The Maquech Beetle can make any nature lover or animal rights activist scream in horror. Entomophobics (creepy-crawly-haters) would probably run as far away as possible from this kind of jewelry, and for good reason, as every Maquech is actually a live bejeweled insect. As hard as it may be to even conceive wearing bugs as accessories, they are something of a fashion statement in Mexico.
I kid you not, just watching a video of the Maquech brooch is giving me the jitters. I don’t get how people can stand it on their bodies, but jewelry enthusiasts in Mexico have been flocking at stores to buy these ‘pet-cessories’ since the 1980s. The brooch is actually a part of a centuries-old Mayan tradition of decorating wingless beetles from the Yucatan Peninsula. Gemstones and gold are glued on the beetle’s body which sounds like a cruel process which has been denounced by animal activists in the past. The insects themselves are pretty harmless and docile, quite perfect to play the part of living jewelry. Each one has a decorative safety pin attached to it with a 2-inch-long chain leash. When pinned to clothing, the beetles can wander around, but can never get away.
There’s a beautiful story in Mayan folklore behind the tradition of Maquech brooches. It is said that when a Mayan princess was not permitted to marry her love, she stopped eating and drinking altogether. Seeing her plight, a medicine man transformed her into a Maquech beetle, so she could spend the rest of her life as a beautiful living brooch on the chest of her lover, close to his heart. If you find this story fascinating and would like to try out a Maquech brooch too, you can do so on your next trip to Mexico. Unfortunately, you won’t be getting a beautiful princess, only a $500 fine if you cross the Mexican border with a live beetle.
Apparently, Maquech Beetles can live up to 3-4 years if properly taken care of. Although it can’t really be passed down from generation to generation, the trend of wearing these unique pieces of jewelry is increasingly popular in Mexico.