Traditional Huaraches From Books and Museums

With disappearing traditions and changing styles of footwear, its not easy to find old Huarache designs to photograph and its even harder to see people wearing them.

Books about Mexico, many which are often out of print indirectly offer a valuable insight into what old styles of Huaraches looked like, who wore them and how they were worn. Here are some old images from books and a few from the internet to give an rough but interesting overview of some traditional Huarache designs that nowadays are hard to come by.

I will start with a very interesting collection of prints from ‘El Traje Indigena en Mexico’, by Teresa Castello Yturbide and Carlotta Mapelli Mozzi, INAH 1965.

Tzotzil from Huixtan in Chiapas wearing ‘Caites’, which nowadays are hard to find and worn only during ceremonies. ‘Caites’ soles are usually 7 layers of leather thick and the heel patch is often up to 25cm tall depending on rank. As the heel patch leather is usually quite stiff and rough, the calves of Huixtecos men who wear ‘Caites’ regularly are often scared.

Zapotec men in Yalalag, Oaxaca wear a ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huarache which is knotted over the toes. Photo from the Sunday Market in Tlacolula.

Only 2 kinds of traditional women’s specific sandal are known of in Mexico. One is worn by Zapotec women in Yalalag, Oaxaca and are traditionally decorated with bright velvet underlays of butterflies, flowers and ducks to stand out. This sandal being very bright is only worn on Holidays, like these ones from the Sunday Market in Tlacolula.

The other traditional sandal is worn by Nahua women in Hueyapan, Morelos. This sandal design of plaited ixtle fibre is very similar to pre-Hispanic ‘ Cacle’. The sandal is traditionally made in San Felipe Ixcatlan.

This print of Amusgos from Xochistlahuaca in Guerrero, shows a traditional Huarache without a buckle like the photo on the right.

In Yucatan, men traditionally wore ‘Alpargatas de Oreja’, or ‘Eared Sandals’. These were made of leather with 2 leather tabs sticking out from under the sole, but instead of being laced with a leather strip as other ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huaraches the lace was made from henequen fibre.

Also from Yucatan a Huaraches ‘Chillonas’, or ‘Noisy’ Huaraches. ‘Chillonas’ are unusually made with oil soaked leather placed between the 2 layers of the sole. This detail makes the Huaraches creak when walking and dancing. A famous song by Carlos Duarte Moreno mentions this detail. Women wear a similar Huarache to dances and it is sometimes decorated with plastic.

Up unitl the 1930’s the Morongo, or Mestiza shoes were also worn at dances in Yucatan. They were made from white or coloured satin and embroidered with flowers and spangles. With an Asian design influence they were made in Merida, Tikul and Hunucma,

Studio photos of Huaraches above from the Shoes Or No Shoes Museum.

The book ‘Arte Popular Mexicana’, Editorial Herrero SA Mexico 1975 has some interesting photos.

Tzetzale leaders in Tenejapa, Chiapas wearing woven Huaraches with thick soles similar to their ceremonial ‘Caites’.

Below is a photo I took of similar Huaraches worn by Huixtecos in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.

This semi woven Huarache from Chapayecas,

is similar to this one from nearby Nayarit, sold in Mexico City.

‘Artesania Popular Mexicana’, by Carlos Epejel also shows how woven Huaraches are used in non-ceremonial occasions, as by the Chamula Goberndaores in San Juan de Chamula, Chiapas.

Huichol men wearing both ‘Pata de Gallo’ and Woven Huaraches.

The potter in Tecomatepec and the porter in nearby Valle de Bravo are both wearing ‘Cruzado’ Huaraches.

‘Popular Arts of Mexico’, by Kojin Tonyama. Shows the Chamula Gobernadores in San Juan de Chamula wearing ‘Caites’, or ‘Cactli’ in ceremonial dress.

For the Fiesta San Sebastian ceremony in Zinacantan, the Zinacanteco men wear bright red socks with their ‘Cactli’.

Huichol youth wearing woven Huaraches.

The book ‘El Viento Limpia el Alma’, by photogrpher Walter Reuter has has some excellent images of Huaraches from the Mazetaco region of Oaxaca.

From Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.

And from Durango.

An old 1970’s edition of ‘Indumentaria Mexicana’, by Artes de Mexico shows a Huichol man wearing woven Huaraches, similar to those also worn by the Cora in El Gran Nayar a region that covers parts of Nayarit, Jalisco and Durango (see the last photo in this post).

The photos below are of a man with blue eyes in Guanajuato and a traveling boy in Veracruz.

Notice the ‘Momia’ Huaraches, traditional in Guanajuato and Aguascalientes.

Some current ‘Momia’ Huaraches from the Mercado Juarez in Aguascalientes.

An Otomi musician from Izcaltepec, Hidalgo.

Similar loosely woven Huaraches can be seen at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.

Photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo famous for her photomontage titled ‘El Sueno De Los Pobres 1‘, took another photo including Huaraches called ‘Aprendiendo’.

Unlike other ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huarache, the Nahuatl design above on the left, does not use a knot to fasten the leather strip beneath the toes, instead the strip is woven into the sole. I have used this detail on my own Running Huaraches Sandals.  The same detail can also be seen on the white ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huarache in the photo below.

‘La Tejidora de Vida – Coleccion de Trajes Mexicanos de la Banca Serfin’ dedicates a few pages to Huaraches and Caites.

The Museum Volkenkunde in Holland, has a good collection of old photos from Mexico. The photo below is from Oaxaca, notice how the woman has no shoes. Traditionally whereas indigenous Mexican men wore Caites or Huaraches, the women were barefoot, even though early Huaraches were homemade. I don’t know why, maybe because women generally stayed close to home and did not walk far.

The accompanying text of ‘El Traje Indigena en Mexico’, by Teresa Castello Yturbide and Carlotta Mapelli Mozzi, INAH 1965, explains how over time richer indigenous women began wearing sandals which they were able to buy at the markets.

The photos below are of a Yaui and a Yaqui from the northern state of Guaymas.

Last but not least famous anthropologist and photographer Ruth Lechuga took some spectacular photos  of the week-long Cora Easter festivity called ‘La Judea’.


5 Comments on “Traditional Huaraches From Books and Museums”

  1. Pat Reynolds says:

    Thanks so much for all your research. You have spent much time to show so many designs and I really appreciate your efforts. I will keep reading if you keep writing about such a fascinating subject.

    • huaracheblog says:

      Hello Pat, thank you for your kind words. Messages of gratitude and common interest from readers are like added wind in my sails.

      Huarache Blog is a personal and unfunded project, its main aim to create awareness and demand for this fascinating craft and tradition through the vast channels of the internet. Trying to change the course of evolution is ambitious, as there are so many factors which are determining the decline of Huarache craft and who knows what will eventually result?

      But because learning about Huaraches is also stimulating, I also hope that Huarache history, traditions and designs can inspire others as they inspire me.

      For as long as I can create awareness, be educated and inform about Huaraches I will keep writing.

      Because crafts can also reveal wholesome perspectives on life.

      Thanks again.

  2. I liked to see hyaraches used wirh calcetines. Is a nice combination.

  3. Vicky says:

    Can you still buy traditional huaraches men’s dancing shoes with a heel?


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