Makech – Beetles Worn as Living Jewelry
We’ve seen some crazy jewelry over the years: neck rings, lip plates, ear plugs made with empty film canisters. But up to now, none of it has been alive. Makech (also written maquech) just might be the craziest piece of jewelry we’ve ever encountered. These giant bejeweled beetles are traditionally worn by Yucatec Mayan women for a night out on the town.
Thomas was so intrigued that he had to try one on for himself. Honestly, I don’t think it works with zip-off pants and hiking shoes.
By the way, we would like to give credit to For 91 days for first drawing attention to this really cool Mayan tradition. It’s not easy to find makech these days, and I don’t think we ever would have seen them if we hadn’t read their blog post on the legend behind the tradition. If you are visiting Merida and you want to see a makech for yourself, head over to the artisans’ market on Calle 65 between Calles 58 and 60 or check them out at Mundo Maya on Calle 62 just north of Plaza Grande.
It’s been five years since we first published this article about the rhinestone-studded makech in the Yucatan. We do wonder if it’s still possible to find them in Merida’s markets. If you’ve seen these amazing living pieces of jewelry lately, please let us know here in the comment section.
Is the trailing chain there to slow down the poor creatures? How long do they actually survive in this bejeweled state?
Oh. Was that in Merida or Palenque?
Oh, thanks Laurelle, I can’t believe we didn’t even think to mention that this was in Merida. Good call. I’ll add that to the text.
And the little gold chain is a kind of leash that can be pinned to a woman’s shirt, so that the beetle doesn’t run away when she’s not paying attention. I don’t know how long they live, but evidently women feed the bug and protect it to keep it alive longer.
I am from Mexico, I had a couple of this little guys when I was like 10 years old. It may seem pretty cruel to tie the bugs to a chain. Actually they are pretty strong, and they can last several months, mine lasted quite a long time. They eat the fungus that is in a very light wood (madera balsa). So you have to wet the wood to let the fungus develop. They are a Mayan tradition.
A Mayan legend says that a princess fell in love with a man that was not at her status, so they did not let her marry him. Then a Chaman (medicine man) felt sorry for her and decided to turn her into a living jewel, so her lover could have her always next to his heart.
It is a very old tradition, and my feelings are mixed, as I am an animal lover, but I also want to keep traditions alive.
Hi, I actually found one 2-3 years ago in an outside Austin, Texas where I live on a ranch, lots of insects and wood. I read that they even have been found some in San Marcos, Texas. It was crawling up my wall outside my house,I had never seen a beetle quite like it. But I left it alone, then months ago another one was crawling outside on my wall, so I picked it up and put it in a beautiful atrium with a lot of wood and it was quite active climbing up and down, exploring and doing its thing. I think it passed this past week. It moves very slow, so hard to tell. and plays dead sometimes, so I will wait and see! Maybe hybernating, I don’t know what they do.