Get to know one of the most iconic garments of the peninsula
Immerse into this beautiful culture!
The Yucatán Peninsula is known for diverse aspects: its gastronomy, which is one of the best of the country; its people, colorful and full of energy; the beauty of its towns; and, of course, its amazing culture and traditions. These manifest in the music, the museums, streets, and landscapes that you can find in every direction. But, without a doubt, clothing is one of the most important and representative of all, the Yucatecan folk costume has become an icon.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to travel to different towns in the peninsula, and in each of them, I’ve seen a characteristic garment: the hipil. This piece captured me because of the beauty of its embroidery and the variety of designs. However, I had not researched enough, and it was not until a few years ago that I met the terno, the typical Yucatecan folk costume, which has a hipil as one of its components.
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The Yucatecan terno, as it is known, is a set of garments used mostly in parties and ceremonies. The hipil is the element that is used daily. To avoid confusion, let’s get to know this representative folk costume of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Discover its three pieces
The jubón or doublet is the square flap that is located at the top of the suit. It goes above the shoulders and reaches below the chest, creating a square neckline that reveals the woman’s neck. This piece has two side openings that, thanks to the width of the garment, simulates short sleeves, leaving most of the arms uncovered.
It has embroidery that, after the arrival of the Spanish in Mexican lands, were modified. New types of embroidery and different floral designs began to be introduced into this dress thanks to Catholic nuns who believed it was a good idea to include them as they were related to those used in Spain. Fortunately, these designs were preserved and today form a fundamental part of this beautiful Yucatecan dress.
This piece is attached to the neck of the jubón and reaches the knee. It is placed above the third piece of clothing. It is made of pretty linen and fine silk cotton. It is the longest garment in the entire costume and one that many Yucatecan women tend to wear daily.
It is the piece that is located at the bottom of the suit and is the last of the three main components of the costume. It adjusts from the waist, placed below the hipil making the length reach the ankles or even the feet. The embroidery that is located in the fustán manages to stand out and create an excellent combination with that of the jubón.
A cross stitch embroidery that has been used since pre-Hispanic times is the one that makes up each of these three pieces, this technique has been passed down from generation to generation.
This folk costume is commonly accompanied by a shawl that goes over the neck and extends down the back. The accessories are considered an essential addition to the Yucatecan woman’s folk costume.
Different types of necklaces and chains can be seen, but history shows us that the gold filigree rosary is one of the most important. This rosary was included in times of the Conquest because the Spanish wanted to ward off the indigenous people from evil with it.
Besides, it can be accompanied with earrings, as well as with pulses of gold or some shiny material. Each time you can see greater diversity in accessories, but without a doubt, these are among the most representative.
Facts you should know about its past
Now that we know a little more about the elements that make up one of the most beautiful typical folk costumes of the Mexican Republic, let’s learn about its history.
With the Conquest, the Spanish domain established new cultural guidelines to follow the model already imposed on the European continent. Among one of those changes was clothing.
To the indigenous people, the costume was extended up to the feed and this piece was called a fustán. To cover the bust, they created a kind of shirt characterized by its square neckline, this garment was named hipil.
Over the years, at the beginning of the 19th century, the distinction between races was maintained. They were divided into four social groups: indigenous people, mestizos, creoles, and whites. The racial mix between inhabitants with Castilian and Maya surnames was known as a mestiza.
Even after the Independence of Mexico, these categories remained, although theoretically an equal rights society had been proposed. Progress was achieved when mestizos were allowed to occupy more important positions in society, which the white elite despised and looked for ways to maintain distance between classes.
Space segmentation in various places was preserved. The main square in Mérida had sectors for the different social classes and an established dress code. One sector was occupied by indigenous people and mestizos who occupied traditional garments, while the white elite wore clothing based on European fashion.
With this in mind, we can understand the reason why mestizo women adapted the costume to European fashion. This not only helped them carry symbols that were only seen in upper-class women, but they could also mark a social gap with the indigenous people.
Now that you know the elements that make up a Yucatecan folk costume, you can impress your friends and family with your recently acquired wisdom. The next time you meet somewhere in the praised Yucatán Peninsula, you will have a great story to share.