The origin of the garment is disputed, as various claims for the distinctive style have been made in several Latin America countries as well as the Philippines. In fact, every country that has produced its own version of the shirt makes some form of claim to its origins, or of adding to its origins. Some Latin Americans believe guayaberas are of Cuban, or at least Caribbean, origin. Others are certain it is of Mexican origin.
Versions of the shirt's origins claim that Mexicans either originated it in the Yucatán Peninsula or were inspired by the design of similar shirts sold in Cuba. One theory holds that it was during the era of trade routes through the Caribbean that the Mexican shirts got to Cuba, and were taken to the Philippines by the Spaniards, where the evolution of the intricate embroidery started. Alternatively, others speculate that the shirt, which has documented origins in the Philippines prior to the arrival of the Spanish, made its way to Cuba through Mexico via the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. The origin of the Guayabera shirt remains a mystery, and a similar prototypical shirt has existed since the 18th century, probably imported from Spain.
The origin of the name is said to be either Mexican or Cuban. Guayabera may come from a Cuban legend that tells of a poor countryside seamstress sewing large patch-pockets onto her husband's shirts for carrying guava (guayabas) from the field. Guayabera may also have originated from the word yayabero, the singular nickname for those who lived near the Yayabo River in Cuba.
Though commonly called guayabera, in Yucatán, Mexico, it is also known as camisa de Yucatan. In 2010, Cuba declared the guayabera shirt to be its "official formal dress garment".