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Latin America perspectives a series of information and comment about Latin America with Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. These programs are recorded by station w s r u FM. Here now is Dr. Gardner. They call it progress. Those who initiate it and profit from it. But to many little joy attends the changes synonymous with the passing of the old order. Sometimes it is a mode of travel that changes and those riding behind Diesel's have a hankering for steam locomotives. Sometimes it is a dietary pattern. And those gobbling TV dinners remember mother's pot roast with an astrologer often does this often that and very often it is a matter of dress. Let me with this matter of dress or costume if you will take us off to
Mexico. I saw the women some years ago it was in the market place of a small town in the state of a haka in south central Mexico vacationing schoolteachers they were showing off their Spanish and bargaining for those souvenirs they wanted to take home in the one North American woman bickering with the Mexican for a certain piece of cloth. I wanted to know why she couldn't buy it for 10 pesos. Even the patience of the Mexican Indian woman had grown thin and she came back with the words. So I think but think of the little bug. Well the last thing in the world. This school marm wanted to think of was little bugs. She broke off the negotiation left the marketplace and that was that. No explanation was made about the little
bug but the truth of the matter is the highly colorful it was Arns to read material that she wanted had been dyed by coaching Neil. The coach and Neil dice stuff is made from the crushed bodies of a small insect. Indeed a type of plant louse picked from certain cactus caught you Neil made for that bright red that was used in the days of British uniforms. Indeed someone has said that a sort of silent prayer should be said on the 4th of July for the question Neal because they help make those red coats so red that they were a little more vulnerable to sharp shooting American patriots. But to quote you Neal the DI stuff that could be found 20 40 years ago in Mexico has passed from the scene by and large because the coal tar dyes of chemistry have replaced them.
And this is but one illustration of the passing from the scene we have in a volume that has just been published by the University of Texas press in titled Mexican Indian costumes. And this the work of a husband and wife team Donald and Dorothy Corddry c o r d r y a volume that suggests that still something more is passing from the scene and the record of it needs to be made now to be kept for tomorrow. Bright colors elaborate weaving techniques beautiful embroidery all these qualities characterize the Indian costumes of Mexico skilfully made an often adaptable to many uses. The men's and women's garments the belts head dresses tortilla cloths and bags were once found in infinite variety throughout Mexico.
However modern civilization is bringing to an end such individualistic styles and customs. Some have already vanished. The rest will probably do so within a few decades. The inexorable disintegration of many have specks of Mexican Indian culture makes this volume on Indian costume particularly important. Donald and Dorothy Corddry in over 30 years of intermittent study have compiled an invaluable record of many of the Indians of North western central and southern Mexico. Mr. Cordray fieldwork began under the auspices of the Museum of the American Indian and later the Southwest Museum of Los Angeles the corduroys have visited numerous villages recorded details concerning the Mac the making of textiles and the manufacture and the wearing of costumes.
