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Significant Shawls

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A popular piece of Mexican culture—especially to Mexican women—is finally getting its day in the spotlight at the Tucson Museum of Art.

You may not be familiar with the word "rebozo," but you have most likely come across this popular Mexican garment and have seen it worn by women in the Southwest: Woven from fine silk, cotton or other materials, rebozos are traditional Mexican rectangular shawls with knotted and fringed ends.

Frida Kahlo may be the best-known aficionado of the rebozo; she frequently painted herself wearing the garments, which have been the subject of many Mexican poems and songs.

"If there is anything that is the symbol of Mexico, it is the rebozo," says Latin American Art Patrons representative Michael Weber.

The Latin American Art Patrons, a support organization of the Tucson Museum of Art, is presenting the "Festival de Rebozos, the Beautiful Shawls of Mexico," through Sunday, May 10; the festival includes two special events, one each on Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10.

The Latin American Art Patrons includes about 100 volunteers who are dedicated to the expansion of and education about the Tucson Museum of Art's Latin-American art exhibitions.

"It's a group of people interested in Latin-American art from all aspects," says Weber, who has been a volunteer with the organization for two years and who was introduced to the group by friends. "I thought this was a neat thing to do to get collections for the Tucson Museum of Art."

The mission of the "Festival de Rebozos" is to raise interest and funds for the Latin-American art collection at the museum, which comprises pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial and contemporary periods. Overall, the museum currently holds around 8,000 pieces of art in its permanent collections.

"It's really going to be a chance to come and learn about some Mexican culture that you may not know ... or learn about someone's family history," says Tucson Museum of Art spokeswoman Meredith Hayes, who admits that she didn't quite know what the word "rebozo" meant until she saw a picture of one. "I've seen pictures of women wearing them, and then I was like, 'Oh, yeah,'" she says.

Rebozos date back to the 1500s, and their quality is determined by the fringe and weaving, which can be extremely elaborate, according to Weber. The rebozo is also a textile known for its versatility, as it can be worn as a belt, a headscarf and an accessory for eveningwear.

"They're beautiful and practical, and they're a gorgeous piece of art in Mexico," says Weber.

Hayes agrees that the position rebozos hold in Mexican culture makes them more than just a fashion symbol; they can most definitely be pieces of art. "This isn't a painting you put on the wall; this is a textile with its own history," she says.

Some 150 rebozos will be available for purchase at the festival, and at 6 p.m., Saturday, May 9, the museum will hold an education gala on the history of rebozos in music, poetry and dance. Lupita Murillo of KVOA Channel 4 will emcee the gala, which will include mariachi music and folklorico dancers, as well as a fashion show demonstrating the many ways to wear the rebozo. Tickets are $30.

The Sunday, May 10, event is free, and is especially designed for Mother's Day and families. People can bring in their family rebozos for expert evaluation, and can watch a weaver demonstrate the making of a rebozo. It takes place from noon to 4 p.m.

"I encourage people to come down. ... It's a great family activity, and who doesn't love fashion?" says Hayes.

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