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Who lays claim to the Guayabera? Dominican exhibit seeks to settle the debate

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The guayabera is the focus of an exhibit in the Dominican Republic. Photo: Courtesy

The guayabera is Yucatecan as cochinita pipil, but other regions also hold claim on the iconic tropical shirt.

The Dominican origin of the guayabera — popularized by acclaimed Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez — is being asserted in a photo exhibition on the island.

One of the most widespread notions about the guayabera, which is made of light fabrics such as linen or cotton, is that the name stems from the habit of Cuban peasants of stashing guavas (“guayaba” in Spanish) inside the shirt’s wide pockets.

Although Cuba – whose government declared the shirt the official garment for use at diplomatic and state events in 2010 – claims to be its birthplace, Dominicans tell a different story.

Folklorists and historians allege that the chabacana – as it is known in the Dominican Republic – was first made in the southeastern Dominican city of Bani as a lighter, cooler take on the traditional military shirt.

According to Francisco Rodriguez, president of the Dominican Association of Chabacana Artisans, Creole historians believe that the shirt was taken to Cuba by Dominican General Maximo Gomez, a Bani-born hero of Cuban independence and one of the founders of the Honduran army.

The exhibit is open to the public in the capital’s emblematic Independence Park and showcases 63 photographs depicting the history of the iconic shirt, as well as of the people who made it famous, “from the military guerrilla to the version we see nowadays,” Rodriguez said.

“We want the world and the Dominican people to understand that the chabacana is Dominican,” he said. “It’s the only garment born in the Dominican Republic and, therefore, it should be the shirt worn at the country’s official events.”

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune

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