May 2013 Teleconference
by Dr. Carmen Tafolla
The Mexican rebozo is more than a woman's garment. Yes, it is a rectangle of cloth that can be worn as a shawl or scarf, but it is also a simple tool that has become a cultural icon. An essential element of daily life for centuries, one might say it is a physical manifestation of Mexican womanhood a silent witness to every state of life: a tool of daily labor, a sling to carry children, a shield from weather or from prying eyes, finally either an heirloom or a shroud. At the same time, the manner of its wearing can express every emotion, from shy seduction to sorrow, from flaunted status to simple joys and fears.
Catalina Gárate's paintings capture what she calls "this unifying element, the rebozo," which has been for the artist "a theme of profound personal significance." The rebozo is symbolic of the mestizo blending of peoples in Mexico, and it is used at every level of society. From the expensive Otomí rebozos of San Luis Potosi to the common rebozo de bolita, this garment is an integral part of Mexican life. Gárate is hardly the first artist to be inspired by the rebozo. Several of Frida Kahlo's self-portraits show her wearing rebozos from different regions of Mexico. The great photographer of the Mexican Revolution, Agustín Casasola, often captured soldaderas wearing rebozos. Novelist Sandra Cisneros used the idea of the rebozo as a binding metaphor in her novel, Caramelo.
Poet Carmen Tafolla was "haunted by Gárate's paintings" and by the voices of Mexican and Mexican-American women. She found poetry in those images and voices and she "painted those colors into poetry, those expressions of posture and stance into voice.... The words of these women in the paintings are, like rebozos themselves, both soft and strong. The poetry lies in the courage of their lives."
About the Author
Dr. Carmen Tafolla
The internationally renowned author of more than twenty books and one of the most highly anthologized of Latina writers, Dr. Carmen Tafolla has published an impressive array of works for both children and adults, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Americas Award, presented to her at the Library of Congress in 2010, two Tomas Rivera Book Awards, two ALA Notable Books, a Charlotte Zolotow, the Art of Peace Award, Top Ten Books for Babies, and recognition by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies for work which “gives voice to the peoples and cultures of this land.”
Newly named by Mayor Julian Castro as the first Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio, Tafolla has been called a “world-class writer” by Roots author Alex Haley, and has long been considered one of the madrinas of Chicana Literature. She is currently at work on the adult biography of early civil rights organizer Emma Tenayuca.
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