Mexican Boys' Clothes


Figure 1.--This Mexican boys wears what looks like a tam and velvet knicker suit with a large white collar and bow in a photograph probably taken in the 1900s. Note that there is more of a European than an American look.

HBC at this time has relatively little information on Mexican boys clothes. I believe, however, that clothes for boys followed a very similar pattern common throughout much of Latin America. There has historically been very significant differences between the clothes worn by the boys from rich and middle class families and those worn by boys from poor families. Mexican boys' clothing was once sharply affected by social class and ethnicity. Wealthy boys from European origins wore European fashions. More affluent children wore European-styled clothes. Poor Indian and mestizo children wore simple white shirts and pants. The poor rural children which contituted the great bulk of the population wore plain white shirts and white trousers cut above the ankles. Most went barefoot. In more recent years Mexican boys fashions have been largely influenced by the United States and both wealthy and poorer children now wear the same styles. Of course not the quality of those clothes. Gradually Mexican children adopted basically American-styled clothing. We do not yet have any personal contributions from our Mexican readers. Nor do we know of any nooks where Mexican authors hasve decribed their childhood. Mexican readers have provided some individual portaits, although we often know very little about the individuals depicted.

Chronological Trends

We have very lille chronological information on Mexico at this time. Portraits suggest that children from affluent families in the 19th century were dressed like European children. In fact unlsss the provinance of the image is knnown it is rarely possible to identify portraits of Mexican children from European families by their clothing. The fashiojs involved followed fashion changes in Europe. Children of families from modest backgrounds are more likely to be identified as Mexican because they wore a kind of camposeino dress of plain white shirts and pants with barefeet or sandals. This style did not change significantly over time. Some boys wore guillaberas, but this was more an adult fashion. Styles began to change in the 20th century, especially after World War II. American fashions became increasingly important.

Mexican History

The Toltec people of the Central Valley of Mexico developed corn. Although not immediately as important as the potato, it is today with the 20th century development of synthetic fertilizer the single most important food crop. This made possible the moderbn expansion of the world population. The Native Americans the Spanish Conquistadores encountered were the Maya and Aztec. The Aztec in particular were a chillingly blood thirsty people, exceeding the Spanish in their lust for war, but not in their abiity to wage war. The Spanish Conquistadores wanted gold, but it was corn that was Mexico's great contribution to human society. European diseases descimated Native American populations. Mexico languished as a Spanish colony for over 300 years. Mexico under Spanish rule was an essentially feudal country. It achieved independence from Spain (early 19th century), in part because of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars--the Peninsula Campaign. A weakened Spain could not hold on to its colonies. A war with the United states resulted in the loss of the sparsely populated north. The Diaz dictatorship introduced a degree of modernization, but did not address deep-seeded social problems. Mexico's Revolution came a century after independence. (20th century). The Revolution brought the Partido Rvolucinario Institucional (PRI) to power (1920s). The PRI brought a degree of social justice, but not economic prosperity. Coruption flowing from one-party rule as well as an emphasis on state corportations that proved both inefficent and ineffective account for much of Mexico's economic failure. This failure has meant that millions of Mexicans have crossed the border to seek decent paying jobs in the United States. The PRI governed Mexico with a thin veneer of democracy for 80 years. Mexico held its first truly democratic election and the PRI was voted out of power (2000). Today millions of Mexicans still can not make a decent living in their own country and countinue to cross the northern border to work illegally in the United States. There does not seem to be a serious domestic discussion as to why the country cannot prosper economically. Many Mexicans seem nore intent on blameing America and free enterprise for their country's economic failure.

