Using a wide variety of archaeological and archival evidence of indigenous clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles, scholars trace the history of costume in Ecuador from prehistory to the twentieth century.
The traditional costumes worn by people in the Andes—women's woolen skirts, men's ponchos, woven belts, and white felt hats—instantly identify them as natives of the region and serve as revealing markers of ethnicity, social class, gender, age, and so on. Because costume expresses so much, scholars study it to learn how the indigenous people of the Andes have identified themselves over time, as well as how others have identified and influenced them.
Costume and History in Highland Ecuador assembles for the first time for any Andean country the evidence for indigenous costume from the entire chronological range of prehistory and history. The contributors glean a remarkable amount of information from pre-Hispanic ceramics and textile tools, archaeological textiles from the Inca empire in Peru, written accounts from the colonial period, nineteenth-century European-style pictorial representations, and twentieth-century textiles in museum collections. Their findings reveal that several garments introduced by the Incas, including men's tunics and women's wrapped dresses, shawls, and belts, had a remarkable longevity. They also demonstrate that the hybrid poncho from Chile and the rebozo from Mexico diffused in South America during the colonial period, and that the development of the rebozo in particular was more interesting and complex than has previously been suggested. The adoption of Spanish garments such as the pollera (skirt) and man's shirt were also less straightforward and of more recent vintage than might be expected.
- Introduction (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 1. Ecuador before the Incas
- The Geography of Ecuador (Karen Olsen Bruhns)
- An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ecuador (Karen Olsen Bruhns)
- Costume in Ecuador before the Incas (Karen Olsen Bruhns)
- Evidence for Pre-Inca Textiles (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 2. Ecuador under the Inca Empire
- The Incas in Quito (John Howland Rowe)
- Costume under the Inca Empire (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 3. Ecuador under the Spanish Empire
- An Introduction to the History of Colonial Ecuador (Suzanne Austin)
- Colonial Costume (Lynn A. Meisch)
- Chapter 4. Historical Developments in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Ecuador (Margaret Young-Sánchez)
- Chapter 5. Carchi Province (Ecuador) and the Department of Nariño (Colombia) (Joanne Rappaport)
- Chapter 6. Costume in Imbabura Province
- Otavalo (Lynn A. Meisch)
- Natabuela (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Eastern Imbabura and Northeastern Pichincha Provinces (Lynn A. Meisch and Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 7. Costume in Southern Pichincha Province (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 8. Costume in Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, and Bolívar Provinces (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 9. Costume in Chimborazo and Cañar Provinces (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 10. Azuay Province
- The Cholos of Azuay: Historical Introduction (Margaret Young-Sánchez)
- Historic Costume in Azuay (Lynn A. Meisch and Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Chapter 11. Saraguro Costume in Loja Province (Lynn A. Meisch)
- Conclusions (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- Glossary (Ann Pollard Rowe)
- References Cited
Although Ecuador is only about the size of Oregon, it has wide variations in ecological zones, since it is bisected north to south by the Andes Mountains (see Map 1). It is, as its name suggests, right on the equator, which is just north of the capital, Quito, so the lowland areas along the Pacific coast and in the Amazonian areas to the east are hot, and the highland areas are more temperate than the higher and more southerly Peruvian Andes. The Humboldt Current that brings cool temperatures and desert ecology to the Peruvian coast turns out to sea before it gets to Ecuador, so textile preservation here is poor in contrast to the richness found in Peru. More detailed information on Ecuador's geography is provided at the beginning of Chapter 1.
Individual costumes and costume changes are always determined by the political and social context in which they are found. To identify these contexts to the extent that is possible, the book includes introductory texts providing this background, hence the title, Costume and History in Highland Ecuador. By including the pre-Hispanic past, we are admittedly stretching the true meaning of the word "history," which literally refers only to written information. But there is no other concise term in English that includes both written and object-based sources, and in any case, works dealing with "history of costume" frequently rely heavily on visual as well as textual sources. Likewise, the title refers specifically to highland Ecuador, since that is where most of the historic evidence of indigenous costume applies, but for the pre-Hispanic period, there is more evidence for coastal costume, which has therefore also been included.
