What Is a Sarape? Examples of Latin American Garments (2023)


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What Is a Sarape? Examples of Latin American Garments (1)

Diane Goettel

Diane Goettel Last Modified Date: April 28, 2023

A sarape is a colorful item of clothing that is worn by peoples in South America, Central America, and Mexico. Not to be confused with ponchos, sarapes are long rectangular garments that can be wrapped around the body much like a shawl for protection against cold and other natural elements. The garments were originally made in Coahuila, which is in north-eastern Mexico.

Coahuila is near the city of Saltillo. Textiles are still created in the Saltillo region today. The descendants of many of the people in Saltillo trace back to the early Chichimecs, a people who migrated from the Casa Grande area of Northern Mexico to central Mexico.

Sarape are popular with people who live in Mexico.

Sarapes that are made in this area are often referred to Saltillo sarapes. Textiles from this region are often designed with bright bands of color such as yellow, orange, red, or green, against a dark field such as brown or black. There are, however, sarapes that are made in lighter palates with white or cream fields and pastel bands. Like many shawls, the ends of sarapes are often fringed.

(Video) Latin American Serape

Mexican and Guatemalan sarapes are made in myriad patterns and colors.

Sarapes have been made for many generations and they are still produced today. Sarapes of many different designs and qualities can be purchased in today’s market. In the main, they are sold in the Southwestern United States, or to shops dedicated to this region of the world. They may also be imported. Discerning buyers may seek out vintage sarapes. A vintage sarape may be interesting to a collector because of the craftsmanship or specific design evident in the garment.

A sarape is a colorful item of clothing commonly worn in Central America.

Although the term sarape is meant to refer to a shawl, not a poncho, the term is used differently in Guatemala. In Guatemala, sarape is used to define a garment much like a poncho. In this country, sarapes are heavy wool blankets that have an opening in the center. The wearer inserts his head through the opening and wears the Guatemalan sarape as a poncho. Some Guatemalan sarapes are created with matching hoods to cover one’s head. In general, a sarape is long enough to reach the knees of a person of average height.

Although the color palates are often the similar in Guatemalan sarapes as Saltillo sarapes, the designs within the fabric are quite different. Furthermore, the use of bright colors in Guatemala sarapes is less common. Design patterns in Guatemalan sarapes are large and often incorporate Mayan motifs rather than simply bands of color. Guatemalan sarapes are generally handmade by women in the communities who use personal looms to create the garments. Then a broker, often a member of the community, takes the garments to local markets.

A sarape is only one of many different garments that are traditionally associated with Latin America. Some of these other clothes are also made of a single piece of fabric that is usually worn as a shawl, but they are distinguished from sarapes by size, cultural origin, or the method of wearing.

What is a Rebozo?

A rebozo is a fringed, patterned Mexican garment traditionally worn by women. A rebozo can be worn around the torse like a shawl, draped over the head, or even used to carry a baby on one’s back. Modern rebozos can be made from cotton, wool, silk, or synthetic materials; their colors and patterns vary greatly and can often be traced to specific parts of Mexico.

What Is a Poncho?

A poncho is a traditional Latin American cloak that is thought to have originated in the Andes Mountains. Ponchos are usually a single sheet of fabric with an opening for the head; they rest on the shoulders and keep the torso warm. Many also have hoods. As with sarapes, ponchos are traditionally handwoven and colors and designs vary from place to place. Some of the oldest ponchos discovered (in Peru) have elaborate embroidery depicting birds, monkeys, and other animals. Ponchos have been adopted and adapted by many cultures. Today the most familiar form in the US is probably a plastic rain poncho which usually has sleeves and closed sides; the US military has its own standard-issue ponchos. Ponchos made from many types of fabric are popular fashion accessories around the world.

(Video) Mexican Blankets: 5 Fast Facts

What Is a Lliklla?

A lliklla is also a woven garment that originated in Latin America and drapes over the shoulders, but it is smaller than a poncho or a sarape and is held in place by pinning the edges together at the upper chest. It was developed by the Quechua people of the Andes and is traditionally worn by women.

What is a Huipil?

