A Galaxy of Mexican Braiding
My daughter was born was a fright wig worthy head of hair driving both of us to distraction. She sported a bowl cut looking like a 1920s flapper until she able to comb her own hair without a reminder from me. That took nearly 15 years!
Imagine my surprise when we moved here and witnessed daily little girls head off into the day with perfectly braided hair! I mean, magnificent. How was that possible?
Recent studies have shown a Mexican woman’s hair, in terms of fiber dimension, shape and tensile strength, is a mixture of Asian and Caucasian roots (pun intended). Well, that makes sense giving most Mexicans are mix of indigenous (those Asian folks that sauntered across the Bering Strait and took the first right) and Europeans.
Today Mexican women’s hairstyles are as varied as any Northern women’s hairstyles, but braids are considered a traditional Mexican art form. Historically, Mexican women had long hair and because women spent a lot of time outdoors in a warm climate, hairstyles reflected the culture and climate. Braids are functional and simple, keeping hair out of a woman’s way as she worked and kept her cool.
Fixing hair in one long braid down the back is a simple, traditional way that Mexican women have worn their hair since pre-Hispanic days. Another option is parting hair down the middle and braiding it down the back in two single braids. These simple hairstyles are decorated by adding colorful hair ribbons to the end, or throughout, the braids.
Chignons are another traditional Mexican hairstyle. Starting with a pony tail, a low chignon is a bun that is worn at the nape of your neck secured with combs. A high chignon is a bun high on top of a woman’s head normally with an elegant floral touch.
The most internationally influential Mexican braid is a modified chignon worn by Star Wars’ heroine Princess Leia. Star Wars creator, George Lucas, looked to Mexico’s female revolutionaries for inspiration when crafting the character Princess Leia for his iconic space opera. These women, who joined the revolution around the start of the 20th century, were tough and considered an important part of Mexico’s rebel force!
Clara de la Rocha was a colonel in the Mexican Revolution, fighting from 1910 to 1920. It is thought that this photo of Clara, now archived for display at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, inspired Leia’s famous coiled buns. Clara is remembered for a key 1911 battle in northern Mexico where she crossed a river on horseback and took out a power station. That night rebel forces attacked without being seen.
If having problems with your hair, the go-to guy is St. John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, that is seen in art dressed like he came off the set of the Flintstones (he lived in the wild) and sporting sexy, unruly hair. John was a Nazarite, an ancient Jewish sect that believed in never cutting one’s hair.
For those in San Miguel, the tradition on the feast of St. John (June 24th, his birthday) is to arise before dawn to wash your hair. For bald men, this assures hair growth while for women it provides fuller hair that easier to braid. Also, it is auspicious to cut your hair this day as it will grow back faster and stronger.
The Otomi-made Maria doll sports some of the best hair in town and on the feast day of the John the Baptist you’ll find Maria at the Catrina Salon two doors up from the fountain on the corner of Relox and Del Palmar. Here the owner, Veronica, provides the best trimming and braiding in town!