Cultural appropriation: Mexican Minister of Culture challenges fashion chains like Zara

Alejandra Frausto Guerrero managed to score a phased victory in her fight for justice last November: French fashion brand Isabel Marant sent a letter of apology to the Mexican Minister of Culture: Should the house of Isabel Marant, and then its founder, show a lack of respect for the Purépecha community or Mexico They have shown, as stated in the letter, that they are offering our “sincerest apologies”. Among other things, it was a woolen coat, decorated with clear, original patterns of the ethnic group living in the state of Michoacan.

Since being hired by the pragmatic left-wing president of Mexico Obrador in 2018, Frausto Guerrero has challenged world fashion chains, including Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera and Mango, with letters to be more considerate when designing their mass-produced goods when dealing with floral patterns. Or geometric shapes based on the cultural products of one or more of Mexico’s many indigenous groups.

Now Frausto Guerrero has once again written an armored letter, this time to the Spanish Zara series, also known and popular in Germany, as well as the American brands Anthropologie and Patowl. As examples of the unwanted use and customization of Aboriginal styles, she mentioned in her post, among other things, a mid-length Zara dress and belt embroidered with so-called Huipil flowers, but also embroidered shorts and shirts printed with elements of the Mixtec and Zapotec cultures.

In the message That was sent on May 13thOn Friday, her ministry said, Frausto Guerrero is calling for a public statement by the three companies to seize the “common property” of various indigenous peoples and proposals to compensate them. Fraustow advocates fair trade and equal treatment of original innovators, entrepreneurs and designers.

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So it’s not just about the moral claim to prevent cultural appropriation for the purpose of marketing inexpensive costumes or expensive designer pieces, it’s also about money: Mexican authors of floral patterns and stripes, which are often handcrafted, must be involved in the international indigenous arts business. . For example, the traditional Huipils family of politicians and attorneys, woven by women in Colorado and Oaxaca in a hip loom, reflects ancestral symbols, “relating to the environment, history, and cosmic vision of society.” It takes at least a month to produce these patterns.

Designed by Mixe personnel from Santa Maria Tlahawitultepec, also in the state of Oaxaca, and identified by Frausto Guerrero on Anthropologie shorts, are “a manifestation of their identity, their history and their relationship to the environment” and symbolize, for example, mountains, water or paths. “They are the product of the creativity of this people, which they pass on from generation to generation; their bearers wear them with pride, as the deepest expression of their culture.”

Frausto Guerrero wants to make these stories visible and invoke relevant UN resolutions on the protection of cultural rights and inheritors. For them, it is a matter of “moral considerations,” insisting on “protecting the rights of indigenous peoples” and discussing it publicly, she writes. Its messages are “part of the measures taken by the Mexican Ministry of Culture to protect the cultural heritage of indigenous communities in order to prevent national and transnational corporations from stealing elements of their identity”.

So far there has been no reaction from Zara, Anthropology, or Patol.

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