A huipil is a traditional garment worn by indigenous women throughout Mexico and Central America. A huipil consists of up to five rectangular pieces of cloth connected by ribbons or decorative stitching. A huipil is designed to fit very loosely and can be anywhere from waist-length to ankle-length. Huipils were invented well before the arrival of Europeans and their colors, embroidery, and other embellishments can vary considerably between areas. Traditionally they are made from handwoven cotton, but huipils sometimes use silk or wool instead.

What is a Guayabera?

A guayabera is a lightweight long- or short-sleeved shirt popular in many parts of Latin America. Guayaberas have verticle rows of very small pleats on both the front and back and either two or four pockets. Although the color and cuffs are similar to those on button-down dress shirts, guayaberas have a looser fit and are not tucked into the waistband.

What Is a Sombrero?

For Americans, the term “sombrero” usually refers to a wide-brimmed hat with a pointed crown and a chin strap that has historically been popular in Mexico, especially with cowboys. This type of sombrero can be made of straw or felt and is often worn by mariachi musicians as well. In Spanish, however, the term refers to any broad-brimmed hat worn to protect one’s face and neck from the sun (in fact the term “sombrero” comes from the Spanish word “sombra,” which means “shadow”). Different versions of sombreros are worn in various parts of Latin America and Spain.

What Is a Panama Hat?

A Panama hat is a lightweight brimmed hat woven from straw made from the leaves of the toquilla palm. Panama hats are often worn with summer suits and usually have a band at the base of the crown that can be either the same or a contrasting color as the rest of the hat. Although this type of hat became associated with Panama during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it actually originated in Ecuador. Today real Panama hats are still woven by hand and can be quite expensive. The best are generally considered to come from the Ecuadorian town of Montecristi.

What Is a Chullo?

A chullo is a woven hat traditionally made from alpaca or similar wool; it originated in the Andes Mountains, possibly with some influence from Spanish colonists. Unlike some other styles, chullos have earflaps.

What are Huaraches?

Huaraches are woven Mexican sandals developed before the arrival of Europeans. Traditionally they are made entirely of leather, although later versions sometimes have soles made from wood or woven string. Huaraches became popular in the US during the 1960s and today various versions are sold throughout North and South America, but traditional huaraches must be handmade and include woven leather.

What Is a Sarape? Examples of Latin American Garments (6)
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for CulturalWorld, Diane is the executive editor ofBlack Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited severalanthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College andan M.A. from Brooklyn College.

What Is a Sarape? Examples of Latin American Garments (7)
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for CulturalWorld, Diane is the executive editor ofBlack Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited severalanthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College andan M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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(Video) The history, techniques, traditions, and contemporary expressions of the Saltillo sarape

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Discussion Comments


Could someone tell me when the sarape was first worn? Like the year?


I think it's neat that women in Guatemala are still able to make and sell sarapes from their homes. I feel like there aren't that many options for people to participate in cottage industry anymore, so it's cool this option still exists.

I think it must be nice for the people who purchase the sarapes too. I know I feel like a garment is a lot more valuable when it is handmade! I only hope the price reflects the fact that the sarape is handmade and the women get a fair wage.


@indemnifyme - You're right that sarapes do look good on some people. I have a good friend who favors bright colors. She went to South America and came back with a Saltillo sarape.

She wears it all the time, even though sarapes aren't exactly in style here on the East Coast. It looks really good on her though, maybe because I'm used to seeing her in bright colors. However, I don't know that I would be able to pull off something so eye catching!

I will say though, I am hoping ponchos or shawls come back in style sometime soon. They are so comfy and warm, sometimes I do envy my friend and her sarape just a little bit.


I'm always amazed at the different styles of shawls that have evolved in different places in the world. For example, in the United Kingdom, there's a tradition of triangular lace shawls made of wool. These shawls keep you warm too, much like a sarape blanket, but look much different!

(Video) Mexican Blankets: How to Identify and Date Classic Mexican Saltillo Serape Blankets

I guess if I had to choose which to wear, I would probably go with a triangle shawl. A brightly colored sarape wouldn't really suit me, I don't think. However, I have seen women wearing sarapes before, and they definitely look flattering on some people!


@burcinc-- Sarapes Mexicanos can be in poncho style too. But the design is the same as Saltillo sarapes unlike the Guatemalan ones. The Guatemalan sarapes are really gorgeous too though.

