This wool poncho in warm colors is just the thing for a chilly autumn day. 🍂 🧣
The Mapuche people have long been highly skilled weavers who create ponchos, belts, women’s dresses, shawls, headbands, and blankets of extraordinary quality. Researchers have found evidence of Mapuche fabrics dated to between AD 1300–1350. Traditional knowledge of textile patterns and weaving is transmitted through the maternal line, and highly skilled women are honored by the community. Once the Spanish arrived in what is now known as Chile in 1541, the indigenous Mapuche community entered into trade relationships that led to their cultivation of wheat and sheep.
This magnificent, well-preserved wool poncho from circa 1920 is woven with several different red and maroon colors and, importantly, with a stepped-diamond motif associated with authority and power in Mapuche society. In public ceremonies, such as the agricultural Nguillatun ceremony, only the Lonko and Tonki—older men and leaders, usually the heads of large patrilineages, wear these special ponchos.
Today, the Mapuche comprise about 9% of Chile's population, and 80% of the country's Indigenous population. Mapuche people also reside in neighboring Argentina. Knowledge of textile patterns and weaving techniques continue to be passed down from mothers to daughters in the community.
You can get a closer look at this object in our exhibition “Infinity of Nations” at our New York City museum or online (https://americanindian.si.edu/exhibitions/infinityofnations/).
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we highlight the Indigenous history, peoples, and communities of the Spanish-speaking Americas. "¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States" is the first exhibition from our fellow Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino, currently on view at National Museum of American History.
Mapuche poncho, ca. 1920. Cholchol, Cautín Province, Chile. Wool, dye. 156 x 147 cm. Collected during the Thea Heye Chile Expedition led by Samuel K. Lothrop. 17/5656