Economy

Mexico is one of the three principal countries of North America. It has developed a sustantial economy. The ramking varies froim year to year, but is usually ranked about the 20th largest world economy. Even so, it is by par the poorest of the three North ASnerican countries. And while percapita income is substantially below that of America and Canada, it has the highest per capita income in Latin Anerica. This raises a variety of historical and economic questions. Left wing popularism has a considerable following in Latin America, including Mexico. Yet left-wing rulers like Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela have trouble explaining why, Mecico which is the Latin Ameican country most integrated with the United States, is the most prosperous. Still the question of desparity between America/Canda and Mexico remains. And here the siffering historical/ecomomic experience surely is the principal reason. Nexico was the heart of the Spanish Empire until independence in the 1880s. Unlike America which had aong historical experience with both democracy and capitalism, Mexico became independent with an almpst feudal economy. America art the time began to enter the modern economy with capitalist inctitutions and individuals who began important industrial innovations. Even in the 18th century, people like Benjamin Franlkin (lighting rods and stoves) and Ely Witney (cotton gin) patentened important devices. And this only increased in the 19th century. Nothing like this occurred in Mexico. This is not only the result of the feudal ecomomy, but also the Inquisiton which deterred free thought in southern Europe and Latin America. After the French were expelled (1860s), Porfirio Díaz and the Cientificos furing the Porfiriato sought to modernize Mexico. Here they accomplished a great deal in terns of industry and infrastructure, but failed to address the summering social inequities. This led to the Mexican Recolution. Unfortunately for Mexico, the Revolution occurred a a time with Socialist thought was gaining currency and the Mexican leasers following the Revolution adopted many statist socialist policies which proved to be a huge drag on the Mexican economy. One reform was to create ejidos to protect the land holdings of Native Americans. But the ejido sydtem resulted in the Native Americans be denied access to capital and thus their agricultural operations continued to be highly inefficent rwsulting in very low incomes. What is discouraging is that there seems to be little discussion as to why jobs can not be created in Mexico beyond steril socialist political polemic.

Social Class

Mexican boys clothes have traditionally varied greatly by social class. Rich boys from largely European families wore the same clothes styles as worn in Europe. I assume that the most influential European country was of course Spain as Mexico was a Spanish colony until the early 19th Century. Other European countries by the mid 19th Century, such as France and England, were also influential. Thus little boys wore dresses and older boys wore tunics, Fauntleroy suits, sailor suits, knickers, Eton collars, and other popular styles of the day. I know of no popular indigenous Mexican garment or style worn by the wealthy boys. Poor Mexican boys have traditionally worn a white shirt and white pants, often at calf length and simple sandals without socks. I am not sure just when this dress became common place, but it was widely worn in the 19th Century and probably earlier. Poor Mexican boys have traditionally worn a white shirt and white pants, often at ankel/calf length and simple sandals without socks. Many children went barefoot. I am not sure just when this dress became common place, but it was widely worn in the 19th Century and probably earlier.

Hair

In the novel "Giant" there is an account about the Mexican foreman's son, which you might find interesting. The story is about an Eastern girl that meets and marries this handsome Texas rancher. The Texan owns this huge ranch that employs many Mexican cowboys The Mexicans cowboys and their families are very poor and she get involved with helping to improve their living conditions on the ranch. She meets the foreman's wife who is barren. In the early years of their marriage she has two children, a boy and a girl. This kind of sets the stage for the following scene in the book. Her family has come from the East to visit. Her 5 or 6 years old son is playing with a little Mexican girl who is better dressed than the other little Mexican girls on the ranch. Her Mother asks her who the strange little Mexican girl playing with her son is. This immediately brings a laugh from her and her husband. She goes on to explain the the little girl is really the foreman's son. It turns out the the foreman's wife decided that the reason she couldn't conceive was because she had prayed for a boy. So she prayed to the Virgin Mary for a girl and promised when the girl's hair reached her waist she would have it cut and presented to the church as a sarifice. The supreme sarifice for a young Mexican girl whose hair is her crowning glory. When a boy was born they felt that they had to keep their promise. So the boy was dressed in the best dresses they could afford and his grandmother carefully tended his hair, brushing his hair each day and braiding it with multicolored ribbons. Apparently, this practice wasn't that usual for extremely religious Mothers. Pretending that their son was a girl and sarificing his tresses to the church as a gift to the virgin doesn' seem any more extreme than dressing them the custom of Irish and Dutch mothers dressing their boys as girls to protect them from the dreaded faires. I guess one has to feel sorry for the girls who had their shorn tresses sarificed.

Garments

We have very limited information on garments worn by Mexican boys at this time. Wide brimmed straw hats with white shirts and pants and boys going barefoot were common in Mexico among but in rural areas and small towns. Middle class and upper class boys more commonly wore the same garments popular in Europe. Europe was the main influence until after World War II when American garments, like baseball caps, became increasingly popular. One garment we note not only in Mexico, but throuughout Latin America are fancy suits often done in white for pre-school children. One reader thought they might be First Communion outfits, but this does not seem to be the case.


Figure 2.--A Mexican contributor to HBC provided this photograph of a folk outfit he wore when he was about 9 years old during 1966. His sister had a similar outfit.

Folk Styles

HBC has noted some Mexican boys wearing outfits that suggest folk styling. HBC is not sure at this times of the origins of the folk styles. Some are the outifts similar to mariachi bands which have western or cowboy/vaquero outfits with large wide-brimmed hats and elaborately embelished jackets and pants. Some outfits look more kike Bavarian styling with haltwrs and clothes with contrasting embrroidery and trim. This seems hard to understand as Mexico has not had large numbers of German immigrants. Hopefully our Mexican HBC readers will provide us some background information on these folk styles.

