As we get closer to restocking our store with new items fresh from the communities, we want to take some time to profile them. To start we are going to talk about the classic Andean outerwear — ponchos!
The poncho has become such an object of pop-culture fascination — thanks in large part to a certain “man with no name” — that sometimes we forget that this garment traces its roots to the high mountains of the Andes. Even though ponchos migrated north and became the favored attire of seemingly every silver-screen cattle rustler, drifter, and bandito, their origin lies with the people of South America.
The Spanish word “poncho” likely came from the Quechua word “punchu” or similar words in other languages spoken nearby. And while other cultures to the North may have adopted this look, a visit to hills around Cusco and the Sacred Valley makes it clear that the poncho is as native to Peru as alpacas.
Created from fine wool, ponchos are prized for their beauty; but their original use went far beyond fashion. The harsh climate of the high Andes requires year-round protection from the elements. Before the recent ingress of synthetic materials, ponchos offered the best defense against rain, cold, and wind. Their thick material kept the Andean men warm while the woman wore large shawls.
Traditionally, ponchos are decorated with intricate bands of patterns. These can include animals, people, flowers, and abstract designs (for more information on each check out the Symbols & Patterns section of our website). The majority of the ponchos coming to our store opt for a simple and elegant look, though there will be also patterned options available.
Because the poncho is made from alpaca or sheep’s wool, the entire production process could be carried out by the farmers and herders along with their families. Today, Threads of Peru maintains that traditional process. Everything from the shearing to dyeing and spinning to weaving takes place in the communities where our organization works.
Our ponchos provide the same protection against the elements as the traditional Andean poncho but are also stylish additions to any man’s or woman’s wardrobe. Perfect for a cold night out or even an adventure over the pampas. Keep your eye on the store for more information.