Chapters 1–3 describe the history and costume of what is now Ecuador in chronological order, from the pre-Inca period, with the Inca conquest starting sometime after 1463, through the period of the Inca Empire until about 1534, to the period of the Spanish Empire until 1822. Chapter 4 provides historical background on the time after independence, but since costume evidence is so abundant for this period, it is described separately for each geographic area in Chapters 5–11, beginning in the north and proceeding southward. The most information is available for Pichincha Province, in which Quito is located, so Chapter 7 contains the most detailed discussion of costume changes.
Ecuador's small size and the admittedly incomplete costume evidence make it possible to discuss its overall chronology within the confines of a single volume. The available evidence is nevertheless diverse. For pre-Hispanic costume, the best source is representations in ceramic sculpture, since conditions for textile preservation are so poor. For the colonial period, the principal sources are Spanish legal documents such as the governor's reports, taxation lists, and wills. No pictorial sources are available until the eighteenth century, but the number of such sources increases significantly in the nineteenth century. The increase is due to the larger number of foreign travelers to Ecuador, which in turn was due to the weakening and collapse of the Spanish Empire, which had put restrictions on foreign travel within its borders. There are travel accounts in various languages, paintings and engravings of local costume types, and early photographic images. The travelers include naval officers, ambassadors, naturalists, adventurers, and artists. These sources focus primarily on Quito but also include some information on people from other areas. Not until the twentieth century are there actual costumes to draw on. Yet, when all this evidence is assembled, a more or less coherent picture does emerge.
Costume and Ethnicity
Costume has been and still is a major visible or public determinant of indigenous and other ethnic identity in highland Ecuador. As Lynn Meisch (A. Rowe ed. 1998: 11) indicates,
Ethnicity in Ecuador is complex and subtle. In the country as a whole as well as over time there are differences between how people identify themselves and how they are identified by others, having more to do with social class than with physical characteristics (phenotype)...
The term mestizo (meaning mixed European and indigenous ancestry) is sometimes used by people to identify themselves or others... There are many Ecuadorians of mixed descent, some of whom consider themselves white, others of whom consider themselves indigenous. These distinctions are not racial, but social. Many people who consider themselves whites or mestizos have darker hair, skin, and eyes than do people who call themselves indígenas.
Although there is no single self-referential term used uniformly by all of Ecuador's indigenous groups, indígena (Spanish for "indigenous person") is currently the most common and accepted designation. It is employed by the national indigenous federation Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), so we follow their lead. Since our text is in English, however, we usually translate the term as "indigenous person." Although the term "Indian" is often used in North America, the Spanish equivalent, indio, has acquired insulting connotations in South America. Since it is, in any case, a misnomer, we prefer to avoid it.
Ecuadorian society has been highly stratified, with indigenous people considered to be at the lowest social level, and such stratification is often marked by costume. The details of such stratification and the interactions of people from different levels vary from one area and one time to another. Documentation on this subject is available primarily for Pichincha and Azuay Provinces and is accordingly presented in Chapters 7 and 10.
Occasionally, an intermediate social status marked by a distinctive costume is visible, for example, in the Cuenca area in the twentieth century or in the nineteenth to early twentieth century in Quito and Otavalo. Such people are generally of indigenous descent but have adopted more European cultural features than those who identify themselves as indigenous. The terminology is variable; in the late twentieth century it was usually cholo, but in Quito and Otavalo, bolsicona may be used for the women. The conditions under which this intermediate class developed are explored in detail by Margaret Young-Sánchez in her introduction to Chapter 10 on Azuay Province. Since the cholo class still persists in Azuay, there is more information from there, but conditions were presumably similar in Quito and Otavalo, where this intermediate class disappeared in the earlier part of the twentieth century.
African slaves were also brought to Ecuador during the period of the Spanish Empire. In the twentieth century, their descendants were more visible on the coast and in lowland valleys such as Chota in northern Ecuador than they were in the highlands, although in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some were visible in Quito as well. The beautiful painting by Adrián Sánchez Galque of the mulatto lords of Esmeraldas in 1599, in which the men are wearing elegant European clothing with indigenous Ecuadorian gold jewelry, is a unique document (Bernand 1994: 104-105). African-Ecuadorian costume, to the extent that we have information on it, is usually similar to that of other lower-status people, although they do not wear Inca-derived garments.