And they have indeed purchased and preserved representative garments. Mr. Cordray has taken hundreds of pictures and some of the costumes photographed 20 or 30 years ago when the corduroys began their study. I can no longer be found at all today in Mexico. And so the volume Mexican Indian customs approach is the study of Indian customs in two ways. First it examines the general history of the costume the tools and the techniques used in making it and the nature and variation of the particular garments and accessories and how they are worn. Second it analyzes in detail the costume of some 27 villages and different linguistic groups profusely illustrated. The volume has in it two hundred and seventy six plates sixteen of them in extremely luscious color. There are several detailed
maps. A number of drawings and diagrams. This book is not only a tool for the anthropologist but it is also that kind of choice item that can take its place on the coffee table or the nightstand and with easy reference by the layman become a joy for people of divergent outlooks and backgrounds. Both of the chord reasons are deadly are trained artists and they bring to the composition of the work as well as their concern about costumes and unusual awareness and unusual fidelity lest all this be considered just the ravings of the publishers blurb. Are the reviewers concerned about Mexican costume. Let me add that one of Mexico's finest writers students of such me Gail Cooper Rubeus speaks of Corddry photographs in this vein in a strictly photographic sense they
rank with the best work of modern photographers who have turned their cameras on the Mexican scene. These photographs are dramatic often beautiful. They possess in addition a direct human appeal the derives from an uncomplicated artistry and honesty to a surprising degree. They succeed in capturing the Serenity mystery and monumental Plus city of the subjects. But more than this they constitute an invaluable portrait of remote and little known peoples who prefer their ancient manners and ways of life to a modern world about which they know little and often care less. Anyone who's traveled in Mexico even for a short period of time realizes the importance of Cordy's achievement. He visited out-of-the-way mountain fastnesses. Primitive communities
in tropical jungles where they cultural claiming the capacity for hanging on to the old order is still at its best. The warlike chorus the retiring chortles the unpredictable Indians of the Sierra and the exuberant totemic with the elegant women of to want to pick this up attacks the misty the richly dressed scene and takes all these and others with names as odd but with cultures rooted in many yesterdays have drawn the attention of the husband and wife team who in Mexico photographed and gathered that which today is within the covers of a book. But which tomorrow beyond the covers of a book may only be found quite possibly in museums. One often hears from strangers but few indigenous costumes are to be seen in Mexico today. And this is because most
strangers are going to the large cities. And Little do they realize that the retreat has been to the outer to the rural setting. Few people realize for example that Mexico 15 times the size of Guatemala has a certain depth then that suggests that from Mexico City from a Monterrey from a pool of blood from the major cities one has to make a conscious effort to get on the roads into the back roads into the bush as it were to get to the authentic Indian way of life to the authentic costume. The breakdown of culture then is a problem that the urbanization of Mexico has come to present and in consequence one must get out of the big city to see the native Mexican in Indian dress in the very conservative villages women dress alike and compete with one another not by originality of material or design but by
workmanship quality of Han spawn thread newness and cost of ribbons and wool thread and elaborateness of design. Although the general pattern of the aspect of the garment may well be the same. Within a given village costume show slight differences in social strata. Except for the fact of economic differences. And of course it's the old story that you have what you can afford what you can pay far is a bit different if indeed you can pay for it in general. Very little information concerning costumes can be learned from those who are the mestizo. The mixture of the Indian and Spanish elements. These people lack interest in the Indian side of their life. Social climbers culture climbers that they are they tend to ape completely the Spanish way of life and so they have put behind them as though it were a mark of inferiority. The Indian nature in which they
might rightly have a great deal of pride. The dress of men is subject even to greater change than that of women because the men more commonly go down the roads to the markets to the towns. And this means that they are brought in contact with other peoples and not wanting more frequently than are their wives their children and not wanting to be or appear to be different. Not wanting to be laughed at. They see to it that they fit into the world that has now the stamp of conformity upon it. We have in Mexico that in a changing way of life that has to do with every article of dress Indians ever knew from previous panic times down to the present the quaint and colorful costumes of India and Mexico are today in retreat. They have retreated higher and higher into the hills and closer and closer upon the desert and the fringes of the
jungle. Some day they will be gone. Conformity will have won yet another victory and Mexico will be the poorer for it. Meanwhile we have the richness of the past and the present. Between the covers of the volume Mexican Indian costumes by Corddry published by the University of Texas press this was another programme in the series Latin America perspectives with Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Join us for our next program when Dr. Gardner will comment on another interesting aspect of Latin American affairs. These programs are recorded by station WFIU FM and are made available to this station by the national educational radio network.
Latin American perspectives II
Episode Number
Episode 23 of 38
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3544. This prog.: Mexican Indian Costumes
Global Affairs
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Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-31-23 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:33
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Chicago: “Latin American perspectives II; Episode 23 of 38,” 1969-02-17, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
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APA: Latin American perspectives II; Episode 23 of 38. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from