The best part about sarapes is that they are almost always hand woven. It's something that someone has put a lot of effort into and I really appreciate that.

A few clothing stores have started picking up the design of a traditional sarape to make scarves and shawls for women. These are not hand made though and the fabrics are different, often synthetic. I prefer the original ones that are imported from South America.


@burcidi-- I think you might be referring to a sarape Mexicano. There is no rule that a sarape has to be triangle in shape. But usually it is very wide so that it can be wrapped around. It's pretty similar to the Indian use of shawls in that way. (Indians from Southeast Asia, not Native Americans).

Sometimes though, sarape Mexicano is smaller in width and is meant to just be wrapped around the neck. I have many Mexican friends and during our graduation, they all wore special designed and embroidered sarapes as sashes. It's their way of representing their heritage and I think it's great.

I also have a sarape that my friend gifted me. It's blue with lots of striped colors in the center. I wear it in winter when I want a flash of color with my outfit. It looks really nice.


The sarapes I've seen until now were actually more like scarves than shawls. It was just a long and thin woven fabric with really bright colors and fringes at the end.

I haven't been to South America but there are a lot of Hispanics at my college and I have seen a few wear a sarape during international events on campus. I've also seen them on sale at various fairs and markets.

Did I see something else and assume that it was a sarape I wonder? Or does a specific country or region use sarape scarves instead of shawls?

(Video) Mexican Sarape blanket Paint Job Live

Post your comments


    What Is a Sarape? Examples of Latin American Garments? ›

    The sarape is a blanket-style shawl that is similar in appearance to a poncho. It is commonly worn by men in rural areas and was extremely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    What's a sarape? ›

    Sarape and poncho are Spanish terms used by scholars and collectors for blankets woven as a vertical rectangle on the loom. Navajos adopted this format in part from the blanket weaving tradition established in the 1700s in Saltillo, Mexico.

    What are Mexican serapes? ›

    Serapes, highly prized prestige items of clothing in Mexican society because of their fine weave, striking colors, and harmony of design, were very popular among riders of horses because of the suitability for life on horseback. Painters of the time depict vaqueros (cowboys) and horsemen wearing this colorful garment.

    Who wears Sarapes? ›

    The serape or jorongo is a long blanket-like shawl/cloak, often brightly colored and fringed at the ends, worn in Mexico, especially by men. The spelling of the word sarape (or zarape) is the accepted form in Mexico and in other Spanish-speaking countries.

    What is a sarape made of? ›

    From the early 1800s, through the early 1900s, the hand-woven wool serapes were most common, but by the 1930s, the machine-woven serape had become the norm. Today, most serapes are made using synthetic acrylic and cotton materials.

    How is a serape worn? ›

    A Serape is a long blanket, worn as a cloak. The serape is almost square in shape, but much larger than the shawl. Wear it by draping it over the shoulders and wrapping it around, like a scarf. Choose between pure new wool or cashmere and show off your heritage in style.

    Why do people wear serape? ›

    As a long rectangular garments or piece of clothing, serapes would be wrapped around the body much like a shawl or blanket for protection against cold and the environment.

    What is the history of the Mexican sarape? ›

    The sarape may have evolved from the Spanish cape or capa, a large overcoat with an open front and often a hood. Alternatively, it may have evolved from the Aztec tilma, a poncho-like garment tied at the shoulder, depicted in painted codices from the 1640s.

    What is a Mexican shawl called? ›

    The rebozo is a powerful symbol of Mexican culture and national identity. Delicately hand woven, the rebozo is a shawl-like garment that represents Mexico's rich heritage and weaving traditions established over hundreds of years.

    What are Mexican shawls called? ›

    A rebozo is a long flat garment, very similar to a shawl, worn mostly by women in Mexico. It can be worn in various ways, usually folded or wrapped around the head and/or upper body to shade from the sun, provide warmth and as an accessory to an outfit.

    Where did sarape originate? ›

    Origins. The sarape was worn in the Contla region of Mexico. It was during the colonial period when Spanish conquistadors were exploring South and Central America that it was brought over to New Spain, where the sarape was adapted to meet the climate, and the design style was changed.

    Can anyone wear a serape stole? ›

    Considering that a stole can represent any major, all four-year college graduates technically qualify to wear a graduation stole at their ceremony. Members of Greek society are also identified by the unique stoles of their fraternities and sororities.