Because we respect John Rowe's scholarship in the matter, and to obtain consistency in the volume, all authors have consented to use the historically attested spellings of Cuzco and Tumbez in place of the current Cusco and Tumbes, as well as his spellings of the names of the Inca emperors and generals. John Rowe also saw no reason to change the five-hundred-year-old spelling of "Inca" in an English (or Spanish) text. He also uses "Cañar" and "Cañares" for the ethnic group, again because these are the historically attested forms, so this usage is also followed in Chapters 1 and 3. But because it is usual for modern Ecuadorians to use "Cañari" and "Cañaris," this spelling occurs in the remaining chapters.
It may also be noted that John Rowe never used "Quechua" or "Quichua" (the latter is more historically correct) for the Inca language, as a matter of principle. In part it was because it is sometimes used in early Spanish sources as the name of a non-Inca ethnic group rather than a language. In addition, the modern people who speak it as their native language usually call it either runa simi (runa shimi in Ecuador), "the people's language," or inka simi (inka shimi in Ecuador), "the Inca language." The practice of calling it Quechua (in Peru) or Quichua (in Ecuador) was a derogatory tactic of Spanish-speaking academics early in the twentieth century who wanted to disassociate the people who still spoke this language from the Incas. Over time, however, the term has become embedded in the literature and is no longer considered derogatory. It thus appears in the book in reference to the modern Inca dialects, although not, of course, in John Rowe's text.
Although local terms are not emphasized here (see our previous work on this subject), in some cases they are unavoidable. We have indicated the origin of some terms by the use of the letter Q for Quichua or S for Spanish. The difficulty in transcribing the Inca/Quichua terms is multiplied by the variant spellings used by Spanish colonial writers as well as the variant modern dialects (exemplified by the words in the preceding paragraph) and the variety of available orthographic systems. When quoting Spanish writers, we retain their original spelling but also give an orthographic spelling to clarify that it is the same word. The orthographic spelling is based on that used by John Rowe, for what he calls "classic Inca," that is, the language spoken at the time of the conquest (see A. Rowe 1997 for further discussion of Inca costume terms). Some terms are pronounced differently in the modern Ecuadorian dialects, including kushma rather than kusma for the man's tunic, chumbi rather than chumpi for the woman's belt, lliglla rather than lliklla for the shawl pinned on the chest, and ushuta rather than usut'a for sandals. These modern spellings are used in the chapters on recent costumes.
We use the term costume to include not only clothing but also jewelry, hairstyles, and other bodily adornments. Although we do include garments worn for special occasions, such as weddings and market days, we do not include masquerade costumes, worn to change identity, which are a separate tradition beyond the scope of the present research.
As Karen Bruhns explains in Chapter 1, pre-Hispanic garments consisted chiefly of a wrapped skirt and mantle for women and a loincloth and mantle for men. As presented in Chapter 2, the Inca conquest initiated a radical change in culture and costume, the effects of which can still be seen. Inca women's costume consisted of a full-length wrapped dress (called anaku in Ecuador), secured by shoulder pins and a belt, and a shawl pinned on the chest. All these garments and their names still exist in Ecuador, although the anaku has changed form and is now usually only a wrapped skirt. Inca men's dress consisted of a loincloth, a knee-length tunic, a mantle, and sandals. The tunic also survived until modern times, although its format was somewhat variable, sometimes including seams and sometimes not. After the Spanish conquest, it was usually worn with pants (except by some young boys), so it became shorter than the Inca original. Sandals also continued in use in some areas.
