BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Costumes of the Americas Museum has been around since 1932, collecting clothing from all over the world.
The museum started out as the 5th Pan American round table by Bessie Johnson as a way to share her love for Mexico, its people and customs.
Johnson formed the table alongside a group of women. Their goal was to appreciate, learn, and share the knowledge of different countries from the Western Hemisphere.
Each woman was tasked with traveling to a different country and obtain an indigenous costume to bring back to Brownsville.
The women would have meetings to discuss everything from the food to the culture. There would also be an explanation and story behind the dress they brought back.
Costumes of the Americas administrator, Liza Nunez told ValleyCentral that almost every dress that was obtained had a unique story hidden behind the embroidery, lacing and colors.
One dress shows a mule being pulled by a male figure. The mule represents a woman and her stubbornness trying to be reigned back in by the man.
Another dress was designed by a young lady who would choose an object that represented a character trait of hers. On the costume, there is a dove that represents peace and a hummingbird that illustrates joy.
“All of these pieces were collected by women right here in Brownsville and they can each be traced to a local family in Brownsville,” said Nunez. “That’s what makes this collection unique. It really is a reflection of the heritage and culture that makes Brownsville so very special and unique.”
The museum became the official home to 600+ costumes from 21 different countries of the original Pan-American Union ranging from Argentina to Uruguay in 1997 with its doors opening in 2005 to the public.
The museum closed in January of 2021 due to a change in location but plans to reopen in November at their new location at 1004 E. 6th Street in Brownsville.