CubaPLUS Magazine

The guayabera, more than a garment

By: Alina Veranes
Nov 29, 2022
The guayabera, more than a garment

More than a male garment -and for some time now even a female dress- an elegant, comfortable and fresh, the famous Cuban guayabera has long been a symbol of national identity, and pride in our culture, with legendary and controversial origins, such as that of all popular traditions.

Nobody disputes today that the beautiful land of Yayabo, Sancti Spíritus, is the cradle of the famous garment since no other region of Cuba has claimed such paternity and the inhabitants of that territory of central Cuba have hairs and signs, of a perfect story about its creation, starting in 1709 by a married couple of Andalusian migrants settled there.

Also, very wise researchers believe that, given the evolution and reliable data on the appearance of this garment, it is very likely that it was not the work of a single person, but the result of a long process with multiple creative hands and minds.

Historiography has already made it quite clear that the mambises never used the guayabera, as was believed at one time, but rather the so-called chamarreta, a shirt with narrow sleeves. The first mention of the guayabera appears in a literary work: the novel Leonela, written by Cuban Nicolás Heredia, in 1893.

A diligent linguist like Esteban Pichardo never included it in the published versions of his almost reasoned dictionary of Cuban voices with four versions in that century, the last in 1875. The first graphic evidence was found in an old photograph from 1906 and the truth is that the word guayabera was only legitimized as Cubanism in 1921.

 It was difficult for the guayabera to impose itself in Havana and it did so from the 40s of the last century. President Ramón Grau San Martín elevated it to the highest rank and Carlos Prío Socarrás banished her from the presidential palace afterward.

But it kept a place in the best stores in the mid-1950s, whether it was made of twine with 27 mother-of-pearl buttons, very pleated stripes, and snowy whiteness, or whether it was made of simple colored cotton, which began to be used from that time on.

A new resurgence is a guayabera at the end of the 70s. It kept its inevitable pleats and long sleeves, but it was made of polyester and colors of all ranges. In the present, they are embroidered and even with openwork or frayed, always maintaining the unequivocal line that Cuban guayaberas have everywhere.

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