The Rebozo: A Conduit of Care and Connection

If you are reading this, it’s because you—at the very least—have an idea what a rebozo is. I want to give you a little more than: “This is a scarf from Mexico,” which many of you already know. The rebozo is far more than just some piece of fabric.

I shudder when people ask, “Gena, couldn’t I just use a sheet or a towel?” The answer is, “Of course you can use anything in a pinch,” but if you plan on using this ancient technology, this indigenous wisdom handed down from generation to generation, I would hope that you respect the culture and the history of the rebozo. I would be remiss not to share with you what it means to the women and men of Mexico (the rebozo and versions of it also now exist in Central and South America.) But first, I want to touch on the notion of using a towel or a hospital sheet. I really think that things can embody energy and I love using my own rebozo or my clients’ rebozo because of the energy in it.

…[the rebozo is] indigenous wisdom handed down from generation to generation, I would hope that you respect the culture and the history of the rebozo….

When we talk about rebozo, especially one that’s gifted to someone, it becomes more than a length of fabric, but a gift that gets used throughout months of pregnancy — it becomes something that smells like home, represents time and memories together using it, hopes for this pregnancy, labor, and birth. No sheet from a hospital or towel from Target can carry that power and beauty.

… used throughout months of pregnancy — [the rebozo] becomes something that smells like home, represents time and memories together using it, hopes for this pregnancy, labor, and birth. No sheet from a hospital or towel from Target can carry that power and beauty.

I like using a rebozo from Mexico or Central America or any length of fabric that is made by hand by people who have been making textiles for generations. For me, there is magic in that. Sure, machine-made cloth can be beautiful, but I like to bring my clients something that was made with love and pride. There’s a beauty there and a magic, and I want to bring that magic to my clients. Plus, for me, it feels good to give back to indigenous families—especially those whose traditions I am using to serve my clients. As a Mexican American woman, this is my heritage and I love to share it with the families I serve.

Before sharing any more about the rebozo, it’s important to understand its history. Understand that we are sharing from another culture’s wisdom, handed down for generations. Let’s begin as far back as I could find in my research. Initially, the rebozo was first thrust upon the indigenous women of what we now call Mexico by the Spaniards. What they introduced to the indigenous women was not called a rebozo but was a Mantilla, a piece of cloth many Spanish women still, to this day, wear to church, to bull fights, and on special Holy days throughout the year. (It should be noted that the Mantilla is a version of cloth that may have been introduced to the Spanish people by the Muslim peoples during their 700-year stay in Spain. Historians aren’t totally sure about this, but it makes sense to me. I mean, I can’t be somewhere for 7 hours without leaving something of myself behind—glasses, iPhone, etc.—so it makes sense that the Muslim peoples left an indelible impression on Spain after making Spain their home for so long. Gorgeous Mosques can be seen throughout Spain. so a length of fabric isn’t much of a stretch.) The Mantilla was similar to rebozos today, but thinner and shorter.

What [Spaniards] introduced to the indigenous women was not called a rebozo but was a Mantilla, a piece of cloth many Spanish women still, to this day, wear to church, to bull fights, and on special Holy days throughout the year…

I love that the indigenous women took this piece of cloth and made it their own. Instead of being something reserved for times of worshiping this new God they were forced to worship, they made it longer and wider so that they could wear their babies in it, and use it to keep warm or cool, depending on the situation. It went from a once-a-week garment to an everyday necessity. I learned from Beatriz Velásquez Inclán (there’s an excellent video you can watch on Youtube about this) that a few hundred years ago you could tell where someone was from just by looking at her rebozo, and whether she was married or was a widow by how she wore it.

[The indigenous women] made it longer and wider so that they could wear their babies in it, and use it to keep warm or cool… [it became] an everyday necessity…

Women were (and, to this day, some still are) presented with a rebozo during their wedding by their mothers to mark the passage from maiden to wife. In an article entitled The Rebozo: Fashion, Feminism and Death, I learned a number of new and fascinating things about the rebozo. I was surprised to hear of it being used in death; I knew women were buried in their rebozos but I had no idea that it was even deeper than that:

 

“Death is inherently linked with the rebozo as well. For centuries, broken- hearted mothers have wrapped their lifeless infants in them for burial and covered their faces with it to signify mourning. The use of the rebozo as a shroud was once so common in Mexico, many artisans created them solely for this purpose, whereas today, only a few remain. These special garments for the dead must also be infused with aroma de luto, the scent of mourning. A multi-step process, some ingredients are woven into the garment, such as Spanish moss. Fabric may be exposed to an occasional smoking process where herbs like sage or rosemary that give off a pleasant odor are burned in close proximity. Finally, the threads may be soaked in cloves, rose petals, water lilies and cocoa.”

 

Now before we end, please take a moment to stop and reflect and do some research yourself into what exactly this “piece of fabric” means to millions of people.

It is powerful, spiritual, and magical. When it really soaks in, you will find it impossible to use anything but a genuine rebozo to use during birth or to gift to your clients.

It is powerful, spiritual, and magical.


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