Few things define a man’s Caribbean wardrobe better than a guayabera. They are, in fact, the iconic masculine essential. A longish, four-pocket, pleated shirt designed to be worn outside the trousers, the garment is often embroidered and is extremely comfortable in hot weather. The fabric is traditionally linen (arduously made from flax stems) but is now often blended with a bit of cotton.
The tiny town of Tekit, in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, boasts lush jungle, caves, and some interesting ecclesiastical architecture. Once dedicated to growing corn, chilis, and beans, Tekit is now best known in these parts as the town that has cornered the market for the production of guayaberas.
The drive from Valladolid, my nearest city, is a solid two-and-a-half hours on good roads. It is certainly off the beaten path but well worth the journey.
Tekit is almost entirely dedicated to the production and sale of these beautiful shirts. Over 200 active workshops produce fine garments (one at a time) to the highest standards. Using small sewing machines to laboriously stitch the pieces together, each shop has a strict hierarchy where various specialists are responsible only for their specific task.
Over decades, small family workshops have grown into medium-sized businesses, hiring workers along the way. Each workshop takes extraordinary pride in its brand, proudly stitching their labels into each shirt.
Each workshop has an area in the front where their products can be purchased direct from the “factory,” while other smaller stores throughout town serve as tiny retail sales outlets.
I happily purchased nine guayaberas, both long- and short-sleeved, while in Tekit, all from the same manufacturer. They had an enormous selection (dozens in my big-guy size) and a vast array of colors. I had no idea what to expect for pricing, as I had seen retail prices that ranged from $50 to $130 per shirt in Miami, the Philippines, and even in Mérida, Mexico. I paid an average of $17 per shirt.