Lovely young Agustina in her pink silk rebozo (long rectangular shawl).
A friend recently gave me a copy of an old and anonymous Mexican poem, written in Spanish, in homage to the rebozo. The rebozo's importance to Mexican women cannot be exaggerated: from swaddled infancy to shrouded death, a rebozo accompanies our women throughout their days. It is at once warmth, shade, infant's cradle, cargo-bearer, fancy dress, screen for delicious flirtation, and a sanctuary from prying eyes.
I hope you enjoy my translation.
Rummaging through my closet one fine day
I found this garment—my old rebozo!
How long had it been resting there?
Even I can’t say exactly.
But seeing it brought back so many memories
Tears clouded my eyes and fell one by one as I held
My beloved rebozo!
Mother and infant daughter wear matching rebozos, Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe 2010.
What a faithful friend you have been.
Shall we relive just an instant of that far-distant past?
When I first showed you off, you were so beautiful, so new,
With your lively color and flowing fringe
Your reflection gleamed in the mirror like the morning star!
Fine lace rebozo still on the loom, from the Reboceros de Aranza (Aranza Rebozo Weavers Cooperative).
Come on, come on, let me fling you over my heart
The way I did in bygone years,
Next to this heart that disappointment has turned to ash!
Don’t you remember that beautiful blouse I wore,
Embroidered with poppies and carnations?
Don’t you remember all my triumphs and successes,
And my flounced skirt, so full of its pretty sequins, beads, and glitter?
See, tightened to the span of my narrow waist and
Crossed just so over my straight young back
Showing off my fresh round breasts,
With two vertical parallel lines.
We stepped out to the beat of those long-ago songs,
That dance that determined my life.
Your fringes hung down just so!
And the two of us formed one soul.
How was it that I wanted him? You know!
Rebozo, you heard first how I loved him!
Your fringes were hopeful prisoners of my teeth
While I heard the soft slow songs of love
Oh perverse rebozo, unfaithful friend!
You were my confidante and my hiding place
You pushed me, burning, into romance
Wrapped in your fringes as if they were cherished arms.
But what’s this I see!
An ugly hole
That looks like a toothless mouth
Bursting out into furious laughter.
You laugh at my romantic memories?
You make fun of my long gone triumphs?
You know that the one who loved me has forgotten me
And that my soul, just like my love, is sacked and plundered?
And you—you aren’t even a shadow of what you were
And because we don’t remember what we have been
We are betrayed! Old! Faded!
I’ll throw you in a box with other trash—
You, who are a traitor and so worn out!
How strange and how complicated
Just like you, I also betrayed—sometimes--in little ways!
Those sweet lies and silly nonsense
That made so many of my yesterdays happy.
Laugh, rebozo! Don’t you see that I’m laughing--not angry?
The tears that spring from these eyes
Are just laughter, nothing more. I’m not crying, I’m laughing!
But how can I be laughing, when I hate you so?
Let your mantel cover my head
The way it did in days long past, when I was possessed
By a kiss so strong, so violent.
No! I will not throw you away, old rebozo!
You have a soul like mine
A Mexican woman's soul, wild, unmanageable
That will not bend even when faced with death itself!
I will fold you up and keep you in the closet
And there, like a holy relic,
My heart will once again put on
Your flowing fringe.