I should probably be writing about fashion. But there is something deeper at play. Recently, I posted on my IG stories about colonisation, as the 15th of September marked yet another year of ‘freedom’ from our colonisers (the Spanish), this was back in 1821. However, I was shocked to learn many of you didn’t actually know about the Spanish rule over Latin America (it was Portugal in Brazil, hence why they speak Portuguese.)
In a nutshell. They came, they “discovered” and claimed the land for Spain. Our shamans, spiritual practices, temples, treasures, language, women and everything else was destroyed, taken, abused and obliterated.
I am a descendant of the Mayas, the tribe that ruled Central America – and having lived almost half of my life here has really brought to life my internal indigenous pride. I’ve always felt magnetised by it. But being here just lights that fire. And it comes out on my textiles. Tribal. Powerful. Almost like hieroglyphics of the 21st century.
Back to Palo Santo. I’ve seen around in many stories on IG, perfectly lovely European women and Latinx too, burning it in their home offices, probably alongside a crystal or two, cleansing the bad vibes or “la mala energia” of their space.
Here’s my problem.
Did you know the ritualistic burning of Palo Santo, translates to “sacred” or “holy” wood and was used in spiritual ceremonies and as medicine? And that the Palo Santo tree is currently endangered and on a watch list? (don’t take my word for it)
And guess what? The only way to get the full benefit of this tree is by letting it die naturally and allowing it a four to ten-year resting period on the forest floor. Now that it’s being commodified these trees are being chopped down left and right, with no awareness of the meaning it has for indigenous cultures. It is also illegal to cut it down in Ecuador and Peru but it’s tricky to enforce.
Now, I don’t want to throw around the term cultural appropriation (these days it’s everywhere! Sometimes rightly so) because I do think embracing, celebrating and joying (is that word?) in other cultures is super important. And part of that celebration is understanding where things come from, what’s their genesis and how you will choose to honour it or not.
So, what know?
Just burn something else! Kidding. The smell is also beautiful and hard to resist.
So here’s a shop I found on google, they explain their process and how they work with communities in Ecuador that don’t chop down the trees. I guess if you really care then more research needs to be done. Palo Santo is a spiritual practice that’s part of our history, so if you’re going to tell part of the story, you’ve got to go for the whole shebang not just the nice smelling part.
If you were here only to see cool fashion ideas then I will disappoint. My work goes beyond that. I think my Mayan great-great-great-great grandmother goddess would be proud.