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Starting in the late 1960s, a broader Indigenous justice movement came to Oaxaca. Spurred on by resistance to genocide against Indigenous groups in Guatemala, activists began to wear their huipiles, rabozos, and other traditional clothes loud and proud in urban areas of Oaxaca. They wore their blouses and huipiles with jeans, boots, leather jackets, hats, and other punk and alternative fashion elements, creating a new style for the urbane Indigenous intellectual. As rights for Indigenous people continue to increase throughout Latin America, Indigenous clothing is used to represent both group and national pride. 

Manta blouse, 1969

Origin: Mixtec

Material: cotton, linen

Location: Oaxaca City

This manta blouse is an example of what was worn by intellectual Indigenous men and women in Oaxaca City in the late 1970s.


Young indigenous artists would walk in long lines of billowing fabric, taking up space and daring people to ignore the bright designs. The red-and-white diamond-patterned yoke is woven on, not embroidered. This is another typical way the people of Oaxaca add decoration to their clothes.

Among older people, the stigma around Mixtec and Zapotec traditional clothes persists. When decades of forced assimilation have made a commodity of their culture while also suppressing their self-expression, that fear and pain can be hard to escape.


This shirt (right), made and collected in 2006, is definitely considered fashion. Today, wearing handwoven clothing and embroidery is a sign of privilege among many young Mexicans. Either an Indigenous person made it for their community, or the buyer paid handsomely. Many non-Indigenous women in Oaxaca buy handwoven huipiles and blouses for hundreds or thousands of dollars to show their Oaxacan pride. This sustains the industry, but whether or not this is appropriation or ultimately good for the community remains to be seen.

Shirt, 2006

Origin: Mixtec

Location: Oaxaca City

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