    What is a synonym for serape? ›

    cloth, scarf, stole, cape, fichu, manta, mantle, tallith, maud.

    Can you wash a sarape? ›

    What are the recommended care instructions? You can machine-wash the blankets on delicate, or if the washer has a blanket/sheets setting, that will work too. Wash on cold temperature to reduce shrinking. We recommend hang drying, but you can tumble on low heat without any problem.

    What are the characteristics of serapes? ›

    Serapes are usually made with two rectangular canvases, decorated with geometric motifs of colorful figures, the two pieces seamed joined, with an opening in the middle of the two canvases, where the owner introduces its head.

    Where does the meaning serape come from? ›

    serape (n.)

    also sarape, type of shawl for men in Spanish-American regions, often of bright colors, 1834, from Mexican Spanish sarape, which probably is from an indigenous Mexican language, but there is no similar word and no -r- sound in Nahuatl.

    What is the difference between a poncho and a sarape? ›

    Main Takeaway:Serapes and ponchos are traditional Mexican garments with distinct features; serapes typically come in brightly colored wool or cotton and cover the shoulders, while ponchos have an opening at one end for your head to slip through.

    Why do Hispanics wear ponchos? ›

    The Mexican poncho has two distinct styles: Although the poncho was previously a traditional clothing item born out of the necessity to keep warm and protect the body from harsh weather conditions while still having the freedom of movement to continue working comfortably, it is now more frequently worn as a fashion ...

    What a Mexican gown is called? ›

    The huipil

    Worn by women in many regions of Mexico and Guatemala, it evolved over two thousand years ago. If the huipil is made on the backstrap loom, various textures and designs are created in the cloth as it is woven; bought cloth may be decorated with embroidery, or oversewn with lace, braid and ribbons.

    What is a sarape sash? ›

    A sarape sash is a type of graduation stole that features beautiful Mexican-inspired colorful patterns. When it comes to purchasing a sarape sash for your graduation ceremony, the best place to purchase it is right here at sarapesashes.com.

    What is the concept of serape effect? ›

    There are a group of muscles, in the body, that attach together by fascia forming the same shape of the serape . These muscles when working together create a give a high force during ballistic motions, such as throwing or kicking. That is why the power they generate is known as the serape effect.

    What does a sarape look like? ›

    The sarape is a long blanket-like shawl, often brightly colored and fringed at the ends, worn in Mexico, especially by men.

    What do Mexicans call wraps? ›

    A tortilla is a thin, pliable flatbread used as a wrap in Mexican cuisine. They are typically made using corn or wheat flour.

    What are Spanish scarves called? ›

    Flamenco shawls, also known as “mantoncillos” or “picos”, are the most traditional accessories for flamenco dresses. It is worn over the shoulders and it is hold by a brooch in the front. In the past, they were bigger and their fabrics were thicker and heavier.

    What are Mexican covers called? ›

    Sarape Blanket

    Probably the most common and popular style of Mexican blanket, the sarape or serape is iconically Mexican. The sarape blanket is a colourful striped blanket available in a huge range of colours.

    What is the history of the Mexican shawl? ›

    The history of the rebozo goes back to pre-Columbian times, when it was worn by the indigenous people of Mexico. The word "rebozo" comes from the Spanish word "rebozar," which means "to wrap." Over time, the rebozo became a symbol of Mexican culture and was adopted by women of all social classes.

    What culture wears shawls? ›

    However, they became part of folk dress in a number of places including Germany, the Near East, various parts of Latin America, and Spain where they became a part of Romani (gitana) dress especially in Andalusia and Madrid. These embroidered items were revived in the 1920s under the name of Spanish shawls.

    What culture are shawls from? ›

    Traditionally in India, both men and women wore shawls. The style depended on the embroidery: if the shawl has patterns all over, it would be draped over the shoulders or wrapped around the body. If only the borders are woven or embroidered, it would be worn around the neck like a scarf, or tied around the waist.

    Why are Mexican blankets so warm? ›

    These blankets have the highest amount of padding of any blanket, making them extra warm and comfy. They are great for yoga practitioners who prefer extra cushioning and prefer practicing flexibility on thicker blankets.

