Every year when the temperature starts to drop and the nights start to get chilly you start seeing them pop up one by one. Cobijas San Marcos memes and social media posts. People boast and reminisce about everything from their warmth and their imposing animals (lions, tigers, leopards) to the nostalgia and cultural significance that these cobijas posess. The hard and sad truth is that most of those posting about the popular Mexican blankets more than likely own a cheap Korean knockoff because cobijas San Marcos have been extinct for fifteen years. Here's their story.
Jesus Rivera Franco was born in Teocaltiche, Jalisco Mexico. At the age of six his family relocated to the city and state of Aguascalientes fleeing the Cristero War of the 1920's. The family had a small business fabricating sombreros, scarves, shawls and bed sheets. Years later the Riveras would relocate back to their native state of Jalisco but Jesus would stay back to learn how to knit and produce zarapes to work for a local manufacturer.
Years passed and Jesus was still stuck at the zarape company. He had held every position at every level of the corporation and his career had reached a peak. It was then that he decided to open up his own textile plant. Rivera opened his first shop close to San Marcos square, hence the name of the brand and the arches of the park entrance as its logo.
Business was steady and comfortable for twenty years but Jesus Rivera wanted more. He set out to create a new type of blanket, one that was warm and comfortable, yet lightweight and thick but attractive at the same time. It was during a business trip to Spain that Jesus Rivera found what he had been looking for. He found thick blankets made out of acrylic fabric, these had a thick border, attractive designs, and intricate colors. He came home determined to create his own thick blanket out of this new acrylic fabric he had just found. It took five months and thousands of prototypes to master and perfect the blanket to his liking and in 1976 the first San Marcos blanket was born.
The blankets were an instant success all over Mexico as soon as they hit the market and would remain so throughout the 70's and 80's. The demand was so high that at its peak Rivera had ten factories throughout Aguascalientes and over four thousand workers producing three hundred thousand blankets a month.
Rivera set his eyes on the United States. He began by distributing to Los Angeles area swap meets and wholesale warehouses. Self made entrepreneurs would then buy the blankets at wholesale prices to then resell them on the street, door to door, or to their network of friends and family for $20 to $50. People would drive from all over the United States to the Los Angeles warehouses to stock up on San Marcos blankets to sell back home. Housewives, anxious to make some money would sell these blankets at social gatherings as if they were Avon or Tupperware. Back in Mexico, business owners and buyers would meet at luxurious Mexico City hotels to go over the blanket catalogs and marvel over the new collections and designs to purchase for their shops.
Over the years Rivera had developed an interest in real estate and soon that began to take all of his time and interest. Sadly, in 1992 Rivera sold his company Gropo Textil San Marcos to Mexican conglomerate Grupo Cydsa based out of Monterey Mexico. Sales were good for a few years until everything began to go downhill. Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari opened Mexico's border to Asian imports. This resulted in cheap Korean and Chinese knockoffs flooding the market. These Asian imports were so ridiculously inexpensive that people were able to purchase up to three cheap blankets for the price of just one San Marcos blanket. Grupo Cydsa could not hold on any longer and in May of 2004; claiming millions of dollars in losses, the last San Marcos factory located in Gomez Portugal, Aguascalientes closed its doors.
The average Mexican is unaware that the company has been out of business for years and keeps getting tricked into buying the replicas. If you know for a fact that your San Marcos blanket was purchased or given to you before 2004 you're more likely to have an original, especially if it was purchased in the 70's, 80's, or 90's. A good way to spot a fake is by checking the manufacturer label. Knockoffs don't have the traditional label with the San Marcos Park arches and the instructions of care are written in English.
Tomasini, C. (2018, February 7) El mito y la historua con final triste de los cobertores San Marcos. RetrievedFrom: https://www.altonivel.com.mx/empresas/negocios/historia-cobertores-san-marcos/
(2012, July 8) Cobertores San Marcos, una tradicion Mexicana. Retrieved From: https://yosoyraza.lamusica.com/djs/cobertores-san-marcos-una-tradicion-mexicana.
(2018, January 23) Conoce la historia del cobertor San Marcosque te heredaron tus padres. Retrieved From: https://laverdadnoticias.com/estiloyvida/Conoce-la-historia-del-cobertor-San-Marcos-que-te-heredaron-tus-padres-20180123-0065.html