Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Nancy B. Rosoff.


This paper will explore the interconnection of the Americas, Spain and Africa as exemplified by a 19th century festival costume in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, worn for the Moreno or Morenada, a dance developed after Spain’s conquest and colonization of the Inca Empire in the 16th century. Two other costumes were also examined, one in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and the other in the collection of the Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore in La Paz, Bolivia. Today, the Moreno or Morenada is one of the most popular dances performed in Bolivia during fiestas of the Andean Catholic ritual and festival calendar.1 In Spanish, the term moreno signifies “dark” and has been adopted into the Aymara language where it is pronounced “murinu.”2 Morenada, the Hispanicized version of moreno, is used by bilingual Aymaras and Bolivians today.3 For the purpose of this paper, I will use the terms moreno and morenada interchangeably. The popular belief among Bolivians is that the Morenada dance depicts African slaves who, during the colonial period, were forced to work in the silver mines of Potosí or to crush grapes in the vineyards of the Yungas, or Bolivian lowlands. This view has been supported by various scholars who cite as evidence the black masks, the sound of the matracas or noisemakers that they say imitate the rattling of chains that bound the slaves’ legs; and the wine barrel-shaped skirts of the dancers.4 However, this paper will disprove this view and show that the dance references black slaves in a more subtle way.5 Also this paper will show that the style of the earlier costumes relates more closely to the original meaning of the dance, certain aspects of which have carried over to the costumes of today, such as the elaborate embroidery and wide skirt.