Valladolid has been known as a convenient overnight stop when touring someplace more famous, like Chichen Itza. Now it’s also the home of Museo de Ropa Etnica de Mexico (MUREM), which celebrates the country’s culture by way of its traditional clothing.
A story about the museum was just published in The Washington Post, excellent exposure for such a modest but earnest enterprise.
The nonprofit museum’s founder and director, Tey Mariana Stiteler, was raised by her Mexican mother in the outskirts of Pittsburgh. The now-91-year-old Angeles López-Portillo de Stiteler organized yearly cultural fairs to introduce students to the foods and traditions of her native land.
After retiring, she moved down to Valladolid.
“My mother and I drove down, passing though 22 states. Valladolid was love at first sight, and the very first night in my hotel bed, I thought that I wanted to make it a permanent relationship,” Stiteler told a freelance writer assigned by the Post.
This past winter, she launched MUREM in a traditional colonial building near Valladolid’s public square.
“I was planning a one-time exhibition,” she said. She intended to display a selection of ethnic Mexican clothing from the personal collection of Dorianne Venator, one of the owners of the Casa de los Venados, a private home and museum with a large collection of Mexican folk art.
The exhibition, a fundraiser for the Valladolid English Library, was delayed for almost two years and eventually canceled because of planning complications. “But by then, Stiteler had been bitten by the collecting bug,” writes the Post. The result was this museum, with a collection of more than 90 complete outfits representing 25 ethnic groups from 16 states.
In Mexico, the woman’s indigenous clothing was said to have influenced a folkloric style that became popular throughout central Mexico. Following the Mexican Revolution, the dress — featuring an open-necked white blouse accented with embroidery or beadwork, a red and green skirt decorated with sequins, a rebozo (long, wide, fringed shawl), and strings of beads around the neck — became a national symbol for the new country and its red, white and green flag.
Garments from the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche share a stage. When possible, Stiteler pairs older and newer clothing from the same ethnic group or region so visitors can see elements that remain over decades, such as the square necks and embroidered flowers on the blouses and dresses in the Yucatán.
An antique Singer sewing machine references the transition to machine work around 1918, when the company introduced them in Merida and taught women how to use them.
Singer sewing machine shops are prevalent in Merida today.