The colonial town of Valladolid, located between the Yucatán hot spots Cancun and Merida, is known as a convenient overnight stop when touring the nearby pyramids of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Now it’s also the home of Museo de Ropa Etnica de Mexico (MUREM), a recently opened museum of ethnic clothing designed to reflect the country’s multifaceted cultures.
The nonprofit museum’s founder and director, Tey Mariana Stiteler, grew up in the outskirts of Pittsburgh, but the Mexican heritage of her mother, Angeles, was an important part of her upbringing. As a professor of Spanish at the local university I attended, 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.
I recall the senior Stiteler enlisting family and friends in all-day tamale-making sessions, tamales being a less-than-familiar menu item in North America in the 1970s. Staking her own claim to her mother’s background, Tey Stiteler wore colorful embroidered Mexican blouses from childhood days through college.
Fast-forward 35 years. After retiring from a career in marketing and communications at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the bilingual Stiteler pondered a move to Mexico. A colleague recommended that she check out 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 said.
And so she did. This past winter, she launched MUREM in a traditional colonial building just steps from Valladolid’s lively public square. Coming full circle, Stiteler now exhibits examples of the colorful costumes she wore long ago (and still does).
This was not the way she envisioned her retirement…