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The unknown and sad story of the iconic San Marcos blankets

This is the story of the iconic blanket that has become a kind of family heirloom and is present in Mexican homes.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process. This article was updated on August 15, 2020
This story originally appeared on México Desconocido

In a market of the Coyoacán mayor's office, in Mexico City, there is a stall that displays a sign that says “San Marcos type blanket”. When asking the manager if the product he is selling is really one of the original blankets, San Marcos responds: "no, but it's just the same."

Valeria Ordóñez Ghio

In recent years, it has become common for people to talk about San Marcos blankets on social networks, and whoever is lucky enough to have one, does not miss the opportunity to post a selfie with him.

San Marcos blankets are today a kind of “generic brand” for any blanket that is large, durable, warm and, especially, with a pattern, let's say, “eye-catching”. Oh, and that it is made with acrylic fiber.

But the reality is that San Marcos blankets are a product that has not been manufactured since the beginning of the 21st century and that, for some, they are practically collectible ... and very attractive in Facebook photos.

Popular, but not showing off

But back in the 70s and 80s of the twentieth century, although San Marcos blankets were in high demand in the Mexican market, they were also considered by many middle classes as a "current" product that was not presumed much, so in that sector social its use used to be intimate and familiar.

On the other hand, it was more related to the popular classes, where it was more common to see them on the beds, in the living room or even covering a window.

Much of this perception is due to its price because, according to a former retailer, a double-size San Marcos blanket was around 45 pesos in 1982.

The reality is that, in Mexico, homes of all levels had San Marcos covers.

And, in addition to being made with acrylic fiber, one of the characteristics that made them more attractive were the large prints they offered, whose variety ranged from colorful designs to the shields and helmets of the NFL teams.

But the most popular were those that had animal drawings such as unicorns, horses and eagles, the most famous being - for some strange reason - those that had the image of a tiger or any other big cat.

They were so durable that today they have become a kind of inheritance in many families and, even in places like the United States they are a “cult” product among Mexicans who say that a San Marcos blanket protects better from low temperatures, including the cold extremes that are felt over there.

The origin of San Marcos blankets

The San Marcos blankets began to be manufactured in the 1970s, after the textile entrepreneur Jesús Rivera Franco found, after a search of several years, the way to manufacture a different, warm and patterned blanket.

Image: Valeria Ordóñez Ghio

Rivera Franco, who died in April 2009, was a pioneer businessman in the industrial processes of the textile branch in Mexico. He liked to search the world for the latest advances in this area, and it was precisely on a trip to Spain that he found a way to make the famous blankets.

His company, Grupo Textil San Marcos, was located in Aguascalientes, a city where he arrived when he was 6 years old after his family left their native Teocaltiche, Jalisco, practically expelled by the Cristero War, in the 1920s.

The family business was a hat factory, which was installed in Aguascalientes, but years later they had to return it to Jalisco because they could not find the labor they required. But Rivera Franco, at age 15, decided to stay to learn to weave sarapes and thus go to work in a factory.

Image: Via Mexico Unknown

Years later, he worked in another factory in San Luis Potosí until he decided to give up the possibility of obtaining a union position. He returned to Aguascalientes, but now with his sights set on starting his own textile business.

In the 1950s he set up a workshop and, in a short time, the business grew until, in the late 1980s, it had a dozen industrial plants employing around 4,000 people.

Over time, Rivera Franco also dedicated himself to doing business in real estate, and in 1992 he sold Grupo Textil San Marcos to the Celulosa y Derivados consortium from Monterrey (Cydsa), which had industrial divisions dedicated to acrylic yarns, fertilizers and chemical products. .

With that acquisition, Cydsa became the largest acrylic products manufacturing consortium in Mexico, while Rivera Franco's family created another company that later ran into financial and legal problems.

The debacle

Cydsa also had problems and, in May 2004, it was forced to close the plant, located in Gómez Portugal, Aguascalientes . This is how the famous San Marcos blankets stopped being manufactured.

Image: Via Mexico Unknown

It is said that the arrival of similar products from other countries after the opening of the borders in the administration of Carlos Salinas de Gortari was what caused this fall.

Although other versions also point out that Cydsa, headed by Tomás González Sada, always had financial problems with the merger of Grupo Textil San Marcos. In fact, since the purchase there were difficulties in the negotiations, which resulted in a conflict that was about to confront practically all the private initiative of Aguascalientes with that of Nuevo León.

Cydsa, which today owns, among other things, La Fina salt and a power generation division, had reported annual net losses of 749 million in 2003, which was one of the reasons that forced it to close the plant where the popular blankets were produced.

The name, the logo and the generic

Currently, it is common to see in stores, markets and online sales pages that "San Marcos type covers" are offered, and there are even those who copy the label, which is still very well identified by fans of the brand.

The label of the original products shows the entrance of the San Marcos garden, an iconic park located in the neighborhood of the same name in the capital of Aguascalientes and which also inspired the name of Rivera Franco's company.

So go look in the closet of the family home, or even in your own bed, to see if you have a San Marcos blanket. Maybe you still don't know it and have been out of the selfies inspired by some trending topic .