Hippies of the 60’s, a New Image of Modernity and the Future of Huaraches.Posted: September 24, 2011
Huaraches nowadays are not especially valued by Mexicans who prefer the statement of big brands and foreign inspired fashion. With Huarache exports making up the tiniest %0.01 of production this is having a huge negative impact on the craft of Huaraches. With Huarache retailers now ordering more international styled footwear, many Huaracheros are having to chose between meeting the needs of their retail partners by copying such footwear typically from catalogs, or going out of business.
The same was true in the 1960’s where a search for modernity not only in Mexico but also around the world marginalized indigenous culture and made modern designed products more desirable than traditional local ones. For those reasons Huaraches in the 1960’s were probably as undervalued by Mexican youth as they are today. Then a very unusual turn of events happened.
A reader of Huarache Blog recently directed me to a good book called ‘ Refried Elvis, The Rise of The Mexican Counter Culture’ written by Eric Zolov. The book also explains how in the 1960’s Hippies from the USA and Europe arrived in Mexico drawn by the indigenous culture and for many the promise of enlightenment provided by the consumption of the psychedelic Psilocybe Mexicana mushroom in the south (from which Dr. Albert Hofmann created LSD).
The book tells how Hippies not only visited the indigenous Mexican areas, but also the cities and in particular the avant guard and countercultural area of Mexico City called the ‘Zona Rosa’. Hippy culture, motivated by a rejection of the “codifications of modernism”, introduced to Mexico a new image of modernity that was a mix of modern and folkloric. So as Mexican youth copied the modern styles of music and fashion from the USA and Europe they unknowingly also reabsorbed elements of their own culture. By copying indigenous Mexicans, Hippies revalorized indigenous culture in the eyes of Mexican youth, who also began wearing Huaraches.
Hippies introduced a new image of modernity that was also little understood by the Mexican media, as this cartoon of two Hippies wearing Huaraches shows.
Image from the book ‘Refried Elvis, The Rise of The Mexican Counter Culture’, by Eric Zolov
In the 1960’s Hippies made Huaraches popular again, not only in Mexico, but also in the USA and Europe.
I think the the same can happen tomorrow. To make Huaraches desirable again in Mexico, they again need to become more popular in the USA and Europe. And this opportunity exists not because they are popular with Hippies, but because I believe Americans and Europeans would value the wholesome character, crafted origins and sophisticated complexity of Huarache weaves.
In today’s rapidly modernizing world there is an emerging cultural shift in the USA and Europe towards appreciation of craft and a ‘return to the roots’ perspective on life. For example the thriving artisanal beer market in the USA, the ‘Slow Food’ in movement Italy, home grown vegetables, books like “Handmade NATION”, retro styled product such as sneakers and cars. Even the emergence of the barefoot running trend and ‘Minimalist’ running footwear like Luna Sandals from a few posts back, reflects a shift back to traditions.
The growing ‘return to the roots’ perspective in the USA and Europe shows that consumers are realizing that fashion and technological change doesn’t always equal progress and they’re collectively redefining progress by how they live and what they buy. For example people are realizing that fast/processed food though convenient is unhealthy, this has promoted the development of new health food supermarkets and personal vegetable gardens. That tap water can taste as good as bottled water when you use a water filter, if you are an outdoors enthusiast that wool will keep you warm even when wet and breath better than synthetic materials, that you do not need sport shoes with special technologies for casual wear and now that applies even for running. With Financial, Environmental, War and other significant crises, Americans and Europeans are going through a period of great change and consequently they are questioning and redefining many of their values and standards. Maybe as American and European consumers begin to ‘return to the roots’ and favor more natural products they will choose crafted Huaraches over mass produced footwear.
Its my impression that as people feel they have less control over a technological and ‘modern’ change they search more for the traditional reference in their lives.
Maybe with great ‘modern’ change consumers will begin to favor more traditional and crafted footwear like Huaraches?