Spanish costume was also influential of course. In some cases, women achieved a more European silhouette by dividing the anaku into two parts at the waistline and pleating the lower part. In other cases, a blouse-like garment, the camisa, was adopted, derived from the European women's undergarment. This garment was sometimes also full length, so the most appropriate English translation is the cognate chemise. It was adopted first by the upper levels of indigenous society, and only later by the lower ones, worn with a half anaku. Other indigenous women adopted a blouse (not significantly more than waist length) and a skirt gathered or pleated into a waistband. The gathered skirt was called by various names, including pollera, centro, follón, or bolsicón, in Ecuador. The Spanish derivation of both the skirts and the terms is less straightforward than might be supposed because of frustrating gaps in the documentation of the dress, especially regional dress, of ordinary Spanish women from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century. The available evidence is discussed in Chapter 7 on Pichincha Province.
Although the focus of the book is indigenous costume, at times the dress of other social classes is relevant because there was a trickle-down effect, a time lag between the use of a new garment by the upper classes and later by lower-status people. During the colonial period especially, there were marked social differences between upper- and lower-status indigenous people in addition to those between whites and indigenous people, and the trickle-down effect applies here too. Although in most cases the costume of the upper classes reflected what was worn in Spain, there are some interesting exceptions in women's costume, some of which eventually apply to indigenous dress.
Although men continued to wear tunics, they adopted other Spanish garments at a relatively early date, especially trousers. Upper-status indigenous men also adopted Spanish-style hats, cloaks, and shoes (but not hose). Highland hats seem to have usually been felted, a European textile process. The early history of the so-called Panama hat is obscure, but this Ecuadorian industry was in full development on the coast at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It diffused to the highlands only in the mid-nineteenth century. Evidence for a European-style men's shirt (also called camisa) worn by indigenous men does not appear until the nineteenth century. Espadrilles, called alpargatas or alpargates, derived from Spanish peasant wear, are not easy to trace in the historical record, but they did replace sandals in Pichincha and Imbabura Provinces.
The most interesting postconquest garments, however, are innovative hybrids: the rebozo and the poncho. The terminology for shawls in Ecuador is not at all consistent and therefore cannot be used to distinguish the different styles. The local terminology is faithfully conveyed in our earlier book (A. Rowe ed. 1998), but here it is preferable to use something more consistent. The shawl style here called rebozo, the usual term for it in Mexico, is similar to the Mexican rebozo in being comparatively long and narrow and later having fringed ends, and is typically worn with both ends draped over one shoulder, usually the left shoulder. The earliest evidence in the Americas for this type of shawl is in seventeenth-century Mexico, and it appears that it arrived in Ecuador via Mexico and not from Spain. The term can be found in Ecuador, although the shawl is more often called paño or macana. In Ecuador it is woven on the indigenous backstrap loom, but the idea of finishing the warp ends with knotting is European, based on treadle-loom technology in which unwoven warp ends are typical. Chapter 7 on Pichincha Province presents a new synthesis of the evidence for the origin and development of the rebozo, based on a review of sources from a wider geographical scope, in contrast to earlier studies that have focused primarily on Mexico.
The poncho is also usually (although not always) woven on the indigenous backstrap loom, most often of two four-selvedged pieces, although examples in one piece occur in areas where another type of loom is used. A fringe band, woven with European technology (A. Rowe ed. 2007: 103–106), is sometimes added on all edges. Some Ecuadorian ponchos are made with a short warp fringe at each end, but this is more characteristic of examples made for sale than of ponchos woven by a man for himself. Although the poncho does occur in the pre-Hispanic record in Peru, as a large rectangle with a neck slit but no side seams, the contemporary dissemination, in which it is the quintessential indigenous man's overgarment that replaced the mantle throughout the whole Andean area, occurred in the early nineteenth century in conjunction with the wars of independence. A review of the pictorial evidence also reveals that from the later eighteenth century and as long as horses were the main mode of transport, the poncho was also commonly worn as a riding garment by both men and women of all social classes. A full documentation of this history is presented in Chapter 7 on Pichincha Province.
Ecuadorian Textile Technology
Ecuadorian textile technology has been thoroughly discussed in our previous books (A. Rowe ed. 1998 and 2007) and in articles in The Textile Museum Journal published in 2005. A brief summary, however, is included here by way of orientation. Some additional information on Ecuadorian textile techniques is presented in Chapter 1, in the section on pre-Inca textile remains, and definitions of the important terms are also included in the glossary.
