacha to stop hating and save your ass some cash by making like all good Mexi woman and start to coser y tejer her own dresses. While I’m glad that hipster chicks have gotten into sewing, crafting, and that whole Etsy chingadera over the past couple of years, it’s old sombrero for Mexican mujeres, all whom know who to sew, stitch, weave and do miracles with cloth, strings, and needles. Can’t tell you how many quinceañera dresses my tías made from materials bought at textile stores, or how many torn jeans my mami patched up over the years, or cuffs on khakis she created when cuffs were cool, and took off when they weren’t. Oh, and the dress type you’re referring to is most likely the huipil, the long, flowery dresses from southern Mexico. Consider it a mestizo muumuu, except much classier, and not as trashy as your woman’s ilk.
GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK! Speaking of sewing and such, Kathy Cano-Murillo has long brought the Mexi to the world of crafting via her many efforts as the Crafty Chica: newspaper columns, books, classes, product and much, mucho more. The Mexican ain’t much of a crafter—I leave that to the womenfolk, as my daily fill with sharp objects is already met with lawnmowers and garden sheers—but fully endorse Cano-Murillo, as my said womenfolk idolize the mujer. More info at craftychica.com.