Hidalgo will protect Mexican artisans from plagiarism

In the past, international fashion brands have plagiarized the work of Mexican artisans

Hidalgo will protect Mexican artisans from plagiarism
Tenango de Doria is one of the poorest regions in Hidalgo, where artisans produce their art to make a living - Photo: Ivan Stephens/EL UNIVERSAL
English 04/08/2020 14:19 Dinorath Mota / Corresponsal Hidalgo Actualizada 14:28
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Hidalgo’s local Congress approved a bill to declare April 8 as the Tenango Day and to also declare Tenango de Doria home to the traditional and colorful embroideries. With this, the local government aims to protect the artisans from resellers, plagiarism, and counterfeit products from China.

The local Congress approved the bill last week.

In the past, international fashion brands such as Carolina Herrera, Louis Vuitton, Zara, Mango, and others have plagiarized the work of Mexican artisans.

Aldo Molina Santos, the Tenango de Doria mayor, said the Mexican artisans who keep the traditional embroideries don’t receive protection and that international designers, artists, editors, and large companies take advantage of the situation. Molina Santos added that many companies have appropriated the embroideries produced in Tenango de Doria. 

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Tenango de Doria is one of the poorest regions in Hidalgo, where artisans produce their art to make a living.
 
However, the mayor explained that the artisans not only face plagiarism and Chinese counterfeit but also intermediaries who purchase their embroideries at a low price and then resell it, making thousands in profits.
 
He indicated that 70% of the embroideries are sold by intermediaries, and only 30% are directly sold by the artisans.
 
The Tenango de Doria mayor said people from other countries like Brazil, Germany, or the U.S. arrive at the community with fabrics and designs, they then hire the artisans to do the embroidery.

With the new law, Mexican artisans from Tenango de Doria will have legal rights over their art.

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Tenangos de Doria

These fantastic and colorful embroideries originated in the Tenango de Doria, and other nearby communities, in the state of Hidalgo.

The embroidery of Tenangos has become a tradition that is inherited from generation to generation. And although most people can embroider, very few artisans draw the fantastic creatures. The majority of the pieces, including tablecloths, table runners, pillows, clothing items, backpacks, and other objects, feature fantastic animals, flowers, plants, and sacred motifs and can take months to complete.

Cultural appropriation

In recent years, Mexican artisans and authorities have accused international brands such as Carolina Herrera and Louis Vuitton of plagiarism and cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has been affecting indigenous communities in Mexico for some time but it seems to have worsened in recent years.

But what is cultural appropriation? According to the Oxford Dictionary, cultural appropriation is “a term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.”

In short, cultural appropriation is when a dominant group steals and exploits cultural elements from a marginalized group. It is an unethical practice because it harms the communities.

In the case of Mexico, cultural appropriation is worrying for several reasons:

1. Powerful brands are appropriating cultural heritage from Indigenous artisans

2. These brands profit from Mexican artisans' labor while the artisans live in poverty

3. The communities and artisans are not acknowledged

4. Indigenous artisans do not have the same financial resources, tools, public relations, and platforms as international brands; artisans are at a disadvantage.

Carolina Herrera & Louis Vuitton

Last year, two plagiarism and cultural appropriation cases sparked controversy and debate in Mexico and the fashion industry: Carolina Herrera and Louis Vuitton.

Although some people argue and praise these brands for “paying homage” to Mexico and its culture, the truth is that these brands have been using intellectual property that belongs to specific communities in Mexico, without recognizing their culture, traditions, and labor. Moreover, by appropriating embroideries such as Tenangos, Louis Vuitton and Carolina Herrera produce high-end products that sell for thousands of dollars while Mexican artisans live in poverty.

Furthermore, as outsiders, these brands erase all trace of sacredness from these motifs and instead transform them into mere decorative elements. Such elements then lose all meaning at the hands of foreign designers who disregard Indigenous cultures.

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