Apocalypto – A Motion Picture Insight into Pre-Hispanic Footwear

Even though most Hollywood movies have a thick layer of gloss and fabricated information to enhance the viewer experience, because of its big budget I was expecting some interesting visual information about Mayan pre-Hispanic footwear from Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

And despite some negative press, the  movie did not disappoint.

Below are a series of stills I collected from the movie Apocalypto showing the some of the various footwear designs.

In accordance to pre-Hispanic Mayan culture, footwear for Apocalypto was designed to be different for every class of Mayan.

The indigenous people in Apocalypto wore plaited ixtle fibre sandals called ‘Cacles’, which are very similar to sandals still is worn by Nahua women in Hueyapan, Morelos.

However although ‘Cacles’ are well documented pre-hispanic sandals, I’m doubtful that indigenous tribal people living in a soft, cool and wet jungle environment would be wearing them.

Below is the same pre-Hispanic Ixtle sandal design still sold in Hueyapan and made in nearby San Felipe, Morelos. Situated at the feet of the Popocatépetl volcano, Hueyapan has a much drier environment.

The city people in Apocalypto wore a mix of ixtle and  leather sandals depending on status. Leather Mayan sandals were usually made from untanned deer leather.

The warriors in Apocalypto wore leather sandals.

The sandals of Mayan warriors were often made from jaguar skin. This mural in Tlaxcala, although not Mayan is considered to have a strong Mayan influence and also shows this detail.

Nobles in Apocalypto wore coloured and styled leather sandals.

Historical research also states that the sandals of noble Mayans were also made with coloured cotton heel patches and decorated with feathers.

Designed by Mexican costume designer Mayes Rubeo (also costume designer for Avatar and John Carter) the footwear in Apocalypto appeared researched and thoughtfully designed. Especially considering that typical costume design focuses more on clothes than on footwear and that much more is known about Aztec footwear than Mayan.


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