Today’s post was written by Amanda Lasker, Gossypia.
Shawls, ruanas and ponchos in Latin America have a very long history and it is only possible to touch on them briefly. We will limit this to ruanas and ponchos.
The ruana seems to have developed mainly in South America, especially in Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador and they are popular still. A ruana is basically a very thick, rectangular blanket with a slit down the front to the hem. They are usually made of wool. Ponchos are like a blanket with a place to put your head through. They can be solid color, striped or natural dye colors. Many are real alpaca wool which are usually more expensive.
All of these are usually done on a foot loom. They can be in beautiful natural colors or colorful stripes or solid, never plaid. Of course, American designers have all adopted both ruanas and ponchos and put their own spin on the fabric and designs. In the South American countries men also wear the ponchos and ruanas and use them as blankets and the women also use them as baby carriers, as throws on furniture, or to use as a food carrier.
Ponchos and ruanas in Mexico are slightly different. Mostly, they are over the head and not the ruana style and usually made of sheep wool. But I have even seen men in the state of Michoacan wearing rain ponchos made of very large banana tree leaves. Then there is the quequemetl (a native word from pre-Columbian times) which is over the head with a point in front and back. It can be made of sheep wool or cotton and many have embroidery or some decoration superimposed.
Ruanas and ponchos can have fringe which can have simple or intricate types of macramé and usually adds to the expense of the garment.
This is just scratching the surface of the various ruanas and ponchos in Latin America. It is a rich tradition and beautiful see all together in a plaza or market place.