The fibers available in pre-Hispanic times include leaf fibers, cotton, and camelid hair. The most commonly available leaf fiber was from Furcraea andina, also commonly used in Peru. The plant grows wild and under cultivation between 700 and 3,000 meters elevation. Furcraea is closely related to the Mexican genus Agave, one species of which (A. americana) was introduced into Ecuador in the colonial period. Both plants have long, fleshy leaves that emerge from a base close to the ground. The Incas called the fiber of Furcraea andina cha'war, a term still used in Ecuador (chawar in the modern Ecuadorian dialects), and since there is no English equivalent, we use the Ecuadorian form. Fiber of Agave americana is usually referred to as maguey or maguey fiber in English. Cabuya, a Taino word from the Caribbean, is used to refer to either fiber and can be used when it is not certain which is meant. Although it is laborious to extract the fibers from the leaf pulp, the fibers are up to a meter (yard) long and can be twisted to make thread by rolling them between the hands, as is done for making looped bags, as well as by spinning (using a spindle), as is done to produce weaving yarn. The fiber is stiff and scratchy, however, and so is used most often for utilitarian items like ropes and bags rather than for costume.
The cotton is Gossypium barbadense, indigenous to South America, and was cultivated in lowland areas on both sides of the Andes and traded to the highlands. It occurs naturally in several shades of brown as well as a creamy white, and these colors were exploited in indigenous textiles. The fiber is the seed hair, so the fibers are relatively short, though longer than the Asian species of cotton. Because they are so short, they require the use of a spindle to form them into yarn.
The fiber-producing animals native to the Andean area are related to the camels of the Asia, and all belong to the family Camelidae. There are four Andean camelids, the wild guanaco and vicuña and the domesticated llama and alpaca, all so closely related that they are difficult to distinguish in the archaeological record. Although the hair of all these animals was used for fiber, that of vicuñas and alpacas is the finest. Of the four, the llama, also used as a pack animal, is the most commonly attested species in Ecuador, surviving in small numbers in the central provinces up to the present day. Camelid hair lacks the scales found in sheep's wool and therefore is softer to the touch. It also occurs in a variety of natural shades of white to black and light to dark brown. Like cotton, it requires the use of a spindle to be made into thread.
The Spanish unfortunately did not appreciate the camelids and introduced sheep in large numbers immediately after the conquest. Sheep's wool has surface scales not found in camelid hair, which not only make the fiber feel more scratchy but also facilitate felting, a process in which the fibers catch on each other when subjected to heat, water, and agitation. The process was introduced into Ecuador both to make felt hats and to finish loosely woven cloth, in which case it is called fulling.
Little is known of dyes in Ecuador in the pre-Hispanic period, but they were a major export of the Spanish-American colonies, including indigo and cochineal. The American species of indigo, Indigofera suffruticosa, is a plant whose leaves are just as productive of dye as the (East) Indian species (Indigofera tinctoria) familiar to Europeans. Like cotton, indigo is tropical and was grown in the lowlands on both sides of the Andes. After the conquest, the Spanish introduced the (East) Indian technique of processing indigo, which involved making the dye into cakes that could easily be transported across the ocean and from the coast to the Andean highlands. Indigo used in highland Ecuador was imported from El Salvador until the industry collapsed around 1980. Synthetic indigo is chemically identical to natural indigo but is more expensive, and a less expensive synthetic black has often been substituted for indigo in more recent times.
Indigo can be used on cotton as well as animal fibers, and it is also well suited to resist-dyeing techniques, since after it is removed from the dye bath it is stable and does not wick into undyed areas. In Ecuador, the usual resist-dyeing technique is bound-yarn resist (sometimes called ikat, an Indonesian word), in which groups of unwoven yarns are tightly wrapped at intervals, so that when they are dipped in the dye, the bound areas remain undyed. The undyed areas combine to create patterns after the yarns are woven. Because it is the lengthwise (warp) yarns in a fabric that are usually treated this way in Ecuador, the technique is called warp-resist dyeing.
