Huarache or Kwarachi ?
So many of you love our Huaraches, and maybe if you are like me. Your earliest memories of Huaraches is when you traveled to Mexico during the summer as a little niña. You remember everyone in the rancho wearing Huaraches, But they were never made in your size, because of my big pie. Or maybe you saw them strolling through the mercado and you were so mesmerized by their beautiful vibrant colors that you had to get a pair for yourself. Can you honestly say you know the history or the origins of our beloved huaraches? To be quite honest, I never knew the origins or how they are made so I decided to do some research and learn more about them. A task that I thought was going to be quite easy. I told myself “just google it”! but since most of our culture was not documented properly it was a lot harder than what I thought.
We are going to start off with the word Huaraches or Kwarachi as they are originally called in the indigenous language of Purépecha. Purépecha is a language that was spoken in the Pre-Columbian state of Tarascan, which is present day Michoacán, Guanajuato (where I am from), Guerrero, Querétaro, Colima and Jalisco. An interesting fact about the Tarascan's is that they were actually archenemies with the Aztecs. How cool is it to know that there were other great civilizations than the Aztecs or Mayans? Many people believe that the Huaraches originated in Tarascan. Today they are handmade throughout Mexico, but states like Michoacán and Jalisco dominate the handmade productions of Huaraches. The original Huarache was made with untanned deer leather, but when the Spaniards conquered Mexico and introduced cattle into the mix. The Huaraches were then made with light-colored cow leather. The original design was “Pata de Gallo” and was easily made by the wearer. Huaraches are primarily associated with farmworkers in rural areas and they were made to withstand long journeys or working long hours in hot weather.
The modern Huarache is much more complex than the original one. The weaving has turned into an art form and the cow leather is dyed into various colors making the Huarache a more stylish sandal. The sole can be made from leather or even recycled tires. The process is quite long and has various steps, yet they continue to have something in common with their ancestor. They are very breathable and durable. Perfect for hot weather and if you live in a hot state like how I live in Florida where it is perfect to wear Huaraches year-round. Huaraches were actually made popular in the U.S.A during the 1960’s by hippies and surfers. They were even in the lyrics to the song Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys. Since then, Huaraches were commercialized, and even Nike named one of the sneakers after the original Huaraches. Even though they are commercialized, many artisanal families in Mexico have continued the traditional craftsmanship of making handmade Huaraches to help them support their families. They continue to carry on our beautiful Mexican culture and stay true to our original roots. So, the next time you order one of our beloved handmade Huaraches think about the history and the people who work hard to create such stunning masterpiece.