Minority Groups

We have limited information about minority groups in Mexico at this times. The principal minority groups are Infian communitirs lovated throughout the country. This is a bit different than the United States where Native Ameican groups are a very small part of the population. Native Americans in fact make up a major part of the Mexivan population in that most Mexicans have both Spanish and Native American ancestors. The Indian minorities are generally pure blood individuals living in communities that are culturally destinct from the overall Mexican national culture. Many of these Native American cultures still spean indigenous languages. Many lived on ejidos, communal organizations created during the Revolution. The ejidos have declined in recent years as a result of poor management and Government market reforms. Native American groups in Oaxaca have staged a rebellion from the authority of the national Government. A much smaller minority group is the Mennonites in Chihuahua. I

Activities

We note the clothing Mexican boys wore for a range of different activities. Many Mexican children worked from sn early age, especially in rural areas. Although not as extensive, there is also considerable child labor in urban areas. This is primarily in the "grey" unregulated sectors of the economy. This is still a problem. The major activity for children is now school. Many Mexican children wear school uniforms. Mexico has some children's choirs. The country is a largely Catholic country, at least culturally. Many Mexicans do not practice their religion. Many children, however, do a First Communion. Sports are very popular in Mexico. The single most populasr sport is scoocer (football). Baseball is also very popular, especially in northern Mexico. The main youth group is the Scouts, but paricipation is limited. There are also important festivals and holidays in Mexico in which children participate.

Current Styles

The sharp differences between wealthy and poor children have disappeared in recent years. This occurred as dress became more casual in Mexico, as in other countries. Both wealthy and poor kids began wearing jeans. The dominante inluence on style was America. This occurred as American movies and particularly television shows became widely worn in Mexico, especially beginning in the 1950s. One style that was less popular in Mexico than in Europe or even America since the 1920s was short pants. Only realtively young Mexican boys wore shorts. Older boys wearing them like in Europe was relatively rare. This varied somewhat by region and shorts were somewhat more common in the warmer tropical areas along the coast.

Families

The family is an important topic in any assessment of Mexicam life. As in much of Latin America, fmily tends to transcend individual through generations. We do not yet fully understand this, but surely the region's Hispanic Catholic culture is central factor. The Spanish ruled Mexico for three centuries, but Mexico is a largely Mestizo country and thus Narive American culture has also played a role in develpong the modern Exican family. Kinship ties are a very important factoir of Mexican life. Young Mexicans are less likely than Americans to leave the home until marriage, especially the girls. One researcher reports that words used by Mexicans to describe the family reflect uniformily positive values, including: unity, children, love, home, well-being, parents, understanding, tenderness, education, happiness, and support [Salles and Tuirán] The family is where Mexicans find affection, solidarity, and care in their everyday life. This simple fact, the importance of the family, ripples through all aspect of national life, politics, economy, culture, social relarionships and much more. There are both positive and negative consequences. Families ties provide support in a country which because of a generalized economic failure, the state does not have the resources to build a safety net. But it also means that rather than making family sacrifices to ensure that children get a sound education, many children drop out of school to support the family. The basic trend affecting the Mexican family has been the migration if rural compesinos to urban areas. And the high birth rate common in rural reas has continued as families adjust to urban life. Most of these new migrant do not have the education to obtain decent jobs. And the socialist policies of Mexican governments a well as endemic corruption and wide-spread drug related criminality have ensured that the private sector can not create the needed jobs for swelling urban populations. Mexico has one advantage not open to modt countries. It has a long birder with the Unioted States thst is reltively easy to cross. Thus many Mexicans have sought job oppotunities in America. As a result, very large numbers of Mexican families have relatives in America. Trade with the United States has also been hugely beneficial to Mexico. As a result, there has been a growth of the Mexican middle class. Despite the lack of job opportunities generally, many more Mexicans have enteed the middle class and able to afford decent housing, cars, and other conmsumer products. For cHBC not only are these cultural and economic currehnts important, but family images provide a great deal of information about fashion and helps to put the information we have collected on boys' fashions in perspective.

Individuals

We do not yet have any personal contributions from our Mexican readers. Nor do we know of any nooks where Mexican authors hasve decribed their childhood. Mexican readers have provided some individual portaits, although we often know very little about the individuals depicted.

Sources

Salles and Tuirán, "Family and kinship" (1997).






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Created: February 25, 1999
Last updated: 5:20 PM 7/11/2012