A Statement on Rebozos

posted in: Announcements | 7

Babywearing International has been eagerly following recent conversations in the babywearing community around the world regarding the use of the term “rebozo” in babywearing education.
A rebozo is “A fringed shawl that is a traditional female garment in Mesoamerican* culture, used for a variety of purposes including labor/childbirth support, goods carrier, and baby carrier.” (from Glossary of  Babywearing Terms). Rebozos are often handwoven fabrics passed down through families and imbued with great significance. From the 1960’s through the 1980’s, as babywearing became popular in Western parenting, many traditional carriers were observed, copied, modified, and commercialized by companies in Europe and the United States. In Germany, imported rebozo shawls from Mexico and Central America inspired the start of the Didymos woven wrap company. In English language usage, the word “rebozo” came to mean many things which were not in fact rebozos, including shorter length wraps, wraps tied at the shoulder, and a wrap pass going from the caregiver’s shoulder to under the arm without passing between the child’s legs.
In recent weeks, many babywearers have begun discussing and actively trying to correct this usage. There have been excellent conversations in the Facebook Groups CCBW Reviews and Base Love regarding the use of the term “rebozo” and possible alternatives. This has also led to a campaign known as #TakeBackTheRebozo in which babywearers of Mesoamerican* heritage have been exploring their connections to the rebozo through personal heritage. For many caregivers, wearing a baby in a rebozo is a way of participating in the living history of parenting in their own families and celebrating a cultural tradition passed down through the generations. For others, it is a way of reconnecting with a history that was interrupted or lost.
Babywearing International strongly supports these efforts to correct the use of the word “rebozo” in the babywearing community. We recognize the impact of cultural appropriation on the use of this term and support a move towards terminology that appreciates and celebrates rather than appropriates and erases. We also recognize that finding new terminology is both a challenge and an ongoing journey. Babywearing International would like to engage in ongoing conversations regarding these terms. As consensus develops within the babywearing community, we will update the language in all of our educational materials and sodapdf documents.

We want to say a huge thank you to the Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee members who drafted this statement which is fully supported by the board of directors.

-Babywearing International

*We first published this article with incorrect information. We had said Latin America/Latinx instead of Mesoamerican. We are sorry for this error. Rebozo is specific to Mesoamerican culture and Mesoamerican decedents.

7 Responses

  1. Jen

    While I agree that the cultural appropriation of the term rebozo needs to be rectified, I don’t think that the currently suggested “traditional sling carry” is suitable either. First, it’s too ambiguous as many manufacturers use the term sling as an umbrella term for all styles of carriers. Second, it implies, although I’m certain this isn’t the purpose, that THE traditional style of sling is the rebozo. A manta is a traditional sling. A selendang is a traditional sling. An ulipakaaq is a traditional sling. I think it needs to be re-examined.

    • Kat Sniffen

      Thanks for responding! BWI feels that the conversation is still ongoing, and thus has not yet updated our resources. We’re looking forward to seeing what the community decides with input from babywearers of all traditions, so that clarity is maintained but everyone is respected.

  2. julie

    Not sure, but “Meso-American inspired styled carry,” might be helpful to describe the specific carry the traditional rebozo uses and that we may learn from. And could “traditional rebozo,” be used to signify those wearers who are using a sling connected with lineage and cultural heritage as opposed to “woven wrap,” for fabric pieces that are just that? Like many, I appreciate the dialogue and am always pleased when we as humans raise awareness and strive to show fellow people’s and cultures respect and caring!

  3. julie

    Hi, I meant to write, “Meso-American inspired carry,” without the word “styled.”
    Thank you