Argentinian Ponchos and Fajas: symbols of heritage

Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández

 Rural and Urban Handmade Clothing and Accessories

Traditional Argentinian Craftsmanship 
Crafts that are exhibited in this virtual exhibition belong to the heritage of José Hernández Folk Art Museum, located in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Museum holds objects of both rural and urban origin, made by native craftsmen and creoles as well as European immigrants from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries who have been conventionally classified as silverware, pottery, leather, vegetable fibre, wood, horn, bone, pumpkin, silver, fabric, glass, metals. Most of them were acquired from collector Carlos Daws by Buenos Aires city administration in 1949. In this virtual exhibition, we present gauchos' typical outfit, such as ponchos, belts and woven bands. 
Ponchos: from Carlos G. Daws collection to the José Hernández Folk Art Museum
The poncho, the rider’s fundamental clothing, was the most commonly used garment in the Andean region of our continent. It was worn by natives who lived both in the mountains and in the plains long before they knew the horse. This emblem is present in folklore, art and other branches of culture. It was believed that the poncho came from Europe, until the research of archaeologists and historians showed its early use in America, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador as well as in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.

The poncho is a rectangular piece of cloth with an opening in the middle through which the head is passed, protects the body from the weathering and it has the peculiarity of leaving the gaucho’s arms freedom to hold the reins, the lasso and the boleadoras (balls of wood or stone used as a weapon).

Pampean Poncho, dark brown with white pattern

(20th century)

A great number of ponchos made of silk, cotton and wool were traded around the Argentinean territory from 1825 to 1930. Made in industrial English looms, they copied Creole designs, tastes and styles. Used by our Indians, Creoles and gauchos, it became popular in the 18th century, to remain so to this day.

The poncho was adopted by travellers and soldiers wandering around the vast Río de la Plata territory.

The gaucho would always take his poncho along, either bent over his shoulder, wrapped around his waist, in front of or behind the recado (local type of saddle).

The poncho was a shelter against cold or sun; impermeable for rain and snow; a blanket to lie down on, in addition to being a luxury garment to show its owner's identity.

Practical for its versatility, the gaucho would also use it in a knife-duel to protect his body by wrapping his left arm with which he could stop the attack of the enemy's dagger.

Jesuit Poncho. Place of origin: Paraguay. Material: cotton and silk. Weaving in creole loom, made of warp, with color yarn industrially spun. Perimeter design and fringe added.

Light and flexible, it can be folded and shown on the owner’s saddle or shoulder.

Poncho of Argentina’s Southern Region, technique: weaving in vertical loom in warp, tied work (dyed by reserve in the warp). Material: wool. Structural fringe of the warp.

Vicuña, llama, alpaca, guanaco and sheep wool were the raw materials used by skilled weavers who added their creativity, colour and skilfullnes to make special every poncho worn by the inhabitants of the areas from the Río de la Plata to the Andes and from the Puna territory to Tierra del Fuego province.

The garments belonging to the heritage of the Museum cannot be worn due to conservation reasons. The photographs of the ponchos in this section are projected on models to show their use.

Fajas (woven bands) from Carlos G. Daws collection
Textile trade from Rio de la Plata, was really intense in the XIX century, this included the faja outfit, together with the poncho and other pieces adopted by countrymen. Argentinian traditionalist Carlos Daws (1870-1947) had a collection of about one thousand pieces, among mates, bombillas, belts, rastras, saddles, recados and a vast vareity of textiles. All these together became heritage of "Museo Familiar Gauchesco" belonging to Carlos Daws which was included, in 1949, into the collection of our museum.

Chumpi (the word means band in quechuan language) or old-style woolen band, cream colored background on one side and deep red on the other, guards and drawings in red, green and yellow.

Hand woven sheep wool band with the inscription "Martín Zabalza".

It became very popular among the countrymen, thanks to its excellent quality, usefulness and, what is more, attractive design.

The faja is tightly fixed all around the waist, giving it several rounds, so the gaucho can fit the facón, knife or weapon on his back.

Hand-woven Araucanian colored band, with embroidered patterns in bordeau, blue, pink and beige. (The Araucanía region is the heartland of the indigenous Mapuche people situated in Chile)

It was also worn by native people from La Pampa and Patagonia to fix the chiripa or bombacha.

Women also wore it to tie it round their waist and fixed their dresses.

Every faja is a unique piece full of different colors, symbols and exclusive beauty.

Araucanian woven band in brown and beige. Origin: Zapala. Province of Neuquén.

Today, we can virtually share the poncho and the faja, symbols of our heritage and part our culture, still used and loved by Argentinian youth.

Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández
Credits: Story

Director of the José Hernández Folk Art Museum: Felicitas Luna.

Production, realization, photos and videos: Analía Piombino

Communication and Promotion of Craftmanship: Paola Fritz.

Script: Mirta Bialogorski y Juliana Lozada.

Translation: Ana Clara Fridman.

Models: Morena Magallanes, Fernando Onega and Jorgelina De Biase Echeverría.

Make-up: Lorena Rubinsztain.

Special thanks:

Documentation: Abel Carrizo.

Conservation: Rubén Romero.

Research: Ximena Elizabe.

Translation: Gisela Piombino

Credits: All media
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