Friday, August 6, 2010

A Stunning Serape Collection at the Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende

Way before the arrival of the Spaniards to Mexico, a type of serape was woven in Mexico called the tilmatli. There were two types, one woven with leather, feathers and dyed threads worn by nobleman and the other woven of cotton worn by the common man. It was not until the arrival of the Spaniards that the serape changed for ever. The pedal loom was introduced along with sheep (for wool). By the 1800's, serapes (also known as classic saltillos) were first worn by wealthy hacienda owner's. Later they became a common piece of dress by townsfolk, workers and horsemen. They had a multitude of uses, worn on ones shoulders, pillows, blankets, rugs, displayed on the walls, spread out on the ground at markets to display ones wares.... Men also wore them to dances or to sing a seranade.

The Bellas Artes in San Miguel had a stunning serape collection on display from the collection of Mayer and Susan Shacter. Mayer, an antique dealer, has an extensive collection of serapes and folk art in his gallery and home outside of San Miguel. He put together an exhibit to commemorate Mexico's bicenntenial celebration and its main focus is on the flag serapes or nationalistic serapes.This "pictorial serape" are the most difficult to find. I particularly love the subject, an image often found on old Loteria posters, "a la fiesta de mi puebla."
Many of these serapes were created over 100 years ago around the same time as the centennial celebration of Mexico's Independence from Spain. These above are from Saltillo in the state of Coahuila.
The Aztec myth of the eagle holding a snake perched on a prickly pear cactus (nopal) was the design chosen for the Mexican flag. The red symbolizes the blood of it fallen heros, green hope and white national unity.
Different colors and designs vary from different regions; Oaxaca, Tlaxcala to Saltillo.
I was intrigued by the geometric designs on the outer border and then the more organic designs
that surround the eagle. The colors are magnificent too. This serape was woven in Oaxaca around 1910. Serapes from the Oaxaca area were known to have large central elements such as the Aztec calendar, flowers and animals.
Such a diverse collection. The two serapes in the corner are from Saltillo. Saltillo serapes are woven fine, tight and thin with elaborate designs.
This colorful serape is from San Miguel de Allende. Thin, fine and tight weave. Usually with a full diamond or a rounded medallion in the center.

I studied weaving at the Instituto Allende when I first came to San Miguel and being an interior designer, I love textiles. This show was exceptional!


  1. Thank you for sharing all this beauty with us, Robin.

  2. My luckiest search of the month! I searched for a serape pillow and was lucky enough to stumble upon this! What a treat. Thank you so much for sharing this. Wonderful.

  3. I have the exact same blanket with the eagle and the cactus. Do you still have the original image? Im curious what the card says at the bottom right.