    What are Mexican tiger blankets made of? ›

    A San Marcos cobija, or blanket, is easy to spot. It is cut from a thick acrylic that outclasses fleece in both weight and warmth, and printed with blooming pink roses, snarling tiger heads, and other fantastic, deliberately tacky graphics.

    Do ponchos come from Mexico? ›

    The poncho was one of the typical clothes of many South American and Mexican cultures. Although investigations have concluded that its origins could be Mexico, Ecuador or Peru, it is not known where the first ponchos were made. The poncho is now commonly associated with the Americas.

    What does a white stole mean? ›

    White. Traditionally represents degrees in the arts and humanities, including majors in English, history, and literature. Drab (or beige). Represents business degrees, including accounting and labor relations. Maize.

    How many honor cords can you wear? ›

    Honor Cords - An Honor Cord is a token consisting of twisted cords with tassels on either end. Their wearing signifies specific academic achievement or membership in a recognized academic honor group or society. By tradition, more than one cord may be worn at the same time.

    How do you hang a serape? ›

    Hang a serape on a wall hook or coat rack to create a rustic wall accent. Use small finishing nails in the top corners to hang a serape as a wall tapestry. Alternatively, you can attach it with self-adhesive hook and loop tape.

    What is a fancy word for old clothes? ›

    What is another word for old clothes?
    torn clothestorn clothing
    tattered clothestattered clothing

    What is another word for a Pancho? ›

    synonyms for poncho

    On this page you'll find 10 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to poncho, such as: cape, capote, coat, mantle, raincoat, and shawl.

    What is a word for old fashion? ›

    1 outmoded, obsolete.

    Can you put Mexican blankets in the dryer? ›

    Drying. If the blankets unfold during washing, refold them in half again before placing them in the dryer. Depending on your dryer, dry on medium heat for about 15 minutes. They should still be slightly damp when you pull them out of the dryer.

    Can you put a Mexican poncho in the dryer? ›

    DRYING: Air drying will allow your ponchos to last the longest. Tumble drying on a medium heat will give your ponchos the softest finish.

    How do you clean a Mexican serape? ›

    Mexican blankets go through a particular curing process with age. During the first wash you can use a washing machine but make sure that you use cold water and a gentle cycle. Make sure you wash your Mexican blanket by itself as lint release during the first wash is typical. Hang dry.

    What is the history of Saltillo blankets? ›

    In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Saltillo sarape served as a visible emblem of wealth and position for Mexican landowners. Saltillo sarapes were widely traded throughout Mexico and made lasting impressions on a number of other textile traditions.

    What does poncho mean in Mexico? ›

    It is often used pejoratively to describe a Mexican expatriate or a person of Mexican ancestry who lacks fluency or the ability to speak in Spanish and knowledge of Mexican culture.

    How do you pronounce the word sarape? ›

    noun, plural sa·ra·pes [suh-rah-peez; Spanish sah-rah-pes].

    What are blankets from Mexico called? ›

    Sarape Blanket

    Probably the most common and popular style of Mexican blanket, the sarape or serape is iconically Mexican.

    What is a Hispanic poncho called? ›

    The name poncho is used worldwide but, in Mexico, it is also known as a “gabán,” in Brazil, “paia,” and in Chile, “chamanto.” The longer ponchos called “jorongos,” are often worn by the South American chalán, or horseman.

    What is the difference between a cape and a serape? ›

    The serapes wrap around the body like a shawl, whereas the capes are seamed with an opening at the top.

    What is the synonym of sarape? ›

    cloth, scarf, stole, cape, fichu, manta, mantle, tallith, maud.

    Why are Mexican blankets so good? ›

    Mexican blankets cover more space than towels, so multiple people can use on them. Also, because of their material and weight, Mexican blankets won't blow away easily in the breeze.

    What is a Guatemalan poncho called? ›

    A huipil can vary in length from a short blouse to a garment long enough to reach the floor. The style of traditional huipils generally indicates the ethnicity and community of the wearer as each has its own methods of creating the fabric and decorations.

    What is a Mexican hoodie called in Spanish? ›

    A Baja jacket (also known as a Mexican Baja hoodie, Baja sweatshirt, or drug rug) is a type of Mexican jacket with a single large pocket on the front, and vents on the side.


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