The beautiful red dye, cochineal, comes from the bodies of female scale insects parasitic on the prickly pear cactus. In South America, no elaborate cultivation techniques are required, in contrast to Mexico, presumably because of more favorable climatic conditions. In pre-Hispanic Peru, cochineal becomes common about AD 500. The most productive species, Dactylopius coccus, was supplemented by a few smaller species, such as D. confusus. One of these smaller species is still cultivated in Salasaca. The dye can produce various shades, depending on the acidity (red) or alkalinity (purple) of the solution. In South America, it was used primarily on animal fibers, which are easier to dye with natural dyes than plant fibers.
Of course, many other plant dyes were used in Ecuador, some of which were still being used at the time of our fieldwork in the 1980s, primarily to dye sheep's wool, but they were less important commercially and artistically than indigo and cochineal.
The indigenous method of spinning uses only a hand spindle, a slender stick pointed at one or both ends. To begin spinning, a small weight or whorl may be added toward one end of the spindle, but it is often removed when enough yarn has been wound on to it. In contrast to the southern Andes, where camelid hair or sheep's wool is spun in part by suspending the spindle (usually called drop spinning), in Ecuador the spindle is always held in the hand. In truth, this technique makes it easier to spin the more slippery cotton fibers. The twist of a yarn can be in one of two directions, either parallel to the central part of the letter S if the spindle is held horizontally, or parallel to the central part of the letter Z if the spindle is held vertically. If two yarns are combined to make a plied yarn, the direction of ply is typically the opposite of the direction of spin. A more detailed description of Ecuadorian S-spinning is presented toward the end of Chapter 1. The Eurasian technique of turning the spindle by means of a wheel was not generally adopted by indigenous Ecuadorians except in Otavalo.
In highland Ecuador, weaving on a backstrap loom is the indigenous technique, and the weavers are typically men, although women also weave belts in some areas. In Carchi Province, the loom style changes to a vertical loom and it is the women who weave (A. Rowe ed. 2007: 49–52). Similarly, on the coast, women weave on a vertical loom. Information on the gender of weavers in pre-Hispanic times is nonexistent, however, so the time depth of this pattern is uncertain. Since women do predominate as weavers in some parts of the Andes, as well as in Mesoamerica, the few historical sources that say women wove in highland Ecuador could have been based on an unwarranted assumption rather than observation, and indeed observation is not necessarily indicated. More solid information would certainly be welcome. Throughout the Americas, however, men predominate as weavers on the Spanish-style treadle loom, as was the case in Spain.
On indigenous Peruvian looms, the warp (the first lengthwise set of yarns put on the loom) is wound back and forth between the two loom bars, forming a single plane, but on Ecuadorian looms, the warp passes around both loom bars, forming two planes. In highland Ecuador, the two ends of the warp pass back and forth alternately around a third stick (eventually just a yarn) in a dovetailed join. The weaving is usually done all the way to the ends of the warp, and the dovetail yarn can be withdrawn to form a flat fabric. The insertion of the last few shots of weft (the set of yarns inserted crosswise during the weaving process) has to be done by darning them in with a needle instead of using the normal loom mechanism, so it is very laborious.
Nevertheless, the concept of weaving all the way to the ends of the warp to form a four-selvedge fabric is basic to indigenous weaving in the Andes. It contrasts with the European style of weaving on the treadle loom, in which the warp yarns are usually cut in order to be put on the loom and the ends are not woven. Likewise, the indigenous tradition of making rectangles that were sewn together and draped on the body without being cut contrasts with the Spanish garment tradition of cutting up the treadle-loom woven yardage to make form-fitting clothes. The treadle loom is also much faster to weave on than indigenous Andean looms and is therefore more suitable for commercial production than indigenous looms. The Spanish accordingly did create a textile industry based on treadle-loom weaving in Ecuador, as explained in Chapter 3. Although indigenous garments often continued to be woven on indigenous looms, in some areas treadle looms were adopted for at least some indigenous garments, particularly large, plain items such as the anaku. Conversely, fabric for Spanish-style garments was usually, although not invariably, woven on Spanish-style looms.